TSN's Bob McKenzie, arguably the most well-respected man in hockey media, was asked last night to guess what team was Steven Stamkos' first choice right now? Canadians are very invested in this story, since Stamkos to Toronto rumors have been swirling for years.
But McKenzie's answer? The Buffalo Sabres.
The way McKenzie words it makes it sound like the Sabres wouldn't need to trade young assets at the deadline to acquire his rights from the Lightning. They could just wait it out until he's a free agent on July 1st.
Stamkos has 21 goals and 19 assists in 53 games this season. He's already scored 297 goals at 26 years old.
From Stamkos' perspective, it does make sense. He wouldn't have to deal with the pressure that comes with playing for the Maple Leafs while still being closer to home. The Maple Leafs will be good, but later than the Sabres most likely. They are just at the start of their rebuild, and their NHL roster is pretty bare minus Morgan Reilly.
The question is, can the Sabres afford it? Stamkos will want near the max. Ryan O'Reilly is getting paid $7 million. Rasmus Ristolainen will likely get at least $6 million. Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel will need new contracts in a few years. It would likely mean the Sabres would be parting ways with Evander Kane when his contract is up.
It's also important to understand he wasn't reporting that this is for sure fact, but someone like him usually doesn't throw this stuff out there with no backing. So how realistic is it? I don't know, but it means it is at least possible.
And, if you want to think about it all day...
Reinhart - O'Reilly - Stamkos
Laine/Puljujarvi - Eichel - Kane