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Sources: Flyers' interest in Stamkos heats up

Sometime today, the Flyers could take a big step in bringing electrifying restricted free-agent forward Steven Stamkos to Philadelphia. A source close to the situation told the Daily News that the Flyers' brass spent yesterday afternoon crunching numbers and mulling over whether to send an offer sheet to Stamkos' agents.

Sometime today, the Flyers could take a big step in bringing electrifying restricted free-agent forward Steven Stamkos to Philadelphia.

A source close to the situation told the Daily News that the Flyers' brass spent yesterday afternoon crunching numbers and mulling over whether to send an offer sheet to Stamkos' agents.

The offer sheet, which would still allow Tampa Bay first right of refusal, would be expected to be a deal of around 13 or 14 years and north of $100 million, which would put Stamkos on the Flyers' payroll for a manageable cap hit if the Lightning chose to not match the deal.

As of press time last night, sources said no offer had been extended, something that Stamkos' agents from the Newport Sports Group confirmed. The Flyers were permitted to send an offer sheet to Stamkos as early as 5 p.m. yesterday.

That could change at some point today.

"It's not a definite, yet, but it's something they are strongly considering," one source said. "It's something that they believe they can work out and fit him in."

As of yesterday afternoon, the Flyers' brass had yet to run the scenario by team chairman Ed Snider - though that "would not be a hard sell," according to one source.

Stamkos' camp cannot officially accept an offer sheet until the free-agency period begins Friday.

"We don't know whether we'll receive an offer at this stage - one way or the other," Stamkos' agent, Mark Guy, said yesterday afternoon. "It's still too soon to tell."

Guy did say, however, that his camp did not have any dialogue with Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman yesterday. The two sides could reconvene today. The Lightning has been trying to hammer out of a deal with "Stammer" for more than a month.

Rogers SportsNet in Canada reported on Monday that the two sides are still "not close" on a deal. Yzerman reportedly has been offering $6.5 million to $7 million a season. Reports also have questioned whether Stamkos want to continue his career in Tampa Bay.

Stamkos, 21, has netted a league-high 96 goals and 186 points over the last two seasons.

In the meantime, if the Flyers were to present an offer sheet, Stamkos could use it as leverage in his negotiations with Yzerman before Friday. If no new deal has been brokered by noon Friday, Stamkos could choose to accept the offer sheet.

If the Lightning chose to not match after 7 days, Stamkos would become the property of the Flyers, and Tampa Bay would receive four first-round draft picks in compensation if the offer sheet is above $7.553 million per season. The Flyers have all of their first-round picks intact for the next 4 years.

Stamkos is not eligible for arbitration, as he has not yet completed four professional seasons.

There have been conflicting reports as to whether the Lightning would be able to match an expensive offer sheet, whether it's a 1-year deal at the maximum salary of $12.86 million or a lengthy deal like what the Flyers could be proposing.

A source close to the situation in Tampa Bay says the Lightning, which has lost a reported $20 million to $25 million last season, does not have the financial assets to match an outrageous contract. Others, though, have reported that Yzerman has the green light from team owner Jeffrey Vinik to match any offer sheet.

Sources say the Flyers have "zero interest" in a 1-year, max deal.

At the very least, the Flyers - or any other team in the East - could hamstring a contender in their own conference by forcing Tampa Bay to match an expensive deal. That alone might convince the Flyers to move forward. It doesn't cost anything to send an offer sheet.

Tampa Bay's other alternative is to trade Stamkos' rights before Friday's deadline.

If the proposed Flyers number sounds high, remember that they just cleared $108 million off the books by trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.

From the Flyers' perspective, the thought seems to be that they would deal with any salary-cap implications for the rest of the roster if and when they could come to terms with Stamkos. Getting him is the hard part.

The Flyers are permitted to exceed the NHL's $63.4 million salary cap by up to 10 percent during the offseason, but must become cap compliant by Opening Night, on Oct. 6.

With Stamkos, the Flyers could get creative in any number of ways to get under the salary cap, even without a willing trade partner. They could stash any number of players in Adirondack to stay under the cap.

Undoubtedly, the Flyers are inching toward making a serious power play for one of the NHL's top three forwards. A lot can happen, and still needs to happen.

But in the meantime, could you imagine Claude Giroux dishing the puck to Stamkos on a nightly basis? It's becoming closer to reality. *

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