Why the Flyers Should Pursue Stamkos

The Flyers weren’t messing around last week when they blew out 26-year-old star centers Jeff Carter and Mike Richards for a package of high picks, premium prospects and young, promising talent.

Chairman Ed Snider wasn’t kidding at the end of the Flyers’ season when he told fans that the goaltending issues were going to be solved. He and his team of Paul Holmgren, Bobby Clarke, and Peter Laviolette went out and traded for the rights of Ilya Bryzgalov and then promptly signed him before the mushroom cloud near the Wells Fargo Center had settled.

The Flyers have basically been retooled as the Flyers’ brass had privately lost confidence in its young leaders, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. The team would rather take a shot on a number of high probability “ifs” than be stuck with Richards and Carter for the next decade.

But somehow the Flyers are done making moves for a premium center. Not by a long shot.

Critics and pundits say that the Flyers are better with some premium goaltending (finally), but many questions still remain about the team’s youth and experience. Those questions are about to be answered this Friday when the free agent market opens up.

The Flyers are armed with Comcast’s money and a willingness to spend every penny every year and they aren’t going miss out on getting a premium center. Comcast SportsNet reported that Snider said that the team is done making major moves this summer.

People who follow the Flyers know that this is exactly the smoke signals and subterfuge that the organization puts out before it does something big. I am suggesting that next big move is signing 22-year-old, 50-goal scorer Steven Stamkos to an offer sheet.

Stamkos is without question one of the league’s elite players and at his young age he is the type of player that could actually add to a franchise’s overall worth even after signing a $100 million contract. He has scored more goals in the past two years than any other player in the NHL. He is a former top overall pick in 2008. He is just about to come into his own in the NHL’s über-elite along with Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, and Evgeni Malkin.

Many think Stamkos is already there right this minute, which is why Lightning GM Steve Yzerman is trying to sign the RFA to a long term deal, yet its hard to ignore the fact that Stamkos hasn’t signed with only days before free agency.

Stamkos and his agent are no fools. Even if he left a few bucks on the table – playing in Philly (or even New York or Toronto) would make up for the difference by a long shot. His chances of winning a Cup potentially increases in Philly and if the stable of young players live up to most of their hype, he could be the Lemieux or Great One of a potential dynasty while guaranteeing him more riches that he likely has ever dreamed of.

The Flyers actually have the cap space to sign Stamkos as they are now making all of the right moves as Frank Seravalli pointed out on Philly.com today. They have over $8 million in cap room this year to spend before they let Kris Versteeg go for a pick. Daniel Carcillo is not being offered a deal and Darrel Powe was traded for a pick to clear more cap space. Florida was reportedly interested in Versteeg, who comes with a $3 million cap hit but only one year left on his contract. Thus, there could be any number of teams in the market for a player at this level if Philly needed to make some additional room for Stamkos.

Reports are that Tampa lost millions (reportedly $5 million) last year and, respectfully, Tampa Bay doesn’t get the gate or TV money that other, more marquee franchises do. They also are saddled with Vincent Lecavalier’s cap hit of $7.7 million per year until 2019.

I beg the question to you – would Tampa not be a better team with their current moving parts, a signing of Brad Richards for potentially a shorter term and a slightly smaller deal than Stamkos while then taking the four first round picks from Philly?

The Lightning become a now and future team at the same time without another huge contract even if Stamkos is going to be a franchise player. Its not the sexy move but it may be the smart one. If the Lightning don’t think they can get a deal done with Stamkos and feared they might lose him as an RFA, why not hit up the Flyers for a package for his rights that includes one of the Flyers’ top prospects and fewer picks? Tampa could be even better off.

Simply put, the Flyers all of a sudden don’t need their next four first round picks with the youth movement they already have and then icing the cake with Stamkos. Tampa would still be a very good team with Brad Richards or another top center and loaded with picks while running a team with a more modest, realistic budget if they lost Stamkos.

Stamkos’s presence would also lift the pressure that Brayden Schenn will inevitably feel in Philly, for there isn’t a Flyers fan that doesn’t think every year isn’t a Cup year.

Think the Flyers won’t sign a star player to an offer sheet? Remember Ryan Kesler (41G, 32A in 2010-11) who they inked to an offer sheet for $1,900,000 in 2006? Vancouver smartly re-signed the young buck, and he has developed into a top-tier power forward. Stamkos is better and Tampa Bay might not even put up a fight over a once-in-a-generation player at the very start of his career as they simply don’t have the cash to fight off Philly and over other options in free agency.

Conversely, if the Lightning can’t swallow the idea of letting Stamkos go to Philly, the Flyers will run the price up on their player which limits their other moves while still leaving them enough money to go after Brad Richards and/or other free agent stars who will help ease the pressure on Schenn to come up and replace Mike Richards.

Although it rarely happens, Stamkos being signed to an offer sheet could actually happen. And even if Stamkos re-signs in Tampa as an RFA – its perfectly in character for the Flyers organization would poke a stick in the eye of a weaker franchise in Tampa just to make sure they can’t compete as well going forward.

That’s how Bobby Clarke won his Cups in the 1970s, and you know he loves the idea of going after Stamkos now, as it was he who headhunted Kesler in 2006.

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  1. History Doomed to Repeat Itself? | INSIDE HOCKEY - June 30, 2011

    [...] around whom virtually every NHL club would like to build. If a bidding war ignites around Stamkos, the Philadelphia Flyers are likely to be a suitor. But they shouldn’t be [...]