According to several sources, it was the Toronto Maple Leafs’ attempts to woo Steven Stamkos which persuaded him to stay with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Southern Ontario is often described (rightly or wrongly) by Toronto Maple Leafs fans as the centre of the hockey universe. Ironically, it is this perception which may well have determined Steven Stamkos‘ future.
The Leafs have provided plenty of ammunition for opposing sports fans over the years – one playoff appearance in 11 seasons, no Stanley Cup since 1967, John Ferguson, Jr. and so on. However, the possibility they scared off Stamkos with their sales pitch, could arguably top them all.
Understandably, people will want to question this speculation, given that it comes via the Toronto Sun‘s Steve Simmons. Objectively speaking though – no matter your thoughts on him – he does have a lot of connections in the hockey world.
According to Simmons, numerous sources told him the availability of the 2008 first overall draft pick pretty much ended after his trip to Toronto. The meeting included Leafs ownership, front office executives and Canadian Tire CEO Michael Medline.
Heck, even Mayor John Tory was there. However, regardless of how many (self) important people were present, it wasn’t enough to impress Stamkos.
The 26-year old apparently left the meeting, told his advisors he didn’t want to see any other teams and asked them to call Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman. Despite his intention to go through the free agency process and meet all interested teams, an NHL executive told Simmons he believes the Leafs overwhelmed him so much, he made his mind up right there and then.
Certainly, the timing of Stamkos’ decision did seem to catch a lot of people off guard. In fact it was so sudden, the Detroit Red Wings never got the chance to make their pitch to him.
Overall, it does provide a fascinating rationale behind the Markham, Ontario native opting to remain in Tampa Bay. Add in that he made his mind up on the eve of free agency, after leaving a Lightning offer – which didn’t change – on the table for several months and you can’t immediately discount the theory.
Do you believe the speculation that the Leafs effectively scared off Steven Stamkos and helped him decide what to do? If true, are you frustrated by this, or do you consider it a blessing in disguise? Let us know in the comments section below.