Steven Stamkos is in an interesting situation. He is one of the best players in the NHL and is entering the final year of his contract. Elite players almost never play out the final year of their deals. While the season has not started yet, Stamkos and the Lightning have not made much progress towards a contract extension. General manager Steve Yzerman said earlier this year "signing Stamkos is priority 1". The time passed since than has to make fans wonder about a potential trade if no deal can be done.
Per multiple reports the Sabres are a team that has called Tampa Bay about Stamkos and a possible trade. Now to trade for a player of Stamkos caliber, it doesn't happen overnight. The Lightning would certainly try every last effort to sign Stamkos before trading him, especially to a division foe. So let's say the Lightning were faced with a scenario where they knew they could not sign Stamkos, what would the cost be for such a great player?
Stamkos on the Sabres right now would make the Sabres an immediate Stanley Cup Contender. Adding arguably the best goal scorer in the NHL is no joke. The Sabres would be on the level of the Chicagos, Anaheims, and Rangers of the world. Jack Eichel wouldn't even have to be the teams number one center going forward. The Sabres would have the potential for the greatest 1-2 center combination in NHL history. Rivaling Gretzky and Messier or Yzerman and Federov.
Bleacher Report's Tom Urtz detailed what a potential price tag for Stamkos would be. Considering he would be set to enter free agency, no team would give up the farm for him. However, Yzerman won't trade him for a substantial price. Urtz creates a price of a top prospect and two 1st round picks. Here are three trade scenarios for Stamkos that could work:
This suffices Urtz's price of a top prospect and picks for Stamkos. Tampa gets their top center replacement for the future, as well as two more first rounders. For the Sabres, Reinhart leaving is no loss with Stamkos coming in. The team still has two elite young centers going forward no matter what. Two 1st rounders is a tough pill to swallow if they're unable to resign Stamkos.
2.) Jack Eichel
Eichel is going to be an amazing player, I'm sure of it, most are sure of it. However, Stamkos is an amazing player already. Tampa would accept this price, Stamkos would most likely welcome a change to a highly talented team close to his home town. If Stamkos left in free agency though, it would be the worst thing to happen in Buffalo sports history, losing Eichel for nothing.
Girgensons and Reinhart have similar value in my mind. Zemgus is more proven than Reinhart is, but may not have as high of a ceiling. Since the Lightning are built to win now they might rather have Girgensons, while still getting two 1sts to build up their future.