Pierre LeBrun wrote this weekend on ESPN.com that Lightning GM Steve Yzerman and Steven Stamkos' agent, Don Meehan of Toronto-based Newport Sports, spoke last weekend while the team was in New York. LeBrun writes that it didn't sound like they were close to a new deal at this point.

I don't know if this is necessarily a big issue at this time yet, since there is still plenty of time till Stamkos' entry level deal expires. Drew Doughty who was picked 2nd in the same draft year as Stamkos and is also represented by Meehan, hasn't signed a new contract either.

But since it came up, let's discuss it.

So obviously the Lightning would like to re-sign their star player. Over his first three years in Tampa, Stamkos has vastly improved from his rookie season. He's due for a big pay raise in his new contract since he's currently leading the NHL in goals and is second in points, just 2 points back from Daniel Sedin.

Although his rookie season had a disappointing start, he ended the year with 46 points, made up equally of goals and assists. Last year, he had 51 goals, 95 points and shared the Maurice "Rocket" Richard trophy with Sidney Crosby at the age of 20. This year he has had 41 goals, 37 assists and looks like he may possibly win both the Rocket Richard and Art Ross trophy and also has a good shot at winning the Hart trophy. These past two years gives Meehan some serious leverage in the negotiations.

To try figure out how much Stamkos is worth, you have to look at recently signed contracts to comparable players and the term length they were signed to. But with the Lightning, you also have to consider Vincent Lecavalier's contract and that Yzerman will still need to sign Victor Hedman's contract next year. In addition, we're not sure if the Lightning will be a cap spending team in the future, so even if the team has cap room available, it doesn't mean the GM will have the authorization to spend it. Basically, Yzerman has his work cut out for him.

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Looking at comparable players:

Player Year Games Played
G-A-PTS Cap Hit (million)
Term Total (million)
Sidney Crosby 2008-2009 53 24-48-72 $8.7
5 $43.5
Alexander Ovechkin 2008-2009 82 65-47-112 $9.538 13 $124
Evgeni Malkin 2009-2010 82 35-78-113 $8.7 5 $43.5
Anze Kopitar 2008-2009 82 27-39-66 $6.8 7 $47.6
Nicklas Backstrom 2010-2011 82 33-68-101 $6.7 10 $67
Jonathan Toews
2010-2011 76 25-43-68 $6.3 5 $31.5
Paul Stasny 2008-2009 45 11-25-36 $6.6 5 $33
Ryan Getzlaf 2008-2009 77 24-58-82 $5.325 5 $26.625
Mike Richards 2008-2009 73 28-47-75 $5.75 12 $69

I only chose players that were signing as an RFA their second contract as opposed to UFA's, thus Henrik Sedin is not on the list. A comparable player to Stamkos would be a #1 center on another team, or a player that would be a #1 center on another team. The table only takes into account the stats in the year before each players' contract was signed, and does not include playoff games.

In terms of point production and role in the team, Stamkos is closest to Crosby and Ovechkin. Both of their contracts were signed three years ago when the salary cap was $56,700,000 per team. This year the salary cap for 2010-2011 was set at $59.4 million and is expected to rise again for next season. So Yzerman has a bit more room to play around in terms of cap hit as the salary cap has kept increasing over the past few years.

Or does he?

One of the issues that the Lightning may face is that they might not be a salary cap spending team. This season the Lightning will only spend about $50.5 million on their payroll but with a new ownership group in place, we don't know how much they will want to spend in future seasons. We're also talking about a team who is just starting to turn their attendance numbers around after dismal numbers from previous seasons. How profitable the Lightning are in the next few years may dictate how much Yzerman will be able to spend each season. Next season, the Lightning have already committed $37 million to 12 players, not including Steven Stamkos.

The pickle that Steve Yzerman has is that he already has significant money committed to Vincent Lecavalier from the previous management regime. In case you have forgotten the exact numbers, Lecavalier signed a contract worth $85 million over 11 years with a cap hit of $7.72 million per season. He will be earning $10 million per season until the 2015-2016 season.

So it's not shocking to expect that Stamkos will want to sign a comparable money to his counterparts and his teammate, say in the range of 8.7 or 10.5 million per season. And it's very likely he'll get the money that he's looking for.

The biggest issue that the Lightning will face will be negotiating the best term that they can give and afford. If Stamkos is happy with the vision that the new ownership is trying to sell him and if he enjoys to the city, he's going to want the same length as Ovechkin or Richards. But I think if we see a shorter term deal then I think it's because Yzerman can't give him a longer term deal. I don't see Stamkos taking less money than he is asking for as it is he who is the draw right now in Tampa. Why would he take less than market value to stay? Although Yzerman would like to fashion his team after Detroit, the Lightning are not Detroit.

After signing Stamkos' contract this year, Yzerman will be right back at it again next season working on getting Victor Hedman signed to a new contract as well. The dynamic of his contract signing will be very different than Stamkos, but Hedman will also be looking for a raise. For his potential contract, it will be interesting to see what Doughty's contract ends up looking when he re-signs. But the two contracts will be tied together, as Stamkos' contract will determine how much the Lightning will be able to work with when Hedman comes looking for his money next season.