Earlier this week Steve Yzerman made a bold declaration in favor of Steven Stamkos remaining a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning. At first glance I assumed this was an old man (he’s only 50) insisting to change toothpaste or hair tonic. And I suppose that is typically how NHL GM’s work — make a bold statement that is as wobbly as a china shop table post bull. But Yzerman is a smart, shrewd manager, and I think he had good intentions here beyond hanging on to one of the most important Bolts in the last ten years.
With the Tampa Bay Lightning dancing the line between playoffs and off season (it’s only February, mind you) the announcement perhaps is a stamp of approval that his squad is really pushing for the playoffs and beyond.
Here is the exact quote by Yzerman.
“I have said repeatedly that it is our hope to reach an agreement with Steven on a new contract at some point,” Yzerman said. “And with 27 games remaining in the season, our entire organization, Steven included, wants to focus on making the playoffs. I will keep the negotiating process strictly between the involved parties and have no further comment on the state of those negotiations.”
I can’t think of a time when Yzerman has contradicted himself so I’ll take this statement as gospel. Stamkos remains in Tampa Bay — rain or shine, good or bad, happy or sad, playoffs or no playoffs.
Things haven’t always turned out rosy for great players in the Lightning organization. Brad Richards, St. Louis, Lecavalier all had tumultuous moments at the end of their gulfside Floridian playing careers. Perhaps Yzerman realizes that the fans deserve better especially in the thick of the playoff race. Maybe, just maybe, he cares about the feelings of his fan base. Or maybe he is a good businessman that genuinely believes in his team. Either way, it is kind of refreshing.
I like to dream of a utopian NHL where players go, “Hey, I love this city, I’m committed,” and then actually follow through with the sentiment. Unless a player is aging it is rare to spot a professional hockey player willing to take less to better his team. And that’s for another topic, but it leads me to my next point. Stamkos is going to get paid. Maybe it is the Bolts that do it or maybe he ends up in Eastern Canada. Regardless, protecting an investment sometimes is more about the whole than the individual. In this case, keep Stamkos around at least through this season, get in to the playoffs, prove or disprove his worth moving forward, and then help decide his fate. That’s sharp businessing.
As I am want to do, this might be a case of reaching beyond a publicity statement. Because there is probably a couple of deals out there that Yzerman would be foolish not to pounce on if given the chance. In that case he would really have to eat crow. But I choose to believe he is genuinely smart to make the statement of intent, hammer out quality wins in the next few months, and convince fans that things are in good hands. In the end that type of protection wins more friends than enemies.
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