TSN's Bob MacKenzie is pretty sure Stamkos is leaving Tampa Bay.
Some might suggest he's not been the same player since he broke his tibia on Nov. 11, 2013, but that would conveniently overlook his 43 goals and 72 points last season.
Whatever is ailing him now, or in an uneven playoff performance last spring, his interests and those of the Lightning are best served by him re-discovering his form.
He's basically auditioning for July 1.? The better he plays, the more he increases his value and the number of teams interested in signing him.
If Tampa isn't going to sign Stamkos, or at least get fully engaged in talks towards that end, the Lightning have three options:
1. Trade him as a rental on or before the Feb. 29 trade deadline. Grab a first-round pick and a prospect or two — the going rental rates at the deadline — and move on.
2. Sign and trade Stamkos.
It is, by hockey standards, an unconventional approach, but if Stamkos did designate a favoured landing spot, Tampa could do a contract extension on behalf of the new team and trade him there, presumably for a higher trade yield than rental prices.
3. ?Don't trade Stamkos and play it out; go as far and as deep as they can with him in their lineup and then bid him adieu in the off-season, taking his current $7.5 million in cap space, or the $9 to $11 million they might've paid him, and spend it elsewhere next season.
Of course, the Bolts are not masters of their own destiny in the first two of those three options.
It's a good read. There's a brief mention of the Oilers in there, but nobody expects that Stamkos will go anywhere but Toronto.
Or maybe Montreal. Buffalo and Detroit are hunting for him too.
Outside chance of Winnipeg or Ottawa.
St. Louis might make a strong play for him.
Okay so basically Bob thinks he could go anywhere, even the Rangers. Still, the Stamkos drama is kicking up into the next gear. The same next gear his play is definitely not in.