For those sleeping under a rock, the NHL just turned on EA Sports mode with a series of ground-shaking moves that were almost beyond belief all taking place within a half-hour.

The least shocking among them was the news of Steven Stamkos staying in Tampa Bay.

The contract terms:

You’ve got to hand it to Steve Yzerman. It’s still surprising it took as long as it did to get this deal settled; Stamkos just met with a bunch of different teams and was less than two days away from walking away, for nothing in return, and becoming the best unrestricted free agent in recent history at the age of 26. But after all was said and done, Yzerman got the second-best goal scorer in the game locked up at a good price long term.

Most important things to consider:

  • Winning a Cup soon was always said to be high on Stamkos’ priority list, and you can’t argue Tampa Bay hasn’t been right there knocking on the door the past couple of years with a good young core. This contract is reflective of Stamkos’ desire to return to Tampa Bay above all else. These are the same contractual terms that were reported to be offered to him a long time ago.
  • Stamkos will get an extra year on his contract and takes home a significantly larger percentage of his money with the income tax consideration, effectively levelling the playing field with other teams who were willing to outbid Tampa’s winning offer. He’s already got at tonne of endorsement money coming his way with his various deals even while in Tampa, many of which are with Canadian companies.
  • At least the Leafs didn’t just trade Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson, or PK Subban for the next ten years of 31-year-old Shea Weber’s $7.9 million contract.
  • It was an exciting speed-ahead proposition that would’ve cost them nothing but money, but the Leafs‘ rebuild wasn’t predicated on the Stamkos signing happening. They have a tonne of cap flexibility moving forward and just landed a franchise center in the draft.

Bob McKenzie on the Stamkos decision

“Honestly, I’m not shocked. Anybody that’s heard me on this program or others in the last week, I’ve always been very careful to make sure when we handicapped where Stamkos could end up with the team he was leaving. It was the one quantifiable thing Steven Stamkos had in front of him. He knew what the money was, he knew exactly what the term was, and most importantly he knows what it’s like to play in Tampa. He knows what it’s like to play for Jon Cooper. He knows what it’s like to play with his teammates, his linemates, what it’s like to live there. I think, at the end of the day, even though he knew there was probably more money on the table elsewhere, the idea of a new challenge somewhere else probably didn’t excite him as much as the notion of going back to Tampa with the unfinished business with his existing team. I think that’s where his heart was and I think he couldn’t get by that. Even though the offer is only $8.5 million compared to the 10 or 11, or the who-knows-what he would’ve been offered by other teams, the tax situation in Tampa makes it much more of a level playing field. He decided to go with what he knows, and what he knows is the Tampa Bay Lightning.

What it really boils down to is Steven Stamkos knows the situation, he knows the lay of the land in Tampa. He knows at times that Jon Cooper plays him at wing instead of center. He knows what the ground rules are going back. It’s difficult for any coach to promise anything to any player, in terms of when you’re going to be a center or when you’re going to be a winger. Obviously he prefers center; they know that. I think he’s going back eyes wide open knowing what it’s been like there for the last number of years, and he’s got to be fine with that.

They’ve got a lot to deal with here now. I can’t see any way they can keep Ben Bishop in the long haul. He’s got a year left before he’s an unrestricted free agent. They’re going to need to move that contract. First and foremost they’ve got to get a Kucherov deal done. Maybe they’ll have to do a bridge deal in that instance. They’ve got the Hedman deal they can get working on next. He’s unrestricted a year from now. I’m sure Steve Yzerman is going to want to put the Hedman extension to bed as soon as humanly possible. Killorn, Palat, Namestnikov, Drouin is up at the end of next year – over this year and next year, literally the core of that hockey team have their contracts expire. Some are restricted, some are unrestricted, but in any case they are going to have to make some hard decisions. I just can’t see everybody being back, especially now that Stamkos has decided he wants to be with the Tampa Bay Lightning.”

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Alec Brownscombe is the founder and editor of, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He's published five magazines on the team entitled "The Maple Leafs Annual" with distribution in Chapters and newsstands across the country. He also co-hosted "The Battle of the Atlantic," a weekly show on TSN1200 that covered the Leafs and the NHL in-depth. Alec is a graduate of Trent University and Algonquin College with his diploma in Journalism. In 2014, he was awarded Canada's Best Hockey Blogger honours by Molson Canadian. You can contact him at