Some random thoughts on Steven Stamkos as he nears the end of his spectacular season:
--Still odd that when you walk from the gate to baggage claim at Tampa Airport you are greeted by a voice recording from Vinny Lecavalier, usurped some time ago as the face and star of the Lightning by Stamkos.
--Its an open question still as to whether the NHL can successfully market a player skating out of Central Florida as its marquee star. With the Sid vs. Ovie era essentially over, there's room for a new commanding presence at the top. Not sure it can be Stamkos as long as he's playing in Tampa.
--As Stamkos was potting two goals against Washington on Monday night, it seemed almost a symbolic passing of the torch from Ovechkin to Stamkos as the best, most dangerous scorer in the game.
--As badly as the Lightning once overpaid in both salary and term to lock up the services of Lecavalier, they appear to have nailed down a bargain when it comes to Stamkos, who is finishing the first year of his five-year, $37.5 million deal. It averages $7.5 million per season, and with the cap likely to surpass $70 million next season (if there is one), that means the Lightning star will soon be earning about half of the maximum salary allowable to any single player. If the Blue Jays have a terrific bargain in Jose Bautista, the Bolts may have an even better one in Stamkos.
--Stamkos will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2016, which was the calculated risk taken by Tampa when it signed him for only five years. Leaf fans can start the countdown to dreaming of Stamkos now if they want.
--If you ever could entice Steve Yzerman into trade talks, this is the kind of player you would give up four major pieces of your future to acquire. Not Rick Nash.
--Stamkos, you may recall, wasn't able to earn a position on Team Canada 2010, and good thing for Yzerman et al that Crosby potted that golden goal or it would have been a roster absence discussed for a long time. As it is, Stamkos will be front and centre in Sochi 2014 (assuming NHLers are there) and the only open question now is who he'll play with. How does a one-two punch of Stamkos and John Tavares sound?
--Stamkos for the Hart Trophy? As magical as he's been this season, not in the top three on my ballot. To me, the Hart winner has to be in the post-season. The challenge for Stamkos going forward, and for the NHL if it wants him to be a leading man, is that the Bolts may be going through a period where the playoffs may not be part of the plan for a few years. Trading away Steve Downie at the deadline to get a first round pick wasn't a move for immediate success.
The good news is that this draft is chock full of promising defencemen, which the Bolts desperately need. At or around the No. 10 pick, they should be able to get one.
--The most impressive Stamkos stat is that 46 of his 58 goals so far have been at even strength. The least impressive is that only 22 of the 58 have come on the road.