On what’s already been a intriguing day due to a wild and crazy World Cup soccer match won by France over disappointing Argentina 4-3 in the knockout stage, it’s also decision time for John Tavares.
What will he decide? It’s been very quiet from the Tavares camp. Represented by CAA (not the old Devils building), the Islanders big ticket can either accept the generous offer for at least $11 million per season over a max of eight years from Lou Lamoriello, or choose from the list of five suitors, including the hometown Maple Leafs, Sharks, Stars, Lightning, and Bruins.
Is it all about winning for the 28-year old center, who’s been past the first round once in only three postseasons? Does he believe the Islanders are on the right track with a complete overhaul due to Lamoriello replacing Garth Snow and Stanley Cup winner Barry Trotz taking over for Doug Weight behind the bench?
What can’t be understated is how well the Isles did at last weekend’s NHL Draft. They had future sniper Oliver Wahlstrom fall into their lap at number 11 overall, and landed D prospect Noah Dobson with the 12th pick. Even better, projected first round pick Bode Wilde fell to 41st overall allowing Lamoriello to get a potential steal in the second round. The American will have something to prove after so many teams including the rival Rangers passed on him. So, he has something in common with Wahlstrom, who lit it up with two goals in a Blue/Orange scrimmage at rookie camp.
With top prospects Kieffer Bellows and Linus Soderstrom in the fold, there’s plenty for Islander fans to be excited about. The prospect pool is deep, which bodes well for the future.
However, everyone wants to know what’s up with Tavares. If he doesn’t accept the eight-year deal the Islanders offered before midnight, it’s off the table. That window would close making him free to continue the process on Canada Day. The July 1 frenzy gets started at high noon on Sunday. A rarity because it’s a weekend. That never happens.
You have to be nervous if you’re the Isles. Fans certainly are. They have a good plan in place finally under a proven Hall of Fame GM. The question is what will Lamoriello do for a new goalie. One is off the market with Carter Hutton signing with the Sabres as had been reported. A solid move for Buffalo that is affordable. We’ll see how E.F. Hutton does in a starter role following a good season in St. Louis where he split time with Jake Allen. The Sabres may not be done. Ryan O’Reilly could be on the move before midnight. St. Louis is rumored to be interested. If it doesn’t get done later, Buffalo is on the hook for a $7.5 million signing bonus.
So, what will Tavares decide? Is he no longer loyal due to Snow and Weight being out, and reassigned in the organization? Will he see what the Islander are building with talented Calder winner Mathew Barzal, who only will get better. A scary thought for the rest of the league. The Isles have plenty of scoring depth in 40-goal man Anders Lee, adept passer Josh Bailey, Jordan Eberle, and Brock Nelson. They still have a glaring hole on the blueline. Calvin de Haan could leave with plenty of interest from other teams. I could see the Devils swooping in and inking him to help fill a need. Thomas Hickey is also available. There’s supposedly interest.
Let’s say it’s the worst case scenario. Tavares leaves for say San Jose, who is all in after re-signing Logan Couture to an eight-year, $64 million contract. Or Tavares takes less to go to Dallas or Tampa where the tax rate is an advantage. What would Lamoriello do to counter it? You think he would’ve learned from Scott Niedermayer leaving the Devils. He tried to fill it with bandaids that never measured up. He’s too smart to repeat the same mistake.
As I look at the Isles, defense and goalie remain the biggest issues. Maybe Lamoriello can get creative and swing a trade to upgrade those positions. The market is paper thin. I can’t believe Detroit gave Mike Green over $5 million. He’s been a shell of himself for a while. Injuries really hurt his career since his Capitals days. He was awesome. There was even a scary thought he could top 100 points. The most he ever got was 76 in ’09-10 when he was at his peak. He was as dangerous as Erik Karlsson is now. Though I’m skeptical if Karlsson can get back to the level he played at in 2017 due to his feet. That’s why Ottawa should trade him. He probably won’t be worth the long-term investment.
Speaking of elite defensemen, Drew Doughty received an eight-year extension worth a reported $11 million on average. That’s insane. Sure. He’s arguably the best D in the league. But the deal will keep him in LA through 2027. He’s 28 now, which means he’ll be 37 when it concludes. I share a birthday with him. He’s a great player still in his prime. Imagine how that deal will look in five years. Yikes.
This is the same team who invested three years and an AAV of $6.5 million for a 35-year old Ilya Kovalchuk. Obsessed much? Hasan will probably get the joke.
So, all eyes are on Tavares tonight. Hell. Once Portugal and Uruguay conclude, social media will be going crazy to see what happens. Unless you’re a Yankees fan like me with the Red Sox in town. I don’t expect anything from Tavares until later tonight. And no. I don’t see him going to Boston.
Either way, we’ll see what he decides soon.