25-Year-Old Center – Tampa Bay Lightning
Steven Stamkos Contract Information:
Signed a five-year, $37.5 million deal with the Lightning in July 2011.
Signing Stamkos, who is a free agent after next season, is general manager Steve Yzerman's "No. 1 priority," the Tampa Bay Times reports. The team can sign him as early as July 1.
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RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
Stamkos or Sidney Crosby? That question isn't an easy one in a lot of leagues. The Bolts center is an elite franchise player, but that's stating the obvious. He might have won the scoring title last season had he not snapped his tibia in a game on Nov. 11. Prior to that, he had 23 points -- including 14 goals -- in 16 games. That pace that would have netted him 50 goals and 118 points in 82 games, an Art Ross trophy, and might just have changed the complexion of the Rocket Richard competition. It also would have likely changed the seeding for the Eastern Conference playoffs as well. Your format and scoring categories will dictate whom you snag at the top of your draft, but we'd take goals over assists every time if all other things were equal. Count on him for 50 goals and 95-to-100 points and the cornerstone of your league champion's team.
On March 18 this past season, Stamkos became the fourth youngest NHLer to hit 200 career goals; he did it at 23 years and 41 days. Who was faster? Not Sid the Kid or Alexander the Gr8. Try Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Dale Hawerchuk. That's mighty fine company. Stammer is clearly the NHL's premier sniper these days and he'll vie for the league goal title again this year. He'll have to adjust to increased defensive pressure now that Vinny Lecavalier has disappeared from the Florida landscape. But that won't hold him down long. Fifty goals and 95 points are money in the bank. He needs to be off the board right after that guy from Cole Harbour.
Mirror, mirror on the wall -- who's the best fantasy player of all? Stamkos' name is in that debate along with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, and you certainly can't go wrong taking Stammer with the top pick. He won the Rocket Richard Trophy for his 60 goals last season and finished second in the Art Ross race with 97 points. And he could easily win both this year -- his first 100-plus point season is on the way. Our only quibble? We'd love to see an improvement in power-play production, but that's a truly minor issue. Stamkos is a stud. 'Nuf said.
Sure, last season's early chatter that Stammer might get 50 goals in 50 games was a tad premature. And sure, his torrid early start tailed off dramatically in the second half. But he's still a fantasy stud whose sniping ability made him the youngest player EVER to hit 100 goals ... yes, younger than even some guys named Gretzky, Crosby, Ovechkin, Lemieux and Richard. He'll be off the board in the top three of every single fantasy league on the planet and he'll reward you with a 50/100 season ... this year and the next. And the next. And the ... you get the picture.
Stamkos is one of the NHL's elite young studs. But he's in for a small step backwards this season. Don't get us wrong -- this guy has it all... clinical sniping ability, elite vision, superb speed, sublime passing skills and tremendous smarts. But there will be a little less ice time to go around now that the Bolts have gotten deeper up front. And there will be a little less time and space for him to operate when he is out there -- Rocket Richard trophy winners tend to face the opposition's best checkers. He'll still earn you better than a point-per-game. But his next 50-goal season will likely come in 2011-12, not this one.
It was a tale of two halves for Stammer last season. The first was a write off; the second was a foreshadowing of stardom to come. His chemistry with wingers Ryan Malone and Marty St. Louis was palpable, and if reunited, we think Stamkos will flirt with 30 goals and perhaps as many as 70 points. And he doesnít turn 20 until February. Keeper leaguers will need to target him early in drafts this year. His upside is 45 goals and 95-100 points, and that day will come sooner rather than later.
Yes, heís talented. And yes, heís going to be a star. But it isnít going to happen this season. Barring a complete meltdown, Stamkos is going to be the teamís second line center alongside Radim Vrbata and Ryan Malone. Heís a beautiful skater but he needs to fill out, and itís huge jump to be a stud teenager in the NHL. Heíll vie for the Calder trophy but donít blow your brains out on draft day unless you're in a keeper league. Heíll probably deliver about 50 points this year.