Toronto Maple Leafs: Steven Stamkos and Tweetgate

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Mar 31, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (91) skates during the pre game warm up against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Athletes have started to learn that they need to watch what they post on social media, which got one star player in some hot water.

We have all been there when you are on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and you are looking at a post then by accident you hit the like button. But imagine if your account had over 390,000 followers and you are a pending UFA this summer.

This week has been a tough one for Steven Stamkos who had to face the media after he “accidentally” liked a link to a video by TSN on twitter about whether the Toronto Maple Leafs should pursue the elite goalscorer. Stamkos would try to calm the storm by saying that it was an accident, instead of trying to deny the implications he understands that people will talk about it, but he hopes that it will not drag on.

When someone does something once then it can be called an accident, but when they have a track record of it then accidents become strange coincidences. As reported by both TSN and Sportsnet, this is now the third time that Stamkos has liked a tweet involving him and a possible move back home to Toronto.

Is this the moment where Leafs’ fans should start to grow curious about the possibility of having a former 60 goal scorer sign with the Leafs?

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Ask most media members and they will tell you that seeing Stamkos move from the blue and white in Florida to come to the blue and white in Canada was not a realistic idea. But the feeling has changed for more reasons than one.

Sure, the recent events on Twitter have made things interesting, but that is not — and should not be — the point of discussion. When Stamkos signed his first contract extension with the Tampa Bay Lightning it was for five years at $37.5 million, coming off a season where he scored 45 goals and 91 points. The previous season he had 51 goals and 95 points and yet he only received a contract with an annual value of $7.5 million while players like Rick Nash, Phil Kessel, Ryan Getzlaf, Eric Staal, Claude Giroux, Corey Perry, Sidney Crosby, P.K. Subban, Evgeni Malkin Alex Ovechkin, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane all make more per year than Stamkos.

While players like Crosby, Malkin, Kane, Toews and Ovechkin deserve to be paid what their teams are paying them, how do the other players make more than Stamkos?

When the contract talks with Stamkos and the Lightning dragged on the entire season back in 2011 there was the risk of teams trying to get Stamkos to sign an offer sheet and hoping that the Lightning would not be able to afford a deal with him.

Dec 5, 2015; San Jose, CA, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) controls the puck against the San Jose Sharks during the second period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Fortunately for the Lightning and Stamkos they were able to agree on a shorter deal, but it has now led to this moment where GM Steve Yzerman has to try to get his franchise player to stay without harming the team’s ability to build around him.

The Lightning were not interested in a long-term deal back in 2011 because of the issues with the Vincent Lecavalier‘s contract that they would eventually use a compliance buyout on. However, in the NHL today with the limit on term that they can give their players, many teams are committing top dollar to their franchise players and trying to build around that. The Chicago Blackhawks are a perfect example where many of their core players are locked in but they have a tight cap situation which forced them to part with players like Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad.

So for the Lightning this is where it gets tough for them because they are a young team that has some contracts to address soon like defenceman Braydon Coburn, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat (after next season), Victor Hedman (after next season), Ben Bishop (after next season),  Tyler Johnson (after next season), Jonathan Drouin (after next season).

Those are a lot of important parts to the Lightning team and it could spell trouble for them especially after next season. Hedman will be the player at the top of the list to try to keep, but he is not going to come cheap. This is why signing Stamkos to a long-term extension gets tricky for Tampa Bay because the reality is that they probably won’t be able to keep their whole team intact. Much like Chicago, some players will need to be moved in order to make it work.

Jan 25, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; Team Foligno center Steven Stamkos (91) of the Tampa Bay Lightning shoots the puck against Team Toews goaltender Corey Crawford (50) of the Chicago Blackhawks in the second period in the 2015 NHL All Star Game at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to the type of contract that Stamkos is looking for he did hint at last year’s All-Star game that he could see a contract done by July 1st.

“Obviously July 1 you can announce a deal and something hopefully similar to what Kane and Toews did, sometime after July 1. It’s a long ways away…but I’m obviously very happy with where I am in Tampa” Stamkos said to media.

Well July 1st past  and there is still no contract to announce, or any indication that a deal is imminent. It was suggested that the deal both Kane and Toews were actually hometown discounts with a $10.5 million cap hit ($21.5 million combined) for the next eight years.

So does Stamkos take a hometown discount again to stay in Tampa Bay for the next eight seasons? Or does he take his chance on the open market and hope that a team will be willing to give him a rich deal.

Maybe that team could be the Leafs.

Next: How do the Leafs Fit Into This?