You can win OR you can cash in... should be Stamkos' choice. But...
You know, I really hate the precedence set by Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
Let's not kid ourselves. The two of them are vital to the success of the Chicago Blackhawks. (Of course they are; they're the product of tanking). So now the GM can manoeuvre his team around these two guys and they'll still probably have a chance to win every year.
But they're the exception to the rule: Kane happens to be a really good player that gets them into the playoffs and performs well there, while Toews happens to show up when the games matter most. Neither of them ever let the Chicago Blackhawks down. These are practically two angels fallen from heaven for them.
But that they come at such a ridiculous pricetag (10.5M/y each) that vacuums in so much of the team's cap hit, you wonder how much longer Chicago will "happen" upon a Saad, a Teravainen, a Panarin to keep coming out and performing well for them. Their supporting casts have always had a habit of coming out exactly when they needed them to and at practically dimes and nickels. These three Stanley Cups have been a perfect storm of success despite their improbability.
That and they're getting one of the best d-men in the league in Duncan Keith, and for half of what they're paying their forwards. How luxurious.
But when it comes to Stamkos, people are talking about him earning up to 12M/y. He's a premium goalscorer (perhaps lost a step since that injury), but will still give you 35-40 goals a year for most of those years you sign him (until he's 34), so you know what you're getting.
And agents now get to use the Kane and Toews contract as leverage in their negotiations. That Chicago signed these two guys at these dollars was, in a sense, braindead, but in another sense, brilliant. It was braindead because that salary structure on a team dooms a team to fail most of the time. It was brilliant because Chicago happened to beat the odds and now other agents will make their play on the improbable (but plausible since it happened) will entice the use of this toxic salary structure to sink other teams. It would essentially be like me betting my life on a solar eclipse happening tomorrow, and if it does happen, it sets an improbable precedence inspiring most people to lose that bet.
It's this simple: I am now reading that Stamkos is going to likely want to go somewhere where 1. he can win 2. he can cash in. Let's see how that worked out for most free agents in the past! But agents don't leverage their arguments from what probably is, but what "could" be.
To me, Stamkos has a choice, and I'm sure Yzerman has been presenting him with it. "You can win OR you can cash in".
If Stamkos signs with the Lightning at 8M/y, he chose to win. If he signs with Toronto at 8-9M/y, you know he wanted to play where his heart is. If he signs with Pittsburgh (who knows why?), Nashville, or a team like Los Angeles or Anaheim for 8-9M/Y, he also chose to win.
If he chooses to sign for any of these teams at 10M/y+, or to any other team, he chooses to cash in, but he'll still be talking honey to the media about how he expects they'll have a chance to win, but we'll all know the truth. All players do that when they get the high of signing those ridiculous contracts... they mistake their own elation with hope...
If I'm any team, even if I want to win, I will not submit to a toxic salary structure no matter how good the player coming in. But I get the feeling that the Stamkos party wants to try to do both (win AND cash in) and they will end up really only getting the bling but not the rings.
Additionally, here are some important statistics to "indicate" that he's lost a step. Goals per game.
Career before injury: .57 goals/game
Career after injury: .48 goals/game
Three years preceding injury: .69 goals/game
The team is also hesitant to use him at center, which means you're probably going to want him as a winger (and centers are worth more).
So really, how much is this guy worth, right now? I'll laugh at anyone who gets sucked in.
But then I know those brutal capitalists are going to come out in droves and say: "Hey, he puts people in the seats". Phantasms put people in the seats and that's the job of marketing to do, not submitting to a toxic salary structure.