Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Drouin will be Red Wings by the trade deadline.
At least that's what Ken Campbell thinks, when he outlined his thoughts in what can only be described as a very bold prediction for 2016. Here's the full text:
The Lightning will re-sign Stamkos — then trade him
Steven Stamkos will sign an eight-year contract extension with the Tampa Bay Lightning matching dollar-for-dollar the $84 million deals signed by Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews…then immediately be traded to the Detroit Red Wings along with Jonathan Drouin just before the trade deadline.
Faced with the prospect of losing him for nothing, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman will orchestrate a "sign-and-trade" deal for Stamkos with the Red Wings that will allow Stamkos to go to the team of his choice and get an eight-year deal, getting around the seven-year deal he would have had to sign with Detroit if he were to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer. The price for Stamkos and Drouin will be steep – sniper Gustav Nyquist, a pair of 24-year-old pending restricted free agents in Riley Sheahan and Alexey Marchenko, along with top prospect Anthony Mantha and the Red Wings first-round pick in 2016 and 2017. Stamkos will immediately go back to his center position, moving the aging Pavel Datsyuk down to a checking role more suited to him on the third line. (Ken Campbell)
That's a lot to digest. First, the notion that Yzerman would trade Stamkos and Drouin within the division is tough to swallow. Intra-division trades are always tougher when a superstar is involved because the team giving the player up will have to face him multiple times a year.
However, assuming that we live in bizarro world where this deal could happen, I make it in a heartbeat.
Looking at the pieces that would be coming to Detroit, you have the best pure goal-scorer in the NHL not named Alex Ovechkin and the former #3 overall pick who has a ton of untapped offensive potential. They are instant upgrades over Nyquist and Sheahan in the current NHL lineup and make the Wings better immediately. Adding 2 players of their caliber is a no-brainer, so there should be no question that attempting to acquire them (either separately or together) is a something you pursue.
Where people will get hung up will be on the return. Fans are loathe to give up a lot to acquire anyone, and Wing fans are no exception. What Campbell proposes (and for the purposes of this discussion, no additional players/picks will be considered) will likely be considered too much by some fans. However, Stamkos has a proven track record and can score as many goals as Nyquist and Sheahan combined, while Drouin has a different skill set from Mantha, but projects higher. The loss of Marchenko would sting, but the Wings already have a logjam at defense and using one of the young guys vying for a position in a trade is a hell of a lot better than losing them for nothing. Draft picks are always a gamble, but it's not like the Wings have hit a lot of home runs with their first round picks lately (obvious exception being Dylan Larkin).
From a cap perspective, the money would work. Assuming that the 8 year/$84M contract figure cited by Campbell is correct, that's a cap hit of $10.5M. Nyquist, Sheahan and Marchenko have a current combined cap hit of $6.366M, a number that would go up with Sheahan and Marchenko being RFA. Removing them would get the Wings part of the way there, but if the Wings do the right thing and not re-sign Kyle Quincey, that's another $4.25M in addition to the 3 players mentioned above, or just over $10.6M in cap space. Drouin is still on his ELC, so his cap hit would easily be covered by not re-signing Joakim Andersson. The Wings would still need to get deals done with Danny DeKeyser, Teemu Pulkkinen and Petr Mrazek, but regardless of any trades the Wings will be facing a cap crunch with their RFAs, so short-term the Wings should be good. Over the long term, Pavel Datsyuk and his $7.5M cap hit are very likely gone after next season, while Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith both have their deals expiring, and one or both may not return. Of course, the Wings could solve a lot of their potential cap problems by trading Jimmy Howard, but that's another article for another day.
At the end of the day, Campbell has a 1% chance to be right, and I think that's being extremely generous, but if there's a deal to be made for two potentially disgruntled players, the Wings have the pieces to get it done. I think the likelihood of this coming true are approximately 3,720 to 1, but as a wise man once said, never tell me the odds.