More speculation over the futures of Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Drouin, while the New Jersey Devils could welcome back Lee Stempniak via free agency.

Speculation persists over the respective futures of Lightning forwards Steven Stamkos (left) and Jonathan Drouin.

Speculation persists over the respective futures of Lightning forwards Steven Stamkos (left) and Jonathan Drouin.

TSN 1050 (VIA TODAY’S SLAPSHOT): Bob McKenzie recently speculated Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos hasn’t decided anything yet. Stamkos is eligible for UFA status in July and the subject of season-long conjecture over his future. The better the Lightning and Stamkos performs over the remainder of this season, the more pressure both sides will face to get a deal done. McKenzie notes the Lightning have to be careful with their cap space as they’ve got other key players to re-sign over the next couple of years, while Stamkos could find it difficult to leave a potential Stanley Cup contender. McKenzie doubts any rival club (like the Toronto Maple Leafs) can determine via back-channel inquiries to determine what Stamkos is going to do.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Just when you thought we’d have a reprieve from the seemingly endless speculation out of Toronto regarding Stamkos’ future and if he might sign with the Maple Leafs this summer, here we go again.

I believe Stamkos and the Lightning want to get a deal done, but determining if they can afford to re-sign him and how that could affect efforts to re-sign other key players remains the sticking point. It could be another three months before we get a better view on the direction of his contract talks. Negotiations could carry on up to the opening of the UFA market on July 1, perhaps even beyond then.

As for Stamkos signing with the Leafs, that’s not a certainty. While the Leafs could certainly afford him, the current management team could decide he doesn’t fit into their plans to rebuild carefully with players they’ve drafted and developed. And while the thought of Stamkos “coming home” to Toronto is a lovely dream for some Leafs fans, he might not be keen to sign with a club that’s currently a long way away from Stanley Cup contention.

 

ESPN.COM: Pierre LeBrun believes Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin did the right thing by ending his holdout following the trade deadline and asking to return to the Bolts’ AHL affiliate in Syracuse. The club had suspended Drouin for staying at home to await a trade instead of skating in Syracuse, but they’ve since lifted the suspension and allowed the winger to return to their farm team. Drouin wouldn’t say if his trade request remains on the table, claiming he’s focused on playing the remainder of this season and will “deal with that stuff in the summer.”  That led LeBrun to conclude the request still stands. It’s also possible the Lightning could recall Drouin later in this season or in the playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think the ship has sailed regarding an amicable resolution between Drouin and the Lightning. I expect he’ll be traded by the NHL Draft weekend in late June.

NJ.COM: Rich Chere speculates the New Jersey Devils opted not to trade pending UFA blueliner David Schlemko at the trade deadline in part because he could factor into their future plans. Schlemko said he can see winger Lee Stempniak (dealt to the Boston Bruins at the trade deadline) possibly returning to the Devils this summer via free agency.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given how well Stempniak has fit in with the Bruins since the trade, I think he could become an affordable short-term replacement for Loui Eriksson when he departs Boston this summer for the riches of free agency.