The Lightning are dancing on fire... cool imagery.
Not so cool if they lose a former first overall for, to put it bluntly, sweet **** all.
Take it from a Devils fan... it hurts (thanks, Kovy).
So now the Media are overblowing a story about Stamkos "liking" a tweet about the possibility of him coming to Toronto. Meanwhile Stamkos is probably like, "All I did was click a button!"
Losing a player for free is not a good risk to take. In the end, your job as a General Manager is to make sure you team's assets get more and more valuable, which Stevey Y has aced so far in TB. Their drafting and development have been tremendous (you know, before things sort of went to hell this season... probably just a Stanley Cup hangover without the Stanley Cup).
Losing a player of Stamkos' calibre for nothing would take about 5 good trades/moves to replace. It's much harder to climb a mountain than to fall down one; likewise, it's much harder to gain a great player than to lose one.
So what to do when your player isn't playing along? Well at some point, the wrong move is better than no move at all, and I think we've already gotten to the point of no return.
Listen, you can still say "Oh hey, let's allow this player to get another taste of the playoffs and see if we can win it, and then decide"... achtung... NJ did that with Parise and Parise went to his home state of Minnesota. But hey! Give it a go!
Chances are Stamkos wants a longterm deal worth 8M/y in Toronto, but 10M/y in TB. Do you pay him this much, even though he's not exactly been the same player since that gruesome foot injury? (I mean, Parise went through the same thing... he wasn't the same player since his knee injury).
If I'm Stevey Y, I'm getting this sorted out ASAP. You cannot let this drag on to the trade deadline where you think you'll get the best deal, because all you'll end up with is a first round pick, a 7.5 prospect, and a roster henchman. Look what Jersey traded for Kovy, for example, a very comparable deal. They got Salmela and Kovy for P. Cormier (who never made the bigs, really), Bergfors (where's he now?), a first round pick (which was traded away), and Johnny Oduya (who's a 2nd pairing at best). Atlanta could not sign Kovy.
So if TB waits until the deadline, they get a Kovy deal; if they wait until the playoffs (especially hobbling like they are now, if they even make the playoffs), they PROBABLY lose him for nothing, because the closer he gets to that date, the more he's going to want to leave if TB isn't going to get any better.
So it's like this: Stevey Y, you gotta pull the trigger, chief!
Stamkos is MORE VALUABLE NOW than he will be tomorrow. Everyone knows what he can do and he's done it numerous times. So you ask Stamkos, "give me a list of teams you'd want to play for and how much you'd play for them for"... so that you can call up these teams and say, "Listen, Stamkos has agreed to play for your team for xM/Y over 7 years if we can make a deal".
So for you Toronto fans who are like, "Well why would we give away good value for Stamkos when we can just wait until the summer and get him for nothing?" Suppose Pittsburgh is interested in Stamkos and they make the deal first, you never get Stamkos.
TB is not going to get fair value on this guy (unless he happens to perchance want to play for the Edmonton Oilers), but they're probably listening to some options and could easily turn this into a situation where they get a guy or a series of guys who seem to want to play for them.
And let me just warn you, NJ was Parise's second choice... it does not give you picks and prospects. It's like in a relationship where you were a really good suitor, but just not as good as the next guy, and you have your heart ripped out by your ex. It hurts even more to be a player's "second choice"... because that's what does the most damage. If Stamkos "likes" TB but does not love them, get rid of him before he gets rid of you or you will have your heart ripped out!
Sign and trade... the best way to go.
(to the comment below: with Lou at the helm, they aren't trading the farm for him. Lou's traded for a former first overall before [Kovalchuk]... expect a similar deal to be engineered if nobody's offering much else)