Close your eyes Islander Fans, and John Tavares could be gone to. …
By George Kurtz
John Tavares of the Islanders is one of the best players in the NHL. He is also an unrestricted free agent next summer. Although he is not quite on the same tier with a Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid, he’s not that far off from either and by just about any estimation Taveras is one of the Top 10 players in the game. Whether or not he re-signs with the Islanders or leaves via free agency, he’s going to get paid well. Money won’t be an issue for Tavares. It’s much more likely to be a matter of where he feels most comfortable playing. Here are my Top 5 choices as to what jersey you will see Tavares putting on next season.
1. New York Islanders: He does seem to like playing for the Isles and the team has a promising future. After the season the NYI will likely have about $33 million to re-sign Tavares and several other restricted free agents. Money won’t be an issue here. What will be the issue is where the team will be playing after next season. Unless you live in a cave, you know the Isles left Nassau Coliseum several years ago and have been playing at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. That arena is not meant for hockey. The team has put in a bid to build a brand-new facility at Belmont Racetrack in Elmont, but Tavares is unlikely to find out about whether or not the team has won that bid before he hits free agency. Will he want to gamble that they do? It’s a risk he doesn’t have to take as he will have plenty of other suitors.
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) December 5, 2017
2. Toronto Maple Leafs: Tavares is from Toronto, so just like all the talk was last season about Steven Stamkos returning home, this year we will hear the same about Tavares. The Leafs can make it work salary cap wise but also have to worry about the long term. Do they want to give someone a contract that would have an AAV of $10-$12 million when they will have to wonder how much they will need to shell out for Auston Matthews when he becomes a free agent in 2019?
3. Montreal Canadiens: The Canadiens are to the NHL what that Yankees are to MLB or the Cowboys are to the NFL. They are an Original Six team and in the media capital of the NHL. What they don’t have is a star forward. Sure, Max Pacioretty is a nice player but he’s nowhere near the player that Tavares is. I would expect them to make a big push for Tavares should he hit free agency, as he is someone that would become the face of the franchise and put fannies in the seats.
4. New York Rangers: This one would kill Islander fans, but it would make sense for both Tavares and the Rangers. If the reason Tavares is thinking re-signing with the Isles has more to do with his love of the area than it does the team or the organization than he wouldn’t even have to pack a box to go from the Isles to the Rangers. The Rangers certainly have the need for a star forward and they don’t have the arena problems that the Isles have. Salary cap issues would have to be resolved here, but the Rangers would likely be able to make that happen in order to bring on Tavares.
5. Detroit Red Wings: Yet another team that not only needs a star player, but also an attendance draw. When you think about the Wings you think of Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Pavel Datsyuk. Well they are all retired and aren’t coming back. Sure, Henrik Zetterberg is still active, but he’s not the player the other three were and he’s also in the twilight of his career at 37 years of age. They need someone to pick up that mantle and Tavares would be it.
You can find me on Twitter, @georgekurtz