All of this leads me to think of a few potential landing spots. Admittedly they are all long shots, but I don't feel like it's safe to assume he returns to Tampa, lands in Toronto or, as has been reported a shocking amount, Buffalo. I have a hard time seeing Buffalo go after Stamkos due in large part to the money they will have to give to Ristolainen, Reinhart, Eichel, and others (Girgensons and Pysyk for example) all within the next few years. That said, those three teams are out of the running in terms of this writing. I believe the following three teams may actually have an outside chance of nabbing Stamkos: San Jose, Pittsburgh and Detroit. Here's why...
San Jose - This fit is contingent on one thing, that being the contract of Patrick Marleau. While his TOI this year was actually above his career average per hockey-reference.com, his point totals have seen a 22 point dip over the last two years going from 70 in 2013-14 to 48 this year. He has a no movement clause, but he has also been mentioned in trade rumors multiple times over the years. Perhaps a strong playoff showing (he already posted four points in the five game series against LA) will bring some interesting trade suitors. If his contract can be moved, it may open the door for Stamkos. From one beach to another. To playing with the Joes, Thornton and Pavelski and a young growing cast, San Jose may be an intriguing option for Stammer.
Pittsburgh - Another team contingent on a move, but if Pittsburgh wanted to get a little younger, what about a sign and trade involving Evgeni Malkin? Pittsburgh would have to move a big contract to add Stamkos, this would allow them to add him prior to him hitting the open market and Tampa doesn't lose him for nothing. I keep trying to think of a reason this wouldn't work and I truly can't think of one. Malkin becomes a true #1 option which may persuade him to allow the deal, plus he gets to join fellow countryman Nikita Kucherov. As for Stamkos, he gets to receive passes from some guys named Crosby and Kessel. It's seemingly a good fit for both teams.
Detroit - If this really is Pavel Datsyuk's last season, then the Red Wings are clearing $7.5 million in cap with his contract alone. Depending on what they decide to do with pending UFAs Brad Richards ($3 million) and Kyle Quincey ($4.25 million), they have at least $14 million freed up. Could Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Henrik Zetterberg and company sway Stamkos into joining them in Detroit? Mike Ilitch is well known as one of the best owners in all of pro sports and Coach Jeff Blashill is knows as a players' coach. Perhaps the combination of strong management, winning tradition and a roster that is infused with younger talent to mix with strong veteran leadership will be intriguing to the big ticket free agent.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. I think the fact Stamkos let it get this far without re-signing speaks volumes. I tend to believe he's out of Tampa, but as I said earlier, I don't think the landing spot is as clear cut as we expect. Anything can happen once a player hits free agency.