Steven Stamkos won’t be traded. The Lightning made that clear yesterday.

“As February 29th approaches, I am stating today that Steven Stamkos will not be traded before the NHL’s trade deadline. I have said repeatedly that it is our hope to reach an agreement with Steven on a new contract at some point, and with 27 games remaining in the season, our entire organization, Steven included, wants to focus on making the playoffs. I will keep the negotiating process strictly between the involved parties and have no further comment on the state of those negotiations.” — Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman in a released statement

Despite Yzerman’s statement, the Lightning are not close to resigning Stamkos and the odds are greater of him hitting the open market on July 1 and exploring his options than resigning with Tampa Bay before free agency begins.

There continues to be an infatuation of Stamkos going home to Toronto from fans and pundits but the team with the most noise around them from NHL execs is the Buffalo Sabres and that’s been the case for months now.

From Newport’s strong relationship with Sabres GM Tim Murray, to the the Sabres willing and able to structure a deal with a significant portion in signing bonuses, to Steven Stamkos wanting to feel to wanted, Buffalo continues to be the team flying under the radar and a potential favorite to sign him this summer.

According to an NHL source, Dan Blysma often glowing about Stamkos on the NHL Network last season and saying Stamkos was the most difficult player to game plan for, has stuck with Stamkos and the pending free agent has a very strong interest in playing for Bylsma.


Will Phil Kessel be one and done in Pittsburgh? These next couple months will tell the story but there is growing talk throughout the industry among executives that Penguins ownership [hide] will force Jim Rutherford or whoever the General Manager is to aggressively try to dump Kessel this summer.

The talk has been out there for weeks, multiple NHL sources say, leading to the Wild being one team to at least inquire about Kessel’s availability this month, Inside Pittsburgh Sports has learned.

Jim Rutherford has no interest in moving Kessel and would only consider moving Kessel for another star in return I’m told but trading Kessel as nothing more than a salary dump, if even possible, might be forced on him during the off-season.

Will there be a team desperate enough to trade for Kessel and his contract?

The Montreal Canadiens are a team one NHL exec believes could kick the tires this summer. Predators GM David Poile like Wild GM Chuck Fletcher is a desperate GM right now. Poile has long said to be a big fan of Kessel but Nashville didn’t pursue Kessel last summer due to Kessel’s contract, so hard to see it now.

Kessel’s current no trade list includes Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Montreal, New York Rangers; Philadelphia, and Florida. The Panthers were a new team added to his list following the Penguins trade.

Kessel has six years (2016-2017 through 2021-2022) left on his contract (owed $44 million in cash dollars) and is owed $18 million over the next two seasons with $4 million of the $18 million owed being a signing bonus. Kessel is due a $2 million signing bonus on July 1, 2016, followed by another signing bonus of $2 million on July 1, 2017.

Toronto picked up Kessel’s $4 million signing bonus he received on July 1, 2015 but Pittsburgh is responsible for the remaining bonuses left on the contract, a league source confirmed.

In typical Newport Sports fashion (Kessel’s representation), the deal is structured with Kessel receiving a total of $10 million in signing bonuses during the final two years of his contract when he’ll be 33 and 34 years old.[/hide]