For nearly an entire business day, all has been quiet on the Flyers’ watch for restricted free agent forward Steven Stamkos.
For the first time in two days, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman picked up negotiations with Stamkos’ agents - Don Meehan and Mark Guy of the Newport Sports Group - to try and work out a deal.
While that has been going on, the Flyers have been quietly plugging together numbers and considering mulling over whether or not to send an offer sheet for the restricted free agent.
Here is the latest:
-As of 4:45pm on Wednesday, no offer has been sent to Stamkos’ camp - from the Flyers or any other team.
-A proposed number, even higher than the one floated in our story in Wednesday’s paper, that was relayed to the Daily News is 12 years, $115 million. If sent, that would give Stamkos a $9.58 salary cap hit. A no-movement clause would also be initiated after Stamkos finishes his 7th season in the NHL. He has already played 3.
Now, the Flyers have not sent their offer sheet for two reasons:
1) The Lightning have the ability to sit on the offer for 7 days once Stamkos decides to accept an offer sheet. Since the sheet cannot be accepted by Stamkos until July 1 even if it is signed, the Lightning could make the Flyers wait until July 8.
The Flyers are concerned that they may not be able to fill out their roster with other unrestricted free agents if they choose to wait that long.
As it stands now, the Flyers have 19 players under contract. Take out Ian Laperriere and Michael Leighton and you’re down to 17, with at least 3 forwards needing to be signed. They could easily be Ville Leino, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds.
However, sources say the Flyers do also have interest in Michael Ryder, John Madden and Erik Cole, to name a few. There is no guarantee, however, that any one of those players would sign with the Flyers. That’s the tough part.
Madden, 38, would reportedly like to either stay in Minnesota or retire without having to uproot his family again.
So, do the Flyers take a stab at Stamkos with the possibility that they fail? Or do they count on signing one or two of those other players at a much discounted rate and leave a little salary cap space to spare?
It’s a tough call - and one that the Flyers have been debating all day.
In reality, though, the Flyers could make do if they took a stab at Stamkos and failed. They would re-sign Voracek and Simmonds, go after another lingering, small-time free agent, and fill out their roster with Phantoms players that have progressed nicely like Ben Holmstrom, Eric Wellwood and maybe even Matt Read.
If the Flyers did land Stamkos, they could address their cap troubles by either trading Sergei Bobrovsky and one of their defenseman, or even stash a player like Scott Hartnell off the cap in Adirondack until his contract expires. The options are endless to get under if they get him.
2) Another reason the Flyers have held up on sending an offer sheet is that they are targeting to Stamkos for one reason only: to sign him.
While throwing out a ridiculous offer sheet to Stamkos would, in turn, force a conference rival to pay more than they had budgeted or intended to keep, the Flyers would likely save themselves the effort - and the stress - of not taking a shot if they know there is no way to get a deal done.
That means the Flyers have spent the last 24-48 hours trying to come up with a “poison pill” or offer that the Lightning could not afford to match, likely by severely front-loading a long-term, expensive deal.
Yzerman has even told Flyers officials that he has been given the green light from owner Jeffrey Vinik to match any offer that comes down the pike.
Whether that’s true or Yzerman is bluffing to avoid a substantial offer is the reason the Flyers have been playing a day-long game of chicken, no different than the game Stamkos’ agents have been playing with Yzerman from the beginning.
From Stamkos’ agents’ perspective, the Newport Sports Group would likely love to see an offer - to either use as a bargaining chip and keep their client in Tampa Bay at the price they want, or assure that he will get it elsewhere.
BIG VILLE STYLE: Paul Holmgren said on Tuesday that he had not had any communication with either Ville Leino or his agent, Bill Zito, since Friday.
Sources say that hasn’t changed on Wednesday.
Leino, back in his native Finland, has been unreachable on both his American cell phone and cell phone in Finland.
The Flyers have likely waited to figure out their position with Stamkos before moving on to decide what to do with Leino.
Judging by the deals that have been signed through the early part of the free agency period so far - namely Tomas Kopecky (4 years, $12 million) and Brooks Laich (6 years, $27 million) - it looks like Leino’s price has gone up daily. It may ultimately be in his best interest to wait until July 1 to hear offers from other teams - and maybe to spite the Flyers after not making him a priority, whether it was in February before Kris Versteeg was acquired or last week after Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were dealt.
For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers
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