There are multiple reports that as of yet unsigned Restricted Free Agent Steven Stamkos is set to be offered a cap maximum decade or more deal. This would make him the highest paid player in the NHL. It would also leave him a UFA at age 31 to 33. Meaning he’d still be young enough to court another major deal, assuming he was still healthy, and still perceived as a top player. The Lightning are expected to match this deal, assuming they don’t have him signed to one of their own before then.
The question is why? Yes Stamkos is a top twenty forward, but he’s hardly the best in the game. I don’t see him as even likely to become the best in the game. If you look at this years playoff run, in three series against the heavily depleted Penguins, a sweep of the Capitals and the eventual Stanley Cup winning Bruins he was + player only once. He was a minus player six times. By comparison, Teddy Purcel who outscored him was a + player seven times and a minus player just four times. Simon Gagne’s split was five plus, and four minus games in three less games. Out west, Patric Marleau who played the same number of games, and ended with the same number of points was split 4+ and 5- games, while playing injured. Joe Thornton, put a similar 4/6 split while also playing injured he gathered four more points and was one point short of point per game production.
By any standard except Cup wins, Joe Thornton is one of the ten best forwards the NHL has produced in the last twenty years. To me, if you can’t produce at the same or better level, you don’t deserve a huge deal. This doesn’t count the futility that is having him take faceoffs. Nor does it count the notably unpretty takeaway to give away performance that’s noticeably worse than known defensive lightweights Henrik and Daniel Sedin (aka Thing -9 and Thing -11). Unlike say Corey Perry, Eric Staal, Pavel Datsyuk, Marian Hossa or even Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand he can’t be relied upon to play or produce points short handed.
Even as a pure public relations move designed to put rear-ends in seats and cash in the concession stands registers a league max or even very high end deal isn’t the brightest idea I’ve ever heard.