Can Flyers compete in Stamkos sweepstakes?

Can Flyers compete in Stamkos sweepstakes?
June 29, 2011, 12:26 am
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Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Posted: 8:30 p.m. Updated: 9:05 p.m.

By Tim Panaccio
CSNPhilly.com

The Steven Stamkos saga took an interesting turn on Tuesday.

For the first time since the Flyers made their blockbuster deals to trade Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, the club discussed Stamkos' situation in Tampa Bay.

There are widespread reports that the Flyers will be among teams that intend to submit a restricted free agent offer sheet for the Tampa Bay Lightning center on Friday - if he doesnt re-sign by then.

The Flyers began debating whether they should make an offer.

No decision has been made, including whether to make an offer, because the Flyers aren't sure what offer they could make that Tampa Bay wouldn't match.

Wishful thinking at this point, said one club source.

Under the rules of the CBA, teams were permitted to contact Stamkos' agents, Newport Sports Group, after 5 p.m. Tuesday to inform them of their desire to submit an offer. That offer has to go to the NHL and NHLPA. No signings are permitted until July 1.

It was not known whether the Flyers called Newport, where lead agent Don Meehan, has represented a number of Flyers over the years, including Chris Pronger and Mike Richards, both of whom are handled by agent Pat Morris.

Meehan told CSNPhilly.com late Tuesday that the Flyers had not contacted him.

One league source familiar with the Flyers situation said that the team's biggest apprehension is how it would move money around to fit the kind of offer sheet that might give the Flyers an edge on everyone else.

To sign Stamkos, the Flyers would likely have to move a major salary or two, especially, if they seriously intend on re-signing Ville Leino. Remember, they still have to offer contracts for two of their recent RFA pickups: Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds.

I dont believe it's possible to do it, the source said of the logistics the Flyers are facing.

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said the Bolts will match any RFA offer Stamkos receives.

The maximum salary for 2011-12 would be 12.86 million under the new 64.3 million salary cap.

This is where team have to get creative. Someone with money such as Toronto might be inclined to offer a long-term deal averaging 8-to-10 million or more. Others might go the less traditional route and offer a one-year deal for the maximum, then worry about re-signing next year.

It would be ironic if the Flyers do this because in the summer of 1997, then under general manager Bob Clarke, submitted a five-year, 16.5 million offer sheet for Tampa Bays Chris Gratton.

It included an unheard of 9 million signing bonus.

Lightning GM Phil Esposito, embarrassed to lose Gratton, challenged the validity of the deal, saying that because of a broken fax machine he was unable to match the Flyers' offer.

In the end, the two teams managed to turn the offer sheet into a trade, and Gratton became a Flyer.

No one is certain why Yzerman hasnt been able to get a deal with Stamkos right now, unless the player himself doesnt want to be in Tampa Bay.

Yzerman realizes this signing will mark his legacy, one way or another, no matter what else happens to him as a GM down the road.

It doesnt get any bigger for Yzerman in terms of decisions than this one.

If youre the Flyers, and you throw everything into this one offer and it backfires, then you could lose out somewhere else.

For instance, though he's not a center, Erik Cole is a winger the Flyers have interest in. Cole reportedly wants to be re-united with Peter Laviolette. There is mutual interest here but a Stamkos signing would likely nullify that.

For now, wishful thinking seems to apply to the Flyers.

Decision time is Friday.

If Stamkos hasn't signed by then, all bets are off.

E-mail Tim Panaccio at tpanotch@comcast.net. Follow him on Twitter at @TPanotchCSN.
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