Snatching Steven Stamkos from Lightning would be glorious for Nashville Predators

It's expected that Preds GM Barry Trotz will look to be aggressive this offseason in keeping the momentum he built in Year 1 in his tenure of leading the front office.
2022 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series - Tampa Bay Lightning v Nashville Predators
2022 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series - Tampa Bay Lightning v Nashville Predators / Frederick Breedon/GettyImages

When I think about my favorite and most well-respected players in the NHL that don't wear the Nashville Predators sweater, one of the first that comes to mind is Steven Stamkos.

Stamkos will be one of the highest profile unrestricted free agents this offseason, and Lightning fans are rightfully freaking out about this possibility. The team's captain for a decade now is the face of the franchise that won two-straight Stanley Cups and went to a third.

It is really unclear and a mystery what will happen with Stamkos this offseason. I'm sure he wants to stay with the Lightning and ensure his retirement with his only NHL team and the one that drafted him first overall in 2008. But things don't go always according to plan in offseason free agency.

When the Florida Panthers ousted the Lightning in their first round series in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs, the look on Stamkos' face was one of uncertainty and reflection of an epic career with the Lightning. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but it really feels like the two sides aren't close to coming to an agreement.

Stamkos to Predators isn't all that unrealistic

If Stamkos comes to the realization that staying with the Lightning isn't going to happen and he has the desire to join a team that's just a piece or two away from legitimately competing for a Stanley Cup, then the Predators could be an enticing destination.

Imagine Stamkos joining forces with other respected veterans on the Predators such as Ryan O'Reilly, Ryan McDonagh, Filip Forsberg and Roman Josi? And the Predators have a decent amount of projected cap space to be able to make a couple big free agency signings this offseason.

Per CapFriendly, the Predators have a 2024-25 projected cap space of approximately $19,295,801. This will obviously be a fluid number based on the Predators' six unrestricted free agents and also if the Predators re-sign Juuse Saros to a long-term extension this offseason.

Much of the buying power the Predators have this offseason is based on Saros. I don't see them being able to add an impact player like Stamkos if they re-sign Saros. Of course there's always many different avenues a general manager can take to get what they want, but the more direct route is to trade Saros, go a different route at goaltender and free up even more space to sign a player like Stamkos.

Trotz wants to get younger, but he also understands that a proven elite offensive producer like Stamkos might be too hard to pass up if the opportunity comes knocking. You would be bringing him in primarily for two reasons in the immediate short term; reliable offensive impact and locker room leadership. In other words, playoff pedigree in hopes that the Predators can return to the playoffs in 2025.

Stamkos did not see a dramatic dip in point efficiency this past season despite the Lightning not being as dominant as they once were just a few seasons ago. He managed 81 points in 79 games, a point per game pace that's just slightly lower than where he was in his prime, with the one exception of his 2021-22 career high campaign.

Stamkos also actually elevated his power play production for the Lightning, scoring 19 goals with the man advantage and adding another 20 assists. Yeah, I'm not crazy to believe that the Predators were missing a dynamic power play talent to help in the Canucks series.

Now like signing any superstar, this doesn't come without risks and questions. What will it cost to get Stamkos to Nashville? I'll never advocate for overpaying for any player, even Stamkos. His 8-year, $8.5 million deal is expiring, and how much of a decrease, if any, that he sees in pay is really hard to say.

Expect the Lightning to submit the best offer they can to keep their captain, but it's possible a team like the Predators with more buying power can swoop in and outbid them. It may very well come down to a matter of the heart and how loyal Stamkos is to retiring with the Lightning. He could take the team-friendly discount, and that wouldn't surprise me all that much.

But if that was going to happen, I feel like the Lightning and Stamkos would've already came to this agreement by now. But the Lightning have other roster deficiencies they have to address, mostly within their defensive corps while also having a Victor Hedman new deal looming.

Stamkos would be the power play specialist the Preds have longed for

Another offseason uncertainty to consider if you're going to realistically pursue Stamkos is the notion of trading Gus Nyquist. Nyquist has one year left and just broke out and found the fountain of youth this past season, notching 75 points, only six below Stamkos and is a huge credit to Nyquist.

Nyquist's trade value is as high as it's every going to be, so if the Predators take advantage of that, it frees up even more space to pursue Stamkos and get an upgrade. They can also likely get a younger starter out of the trade for Nyquist.

The problem you face with finding a spot for Stamkos is what happens with the top line? If it stays intact with Nyquist, then there's your top six (Forsberg, O'Reilly, Nyquist, Stamkos, Evangelista, Novak).

If Nyquist were to be traded, then it becomes more tricky on shuffling the deck chairs and who replaces Nyquist on the top line. It can't be Stamkos because he doesn't play right wing, and Forsberg plays left wing. Stamkos is going to benefit you most at center and more importantly, as an elite power play specialist.

Without Nyquist in the mix, it frees up extra space and ensures you don't lose him for nothing in 2025, but it also leaves a void on your top line that just had the most offensive success of any top line in Predators history.

I think there's a way to keep Nyquist and still find the money to add Stamkos as well. You plug Stamkos into a second line role and power play role. Just spit balling here, but that's got me kind of pumped thinking about the top two centers being O'Reilly and Stamkos.

The obvious risk here is you're adding another aging player, but there are exceptions to every rule and I'm willing to make an exception for Stamkos. Putting him at second line center with Evangelista and Novak at the wings could work out initially.

The more time drags on without Stamkos getting a deal with the Lightning, to more inclined I am to believe he's hitting the open market, which would be July 1st. A lot of teams will be interested in Stamkos, and the Predators are considered a top destination because of their cap space.