Steven Stamkos will likely command in excess of $10 million this summer

Steven Stamkos will likely command in excess of $10 million this summer

Sportsnet’s John Shannon lit a match next to a can of gasoline when he sent this tweet on Saturday:

Does the idea of dumping a bunch of salary via trade only to immediately reinvest a mega deal in another free agent sound familiar to anyone else?

On June 30, 2009 the Blueshirts shipped Scott Gomez and his remaining $33.5 million to Montreal. The very next day those short-lived savings were spent on Marian Gaborik, who inked a five-year, $37.5 million deal.

Gaborik enjoyed two very productive years in New York and the Rangers also landed Ryan McDonagh in the Gomez swap, so things turned out pretty well with that exchange.

It would be understandable if members of the front office were fondly reminiscing on that flurry of moves as they consider possibilities for the summer ahead. But even though the idea of shedding a massive contract (or two, or three), then immediately turning around and pursuing Stamkos could be tempting for the big-fish loving Blueshirts, it would be the wrong course of action this time around.

Forget, for a moment, Stamkos’s level of interest in moving to the Big Apple.

Even if the Blueshirts were able to free up enough cash to make a legitimate offer to Stamkos by moving Nash, Dan Girardi and/or Marc Staal without eating much salary – managing the salary cap is still going to be an issue in the immediate future. Key building blocks Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes will command high-dollar deals during Stamkos’s hypothetical tenure in New York, whether they come this summer as RFAs or over the next couple of years.

Even Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello and Ryan McDonagh – all of whom still have three very affordable years remaining on their contracts – could be in line for big boosts in just a few seasons.

Keeping all those players with Stamkos would be doable if the Blueshirts were somehow able to get out from their anchor deals – but it would leave the team in the same position it is now, with little flexibility to continue tinkering in search of the final recipe. You could say goodbye to Keith Yandle and future Blueshirt hopeful Kevin Shattenkirk, that’s for sure.

And beyond the financial implications, offense is not where New York’s primary issues lie. Sure, moving Nash would leave a massive hole, but the Blueshirts still ranked seventh in offense this season despite Nash missing 22 games and contributing just 15 goals and 36 points. He’s the team’s sole bona fide first-line winger, but it’s not ridiculous to think that rookie Pavel Buchnevich could match those totals on his own – let alone an increase in production from the team’s other young forwards with significant offensive upside.

The Rangers ranked a paltry 28th in offense heading into the offseason when they moved Gomez and brought in Gaborik, so there was real need to add a star scorer to buoy a stalwart defensive club. That’s not the case now – the Blueshirts are coming off a season when they ranked seventh in offense and their glaring holes are for puck-moving defensemen and speed on the wings.

Stamkos himself is a star player, though maybe no longer the transcendent goal scorer he was just a few years ago before he suffered a devastating leg injury and a variety of other ailments including the current blood clot that has kept him out of the lineup since April 4. Is he the missing piece separating New York from a Stanley Cup? It’s difficult to make that argument convincingly given the Lightning is a win away from reaching the Final without Stamkos playing a minute during the postseason.

Of course, if it could be ensured that shuffling the deck to obtain Stamkos would also land the equivalent of another McDonagh, then I might change my tune…


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