Why haven’t the Lightning re-sign Steven Stamkos yet? What will the Capitals do to address their third-line center position? 

Why isn’t Stamkos re-signed yet?

Will the Tampa Bay Lightning re-sign Steven Stamkos before the start of the upcoming season?

Will the Tampa Bay Lightning re-sign Steven Stamkos before the start of the upcoming season?

NBC SPORTS: Ryan Dadoun recently noted the possibility of Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos entering the upcoming season without a new contract. Stamkos, 25, is eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency. While Lightning GM Steve Yzerman claimed re-signing his captain was his top priority entering the offseason, it’s now been over a month since Stamkos’ agent Don Meehan indicated there wasn’t a set criteria over timings for negotiations.

Dadoun points out the longer Stamkos goes unsigned, the more it’ll be a huge and constant distraction for the Lightning. He also notes that Stamkos has earned the right to become one of the NHL’s top players, but such a contract could make it difficult for the Lightning to re-sign noteworthy players like Ben Bishop, Victor Hedman, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov over the next couple of years.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The amount of Stamkos’ new deal and its impact upon the Lightning’s payroll over the next two years are the likely reasons why a new contract hasn’t been announced yet. Back in May, I wrote about the effect a big raise for Stamkos will have for the Bolts. It’s an issue that cannot be taken lightly, and could mean shedding one or two current members of the roster by 2017 to make room for other notable re-signings. 

I believe Stamkos wants to re-sign with the Lightning and they very much want to keep him. For all we know, they could get this done very quickly and announce his re-signing when training camp opens in September.  There’s no doubt Stamkos would be the biggest prize in next summer’s UFA market. The longer he goes unsigned, the greater the speculation over his future plans. 

How will the Capitals fill their third-line center spot?

CSNWASHINGTON.COM: J.J. Regan reports Capitals fans remain concerned over how their club will replace departed center Eric Fehr on their third line. If the answer cannot be found from within, Regan suggests UFAs like Mike Santorelli, Derek Roy or Jiri Tlusty as possible options. The health of top-line center Nicklas Backstrom (hip surgery) could also factor into the equation.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap space is also a big factor. The Capitals currently have less than $470K available, though the anticipated demotion of Justin Peters should push that to over $1.3 million. That would give them space for a cheap addition (say, around $800K) via free agency. If Backstrom is out for a lengthy period, they can place him on LTIR and use the savings for a more expensive addition, though they’ll have to become cap compliant when Backstrom returns to the lineup.