|ESPN.com: Cross Checks||[Print without images]|
Is there a more compelling contract negotiation this season than Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning?
How much will it cost to sign a player that will challenge for the Hart, Art Ross and Rocket Richard trophies?
Contract talks officially began Nov. 9, and I suspect it's going to be a long process. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman and veteran agent Don Meehan of Newport Sports are slated to chat again over the next week.
"We had an initial meeting with Newport Sports, just an introductory meeting," Yzerman told ESPN.com Friday. "But the one thing is, we're not going to regularly give updates on the process and where we are. We just felt it's the best thing for Steven so he doesn't have to read about it or comment about it every time. It'll take as long as it takes, but we're both committed to trying to get a deal that makes sense for everybody involved."
Wisely, neither side wants this thing played out in the media. The last thing anyone wants is to see Stamkos distracted by it.
So where does it go from here? How much is enough to get a deal done?
My guess is that in a perfect world, Tampa would love to do a Jonathan Toews/Patrick Kane type of deal ($6.3 million cap hit), although Newport Sports, and who can blame them, might be thinking more along the lines of a Sidney Crosby ($8.7 million cap hit) or Alex Ovechkin ($9.5 million cap hit) deal.
Listen, Yzerman knows he has to pony up. But I think part of his sales pitch will be similar to what you've seen in Philadelphia, where the Flyers signed their core players to reasonable deals. The sales pitch is about icing a competitive team. Whatever Stamkos signs for, he basically determines the rest of the team around him. That's the thing about a cap system.
Regardless of what happens, it's going to be fascinating. You've got a big-time agent, a brilliant young GM and a rising superstar needing a new deal.
One thing to keep in mind with all these trade rumors is that the Flames, as of Friday, have not once approached Iginla's agent and they would need to since Iginla has a no-trade clause.
Also, a Flames source told my Hot Stove colleague Eric Francis of the Calgary Sun that Iginla was told by the team he would not be traded.
Of course, stranger things have happened and, as I first reported last month, Iginla remains very much part of the Kings' wish list approaching the Feb. 28 trade deadline.
Should Iggy not be an option because the Flames insist on not moving him, then you wonder what else is out there for L.A., which has the most cap room of the Cup contenders. I think Patrik Elias or Jamie Langenbrunner could be options from New Jersey, as well as Marco Sturm of the Bruins.
The Kings have the cap room, and they want to add a significant forward if they can.
"He's cleared for controlled contact," Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli told ESPN.com Saturday. "He has a couple of more tests this week. Obviously he has to get back up to playing speed but he's past that first conditioning test which we had for him and that was a big hurdle. He's coming hard."
It's still unclear when exactly he'll return, but once he does, Chiarelli has work to do to get the Bruins under the salary cap.
He won't name names, but I will: Andrew Ference, Marco Sturm (back in December), Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder. I think those are all possibilities. Ryder was always considered the most obvious target entering the season, but the one thing I'll tell you is that the veteran winger has played so well I think he's made the Bruins think harder about it. I'm not saying Ryder won't be moved, I'm just saying it's not the no-brainer it once was.
Goalies Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask? They're not going anywhere. The Bruins love their goalie depth and don't want to mess with it.
Sticking with Savard, interesting to see his comments Saturday regarding Colin Campbell. Savard also spoke with Campbell's son, Gregory Campbell, on Friday and relayed to him that there were no hard feelings whatsoever. Tells you a lot about Savard's character that his priority is the Bruins and he doesn't want any distractions as he makes his way back.
"They waited for the swelling to subside, they're going to get a more definite assessment of him," Markov's agent ,Don Meehan, told ESPN.com Friday. "Once they do that, the doctors will convene and determine what course of action he will take."
They've been waiting for the swelling to go down in his injured right knee to take a proper look at it. It's a huge meeting because it'll determine whether Markov needs surgery or can simply rehab. Obviously surgery would mean a much longer absence.
"I'd like to sign him but it's our team policy that we don't do that during the season," Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford told ESPN.com Saturday. "We'll deal with his contract when the season is over, just like the other free agents on the team. But I've been a huge fan of Ian White his whole career. He comes to play hard every night. We were really looking for a guy to play top-four minutes and we found him."
Rutherford actually reached out to the Flames in September, that's how long they've been eying White. Once the Flames signed top blueliner Mark Giordano to an extension in October, which along with other long-term deals on their blue line spelled the eventual exit for White, Rutherford phoned back to stress his interest in White. That's when talks really got cooking.