Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
For those who have visited these Buffalo Sabres threads, the name Steve Stamkos has been a source of intrigue for quite a while. The NHL's first-overall pick in 2008 is in the final year of his contract and there are some big question marks concerning him re-upping in Tampa. It's not very often that a player of Stamkos' caliber hits the open market via free agency so as the saga continues, and should he choose to do so the list of teams after his services will be long.
The Sabres are said to be one of those teams interested in Stamkos and have been for some time.
Our very own Sabres89 has mentioned on numerous occasions this past season that Buffalo GM Tim Murray has been very interested in acquiring Stamkos. So when THN's Ken Campbell was on WGR550 telling Hockey Hotline hosts Andrew Peters and Craig Rivet, "I know Tim Murray tried to make a deal for him last summer," it wasn't too much of a surprise for those who come here regularly.
Why Stamkos would choose free agency has been a bit of a bit of a mystery as he's in a great city captaining a talented regular playoff team that was considered a legitimate Stanley Cup contender this season. He'll command huge dollars, probably hitting an annual eight-figure salary, and can he get an eighth year added to his term by re-signing with Tampa while also being afforded the opportunity to stretch that a little farther as the state of Florida has no state income tax.
Everything is right there for him save for one thing, according to Sabres89, respect from the organization Campbell confirmed that notion on the Hotline yesterday saying "I know that part of the reason why Stamkos isn't very happy right now is that they started talking about a deal with the Sabres and he didn't really know anything about it.
"I think he's a bit miffed about that."
Campbell followed up by saying that he's pretty certain Stamkos is not going back to Tampa and that he didn't believe Stamkos would be landing in Toronto either. Buffalo, according to Campbell is still in the running but he also mentioned that the favorite might be, ironically, the Detroit Red Wings, the team Tampa is facing in the first round of the playoffs.
Detroit is not the same team that former coach Mike Babcock lead to the Stanley Cup in 2008 and to a Finals appearance the following year. The Wings are getting older and although they've been able to keep young talent flowing to replace an aging team, Babcock's question while on the verge of leaving Detroit still burns in the Motor City, "Who's gonna replace Pav?" meaning 37 yr. old Pavel Datsyuk.
There is no answer right now and there's a sense of urgency as Datsyuk has stated he intends to head back home to Mother Russia after the season's over. For an organization who's shown the capacity year-in/year-out to replace the irreplaceable, no one would be surprised if the Wings and GM Ken Holland found "Pav's" replacement in Stamkos. It's how the Winged Wheel has won four Stanley Cups and appeared in two others during a streak of 25 consecutive playoff appearances.
Campbell does point out that the final year of Datsyuk's $7.5M cap-hit is a hurdle to signing Stamkos this off-season.
As for the Sabres, it's still unclear as to when trade talks started and/or when they may have cooled or ended. Buffalo traded for Ryan O'Reilly at the 2015 NHL Draft and one could surmise that Murray was talking to both Tampa and Colorado as an avenue to bolstering his young lineup by acquiring a top-notch young vet.
And the question remains, with O'Reilly and rookie phenom Jack Eichel in house, is Murray still hot after Stamkos.
The saga continues.