As the school year officially comes to a close, July 1 is fast approaching. Though I can’t recall the first day of the free agent frenzy ever coming out on a Sunday. It will this weekend with the usual assortment of TSN coverage picked up by NHL Network.
Even with a weak free agent class, there are still a couple of headliners. None more so than Islanders captain John Tavares. He’s spent the past nine years in both Long Island and Brooklyn. The former top pick of the 2009 NHL Draft has totaled 621 points (272-349-621) in 669 career games. Having only been to the postseason three times where he’s notched 11 goals and 11 assists in 24 playoff contests, the 27-year old Canadian is speaking to five other NHL teams before making his decision.
The five other suitors are the Bruins, Lightning, Maple Leafs, Sharks and Stars. He will meet with the Islanders tonight after talking to Toronto. The Isles are the only team that can offer the extra year. They reportedly offered in the neighborhood of $88 million over eight years, which would project to an average cap hit of $11 million. About what I figured. I said $92 million over eight. So, I was in the right ballpark.
Tavares opted not to speak to the Canadiens, who are a mess. They are actually considering signing former disgraced Kings defenseman Slava Voynov. He spent two months in jail for domestic abuse of his wife a few years ago. That caused the NHL to suspend him from the league. He went home to Russia in the KHL, and also represented his country at the Winter Games where they won a gold medal. This is the same Habs who distanced themselves from P.K. Subban, who is runs a children’s charity at a hospital in Montreal. They traded him for Shea Weber.
Another team not on Tavares’ list was the Rangers. This wasn’t a surprise as they’re the Islanders’ biggest rival and aren’t close to competing. I thought the Golden Knights would be one of the five teams. But somehow, Tampa is in again on another free agent. If they land Tavares, I will eat my shoes. They would have to cut some salary. I didn’t foresee Boston being one of the teams. It strikes me as a odd fit. They did cut David Backes loose.
The Leafs has to be in with Tavares being from Toronto. Imagine if they could convince him to come home and team with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander. Yikes.
Dallas being in is unsurprising. They could team Tavares with Tyler Seguin for a deadly one-two punch. Jamie Benn plays on the top line. They can seriously contend if Tavares goes there.
The best fit aside from the Islanders is San Jose. Boasting a talented roster that includes Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl, Evander Kane, Brent Burns, Martin Jones, the Sharks would be loaded if Tavares joins them. The idea of Tavares on the same roster as Couture, Pavelski and Kane is scary. Not to mention the caveman, Mr. Burns. They would be a serious Stanley Cup threat.
I guess it all depends on Tavares. If he stays put in Brooklyn which will eventually become Belmont, he can be part of the next wave of Islanders. Under Lou Lamoriello and Stanley Cup winning coach Barry Trotz, they have a lot more appeal. Don’t forget ultra talented Calder winner Mathew Barzal. Along with a good crop of forwards that at the moment includes Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier, Tavares staying would make the Islanders formidable up front.
Scoring isn’t the issue. Keeping pucks out of the net is. Lamoriello must find a new starting goalie. He also must address a defense which struggled mightily. Trotz can help with a more defensive system. There will be a renewed commitment to defense. But with Calvin de Haan on the market, the Isles will desperately need to find a suitable replacement. That’s assuming Tavares stays. Scott Mayfield, Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuk and Adam Pelech need help.
It would be wise if the organization could get Linus Soderstrom signed. He can then adjust to the pro game in North America at Bridgeport. Ilya Sorokin remains a uncertainty.
What’s the plan with former Garth Snow first round pick Josh Ho-Sang? Is he going to be given a chance or get traded? One thing is certain. Kieffer Bellows is a future star who’s probably a year away. He’s going to be a good scorer. I really enjoyed watching him represent Team USA the past two years at the Under 20 World Junior Championship.
With Lamoriello doing well at last week’s Draft where he landed Oliver Wahlstrom, Noah Dobson and Bode Wilde, the future looks bright. All good reasons for Tavares to stay. Plus free bagels for his family freshly delivered. The hashtag is #bagelsfor91.
Does he want to be part of something special or is he becoming impatient? It’s his call.