Generally every NHL off season has one or two "untouchable" restricted free agents which every team would love to have but probably will never get their paws on. This year's crop includes guys like Zach Parise, Drew Doughty, Shea Weber and Steven Stamkos.
Parise and Weber are arbitration-bound, thus, there is no chance at an offer sheet; and no reason why their respective general managers would chose to trade them. Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings are far apart on a new deal, but they're in discussions and there is no underlying sense that a deal won't get done.
Which brings us to Stamkos, the 21-year-old sniper who has scored 96 goals his past two NHL seasons. Add that to his 186 points in 164 games the past two years and you have a franchise player you can easily build a team around.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have already made it clear that if any team even attempt an offer sheet, not only will they match, but it will ruin relationships with them in the future. However, apparently the two sides are a significant distance apart in regards to a new deal, and there are (unconfirmed) rumors circulating that he might demand a trade. While nothing is set in stone yet, and it's still a dream to assume that he won't be a member of the Lightning next season, not one thing coming out of either camp is overly optimistic.
Assuming negotiations continue to sour and Tampa Bay decides to listen to offers, would the Rangers have the pieces to land Stamkos via trade?
Join me after the jump for more.
In the past 10 years the Rangers have gone from a team with very few nuggets of gold in the pipeline, to a team chock-full of them. The Rangers actually have so many prospects in the system that not all of them can fit in the NHL in the future (especially on the defensive side of things).
Obviously if the Rangers make a move for Stamkos it's going to be a big one. We're talking picks, top-flight prospects and established NHL players. You don't trade the face of the franchise for nothing, even if the face of the franchise wants out. It just doesn't happen.
So if Sather decided to make a move it's going to cost a few different things. I will outline below what I would assume a trade would require, and break it up into three categories:
Will be included:
Marian Gaborik: If the Lightning are going to trade a 50-goal scorer, they need to get a big-time goal scorer in return. Gaborik, when healthy, has 50-goal potential and is obviously more than a point-per-game player. His contract (three years left with a $7.5 million cap hit) is pretty friendly if he plays in 70+ games, and he would immediately fill the void that Stamkos would be leaving. Throw him onto a line with Vinny Lecavalier and on the power play with Martin St. Louis, and you would have a heck of a group. Plus, the $7.5 million dollar cap reprieve would allow the Rangers to fit Stamkos under the cap.
Could be included:
A 1st round draft pick: If the Lightning are going to ship Stamkos to the Rangers, then depending on the types of prospects they receive in the deal they might look for a first-round draft selection. If you're the Rangers, you probably expect to do well this season, hopefully making this a 25th overall pick or higher. If you're Tampa Bay you wouldn't mind the extra name to call in the first round.
Artem Anisimov: Signed to a cheap two-year $1.875 million cap hit, Anisimov is one of the Rangers more promising prospects. Coming off a respectable 44-point season last year, Anisimov figures to take on a bigger role next season and continue his upward trend. Anisimov might be an interesting player to Tampa Bay, especially considering he averaged 16 minutes a game last season and came very close to notching 20 goals (he finished the year with 18).
Derek Stepan: Like I said before, you have to give something to get a face of the franchise. The Lightning would almost assuredly ask for a guy like Stepan in a potential deal. While you don't want to lose a rookie 21-goal, 25-assist player, the Lightning are going to want him in a deal.
Chris Kreider: Another guy I'm sure none of you want to see leave the team. The Lightning's interest in Kreider would be pretty obvious; he's a 19-year-old prospect who some feel could turn into a 40-goal scorer at some point in his career. He is a phenomenal skater, has a lethal shot and has already stepped up in the clutch in immense international events for various United States national teams.
Brandon Dubinsky or Ryan Callahan: The Lightning might opt to ask for NHL-ready players rather than waiting on prospects or younger guys like Anisimov or Stepan. Callahan is a born leader, can score 25+ goals a year, and does everything he needs to in order to win games. Dubinsky has more potential when it comes to points, and is another player who does anything you need to win (including fighting).
Christian Thomas: Another top-flight goal scoring prospect. Thomas was a game-breaker in the OHL, and he has a legitimate chance at making the team out of camp. A player who put up comparable numbers to Jeff Skinner in the OHL last season, Thomas projects to be a big-time goal scorer for the Rangers in the future.
Will not be included:
Henrik Lundqvist: Sure, the Lightning need a goalie, but there's no way Lundqvist is shipped out for Stamkos. Let's be frank here: the Rangers don't need Stamkos. Trading Lundqvist would just cause a massive goaltending hole to form (Martin Biron hasn't handled starting roles well in his career) which would set the Rangers at least a few years back. Just doesn't make any sense to trade Lundqvist at this stage in the game.
Brad Richards: I don't have to say much here. The Rangers, who have been coveting a No. 1 center for over three years, are not trading a guy who took less money to come play in New York. Richards wanted to be a Ranger, and the Rangers felt the same, he isn't going anywhere.
In the end, going after Stamkos would cost a ton of players and prospects you probably don't want to get rid of. Sather might hang up the phone before negations even get going depending on who the Lighting target in the "Might Include" section.
To me, the price will be far too high. If the Lightning are willing to take a package of Gaborik, a 1st round draft pick and Anisimov I pull the trigger. However, I fully expect it to cost much more than just that and in the end, this is a pipe dream anyway.
Disclaimer: This entire post is just speculation. Nothing, I repeat: nothing, credible has surfaced that Stamkos wants out of Tampa Bay. This is just some good hard-nosed, mid-summer speculation. Take it for what it is, and have fun playing GM in the comments.
What would break a deal for you? The floor is yours.