It is not every year that a superstar in their prime hits the open market in the NHL. Steven Stamkos hasn't been directly linked to Montreal, but if you're talking free agency possibilities, no conversation would be complete without addressing the biggest name available.
As you may already know, Stamkos is extremely good at hockey. He is an elite goalscorer - a perennial 40-goal threat - and just screams offence when he is on the ice. He is not an elite defensive player, but his game is lighting up the scoresheet, and he does so rather well. For a team that struggles to produce goals outside of a few key contributors, the Canadiens could definitely use what he brings to the table.
If you can get Steven Stamkos on your team, you do it. Every single team in the league would like to have him, or a few carbon copies of him if they could. He isn't just a big name, his numbers back up that he is worth top dollar when it comes to NHL forwards. The big question is not whether your team wants him, but whether it is fiscally possible.
What would it take?
Now that we know the salary cap is going up to $73 million for next season, the Canadiens have two options in net that modify their cap space. With Mike Condon - the cheaper backup option - they would have around $8.2 million to spare. If they go with Charlie Lindgren, they would have around $7.9 million left. They also have players like Daniel Carr and Phillip Danault still waiting for deals, so the figure is subject to lowering soon, albeit not by much.
An early report during the season suggested that the Lightning had offered him an eight-year deal at 8.5 million AAV. On the open market, you have to think that figure is a tad low. He is probably looking for somewhere in the $9-10 million range, and it is not inconceivable that a team would go even higher than that.
What this means for the Canadiens is that they would definitely have to move a body - or two - to make space for him. He also plays up the middle, so likely a centreman has to go. Tomas Plekanec could be a candidate, but Stamkos doesn't replace what he can do defensively.
Another option could be David Desharnais, or some combination of him and another player. The simple fact is that they probably need to free up at least $3-4 million (or more) in order to be able to handle his salary demands. How they would make that happen is anyone's guess. It's not an easy task, but it's certainly doable.
Is he a fit?
If you can't fit a Stamkos on your roster, you must have one heck of a hockey team. The 1970's Montreal Canadiens probably could have used him, and that was arguably one of the greatest dynasties in hockey history. He is absolutely a fit pretty much anywhere, and there's basically no point in arguing otherwise.
His childhood friend and teammate just so happens to be the team's number one defenceman, P.K. Subban. I'd bet they'd love to reunite with the goal of going for hockey's ultimate prize. Surely it wouldn't be the only reason he'd want to sign here, but it would be a benefit for sure.
Kirk Muller would probably salivate at the idea of structuring a power play unit featuring both Max Pacioretty and Stamkos. Two pure shooters of that calibre makes for one heck of a dangerous unit if you structure it right, and Muller is known for being rather good at that.
Is it worth it?
This is a trickier question than you might think. Of course he is worth having, and that is not a difficult statement to make. If you have the cap space to get him, there is pretty much no way that he wouldn't improve your team.
The Canadiens do, however, have some things to think about if signing any long-term deals this summer.
In the next couple of years, they are going to have to take care of some very important contracts. Most notably Carey Price, Max Pacioretty, and Alex Galchenyuk. All three of them will be due for pretty significant raises, so if they want to make a splash by going after Stamkos, they need to be mindful of those players moving forward.
The cap should be a little higher by then, and they'll have a few contracts expiring as well, including Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin, but it is still something that has to be considered when going after a major signing.
That being said, Stamkos could be the piece that puts them over the top. With a healthy Carey Price, they are often spoken of as legitimate contenders. Add a veritable goal scoring machine to what they already have, and the sky is the limit. It is the kind of move that would make them a very serious threat in the East next year.
Realistically, it is probably a longshot, but you can't help wondering how good the Habs would look if they were able to somehow get Steven Stamkos on their roster.