Steven Stamkos figures to be Tim Leiweke’s long-term target: Cox

In the summer of 2016, unless he extends his contract between now and then, Stamkos will be an unrestricted free agent. There are those who believe that playing for the Leafs would be a dream for Stamkos, although you often hear that about this player or that player.

Still, the attraction of going home helped the Leafs sign David Clarkson, whether you like that one or not.

The Leafs would like to believe that the Markham-born Stamkos may be thinking something along the lines of the way Zach Parise was thinking in the summer of 2012 when he targeted the Minnesota Wild, hardly an NHL powerhouse, as his destination of choice so he could return to his home state.

Of course, Stamkos wouldn’t be free for another two summers, which gives Tampa and owner Jeff Vinik loads of time to get him locked down.

If the Bolts don’t, or if Stamkos decides to at least test the waters in ’16, you can bet the Leafs will position themselves to make a huge offer, perhaps one that might even approach the maximum 20 per cent salary any one player can earn. By then, the cap could be $80 million, which means $16 million a year for Stamkos.