The Toronto Maple Leafs are in the midst of a turbulent period of upheaval but the change that would reverberate throughout the hockey world may yet be to come. Sources close to PPP Amalgamated Heavy Industries, Kitten Ranching, and Pug Training GmBH have intimated to us that the Tampa Bay Lightning's starlet Steven Stamkos may be agitating for a move to Bay Street and his hometown Maple Leafs and the megabucks club is said to be on red alert.
Stamkos grew up in Markham, a northern suburb of the city known in hockey circles as "The Centre of the Universe", and would no doubt relish an opportunity to spend the prime years of his career in the Mecca of hockey. Idle press speculation became a firestorm when - using the popular social media tool Twitter - Stamkos 'favourited' the story as well as a further message from a fan imploring him to use his star power to lure New York Islanders star John Tavares to the Canadian club who is nearing a half century without a title. The star's limited favouriting activity shows that there was deep meaning to his actions.
Maple Leafs Sports And Entertainment's Harold Hill - Tim Leiweke - has already engineered two massive coups in attracting Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe to the banks of Lake Ontario. Having missed out on his shot at landing LeBron James for the Raptors, Leiweke would dearly love to bring Stamkos home as the crown jewel in his MLSE project as the team approaches its 100th anniversary celebrations. Corporate partners will no doubt be leaned up to provide impetus to the move as Stamkos' dream of pulling on the famous blue and white shirt is weighed against a desire to maximise his earnings in a state with no income tax.
Stamkos has fuelled speculation by hinting that the Florida club will have to match his ambitions for a Stanley Cup if they are to hold on to their captain and spiritual talisman. Toronto is the richest club in the NHL and is building their team with an eye towards having both a competitive team and the cap space available in order to meet Stamkos' financial desires which are rumoured to run to the maximum possible. Tampa fans are naturally livid at the thought of seeing another homegrown star leave.
Now that the stakes have been set Tampa and Toronto are in a race to see whether one can lure Stamkos homeward or whether the former can be seen to satisfy his ambition. Players and management on both sides will feel the pressure as each result, each signing, indeed each decision impacts the platform that is built that will be used to sway one of the NHL's most dangerous snipers. The Leafs' efforts to gazump the Lightning to Stamkos' signature began with Tim Leiweke's hire but how will it end?