Happy Fourth of July!

On Independence Day, I wanted to wish everyone a Happy Fourth of July! I hope everyone is enjoying their holiday with friends and family.

It’s America’s 242nd Birthday. Hard to believe that way back in 1776, the American Revolution resulted in the Declaration of Independence on July 4. Our separation from Great Britain actually occurred on July 2. However, it’s honored on this day, commemorating what Thomas Jefferson authored as part of the Committee of Five, which included John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston. Two future Presidents with Adams and Jefferson following George Washington.

We celebrate our freedom as a country. Whatever you do, stay safe. Who doesn’t love looking at fireworks 💥🎇🎆? There’s nothing like it. Even though they’re frequently set off before and after the special holiday. Fireworks are also used out here to honor Memorial Day and New Year’s.

Enjoy your day.

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Hello, anyone home in Newark?

For years as Devil fans all we’ve been hearing about is how the oodles of cap space we had and the improving team on the ice would both represent a more attractive destination for free agents and give us more opportunities to improve the team via trade.  Last offseason the hype was how we’d be able to use our cap space to take advantage of teams before the expansion draft, but the only team who did that was Vegas themselves, seemingly monopolizing all the cap space acquisitions.  Yet here we sit on the fourth of July, still with a ton of unused cap space and still basically at status quo – which might be charitable at best.  True, I’m not losing any sleep over the departures of John Moore, Michael Grabner, Brian Gibbons or Jimmy Hayes…but all did suit up in the playoffs for the Devils last year.

A predictable response would be ‘but it’s July 4 and they still have all offseason to do something’…which is fine, but what is that something going to be, exactly?  Overpaying Patrick Maroon to come back?  Make some mysterious trade that comes out of left field?  Building from within and from trades simaltaneously and exclusively is a very tight rope to walk, especially if you’re not going to spend to the cap which more and more seems like it’s an issue, no matter what Shero or anyone else says eventually the proof is in the pudding.  Not spending to the cap is one thing, not spending anywhere near the cap is another.  There have been multiple opportunities to make an impact improvement that have gone by the wayside for one reason or another.  John Carlson?  Didn’t even get to free agency, the Caps re-signed him after clearing cap space…fine, a RD wasn’t the most optimum fit anyway.  John Tavares?  Didn’t even take a meeting with the Devils, seemingly only torn between the Isles and Toronto and not including any other Metro teams on his interview list.  Whatever…dissapointing we couldn’t make a pitch but can’t blame the organization there.

Ryan O’Reilly?  Gets traded to another team who was around our level looking to make a tangible improvement.  A bit dissapointing we weren’t in on that one considering O’Reilly is signed the next few years and we could use a true top six center.  Calvin deHaan?  After rumored interest from us he signs with a division rival, with Mike Morreale saying after the fact we weren’t in the mix on deHaan whatever that means.  Another dissapointment considering our LHD could use an improvement.  Erik Karlsson?  Who knows, though all the rumored destinations are all good teams that play in tax-free states.  Maroon?  Still in limbo, but he’d be our worst FA loss given how he played after coming over last year and the fact he adds size and physicality our forward core otherwise lacks.

As of now the only thing GM Ray Shero has done is re-sign Eddie Lack and sign three other minor league free agents, and there’s been radio silence from Newark since late April on breakup day.  No comments after the draft, even if it was only to talk about first-rounder Ty Smith.  No comments in the four days since free agency started as everyone else around us seems to improve…Carolina signed Calvin deHaan, Petr Mrazek and acquired Dougie Hamilton and Michael Ferland from the Flames in a major draft weekend trade.  Florida – who we barely beat out for a spot this year traded for top six winger Mike Hoffman as part of the Sens’ liquidation.  Philly signed James van Riemsdyk, another FA we weren’t in on.  Ironically among Metro teams, only the two NY teams are probably going to be out of the mix as far as the playoff chase.  Not that I’m entirely counting out Barry Trotz improving the Isles from the tire fire they were last year but with our old buddy Lou continuing his predictable ‘overpay old role players’ strategy that failed miserably his final years here coupled with losing their franchise center (not to mention deHaan from an already terribad defense) and being in a brutal division, there’ll be a lot of long days and nights in Brooklyn this year.

While I don’t need Shero to make a move this week, it is dissapointing that for years we’ve had as much cap space go unused as has been, especially considering these same owners seem fine on spending big money for the improving Sixers in the NBA.  Perhaps they’re only going to spend relative to profit.  Even acquiring a short-bad term contract to take an asset back would have been nice – no, Marc Savard doesn’t count in that vein since no real money was spent.  More and more it seems like (at best) Shero’s adopting a pure Moneyball approach and hoarding cap space indefinitely while the top teams are proving they can create cap space seemingly at will when they need it, in no small part due to the cap increasing every year.  All we heard is how Tampa had no cap space and they just re-signed defenseman Ryan McDonagh and were in on Tavares as one of the finalists.

It would be nice to at least hear from the GM this week though.  For a guy that was one of the most open and accesible GM’s in the first three years of his tenure, the recent radio silence is a bit disconcerting.  At first I was willing to believe he was working on big deals or big signings and would comment after the fact but seemingly nothing’s happened or even been close and still Shero’s in a bunker somewhere as if he was Lou.  I’ve said before I’d be dissapointed if we came out of this offseason status quo and more and more it looks that way barring a later summer rabbit out of a hat type trade.  We barely made the playoffs as is, while it probably was too much to ask this team to make the leap to championship contender just yet, taking a total step back would be a bit alarming heading into an offseason where we’re gonna need to spend to re-sign Hart winner Taylor Hall and defenseman Will Butcher (who’s an RFA).  Having this team go backwards isn’t exactly the best way to carry over the good feeling from this spring.

Not being able to improve the team in any substantial way also brings back the question marks of how much ownership is willing to spend on this team.  As much as I wanted to believe these billionaires would pour money into the team when it was appropriate, the more chances that pass by to substantially improve the team the less I’m willing to buy the company line that ‘oh, Shero can spend to the cap if he thinks it’s appropriate’.  For years as a Met fan I heard how the Madoff scandal wouldn’t affect the Mets financially even years after it was obvious it did.  Has Shero gone underground cause he knows he can’t justify the lack of moves this offseason without referencing a budget – which he has denied to this point?

While I and most of the fanbase have been patient to this point, expectations have now been raised.  Maybe making the playoffs was a year sooner than most expected in this rebuild but now that it’s happened it would be nice to see someone willing to take the next step to make this team better, whether it’s Shero or ownership.  I do have faith in Shero the GM, I just don’t know how often we can go back to the well of waiting for trades to improve.  How much can you trade and still build from within?  Even the O’Reilly trade which you could have made an argument for us to make, would have involved losing two high picks and three depth players and we don’t have a lot of either, especially after our deadline trades last year and FA losses so far this offeason.  I want to have faith in ownership, especially after they’ve shown they aren’t averse to spending entirely with the Sixers.  It’s just hard to keep making the same rationalizations over and over again in the face of mounting evidence.  Like I said I don’t have an issue with not spending to the cap, my issue is not even being in the same stratosphere of spending to the cap.

Pretty soon it’s gonna be time for this organization to show the fanbase, and show your MVP and the rest of your team something.  Especially while your rival teams are either rebuilding (Rangers) or imploding (Isles) and you have an opportunity to be the best team in town for an extended period of time.

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Islanders bring back Matt Martin, sign Lehner

The Islanders are moving on from the devastation of John Tavares leaving for the Maple Leafs. They’re doing it in odd fashion, by loading up on third and fourth liners.

After agreeing to a four-year deal with former Leaf Leo Komarov ($3 million per season) the other day, they’ve reacquired popular forward Matt Martin from Toronto for Eamon McAdam. The 29-year old energizer, who was a fan favorite, returns to the Islanders after spending the past two seasons with the Leafs. He left following ’15-16 cashing in on a career high 10 goals and 19 points with 119 penalty minutes, by signing a four-year contract worth an average cap hit of $2.5 million. Now, the Isles will be on the hook for the remaining two years.

It’ll be interesting to see what role Martin has. It probably won’t be full time considering all the secondary depth they have. He played all 82 games his first year in Toronto scoring five goals with four assists and 123 penalty minutes, helping them reach the playoffs. In six playoff games in a first round loss, he had two assists. This past season, he only played 50 games, but tallied three goals and nine assists with 50 PIM. He only played in three of the Leafs’ final 33 games, including none in the postseason.

They previously also added fourth liner Tom Kuhnackl. A former Pen, who plays tough and will drop the gloves. I’m just wondering how many of these guys they need when they already had Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck.

I don’t get the move for Valtteri Filppula either. A player whose best years are behind him. He became an afterthought in Philadelphia. What role will he play? It shouldn’t be more than third line at this point in his career.

The other move today was the Islanders announcing the much rumored signing of former Buffalo goalie Robin Lehner.

While he is a decent goalie based on his career save percentage (.915), Lehner isn’t always consistent. Consider that the Sabres banked on him to become their starter. Instead, he was injury prone and up and down after coming over from Ottawa for David Legwand and a first round pick that turned into American prospect Colin White.

Lehner was good in ’16-17 winning 23 games in 59 games with a 2.68 goals-against-average and .920 save percentage. He wasn’t good in ’17-18 going 14-26-9 with a 3.01 GAA and .908 save percentage. Granted, his defense wasn’t good in front of him. It took time for Buffalo to improve under first-year coach Phil Housley. They were more competitive the final couple of months.

Lehner will turn 27 later this month. The interesting thing is he won’t have to carry the burden with Thomas Greiss still having a year left on his contract. Unless they dump him and take a further look at Christopher Gibson. I don’t know what the new Isles brain trust is thinking.

The Islanders are said to be involved in discussions for Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson. They’re one of three of four teams depending on who you believe. I don’t buy for a second that the Rangers would ever consider it. It doesn’t fit with their commitment to a rebuild. Plus the cost would be too much in terms of prospects and picks.

Whoever acquires Karlsson assumes the risk of signing him long-term. He can become unrestricted next summer. Good luck with that.

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Rangers re-sign Namestnikov, add defenseman Claesson

Day One of free agency is in the books. It went as expected if you’re a Ranger fan. They didn’t do much. Committed to a rebuild, it appears there will be no quick fixes or overpaid stars coming to Broadway.

Instead, it looks like GM Jeff Gorton is staying true to his word. Something he and Team President Glen Sather promised following a public letter to the fans before the trade deadline. They vowed to make changes for the foreseeable future. It was time to revamp a paper thin farm system minus any blue chip prospects, aside from Russian goalie Igor Shestyerkin. A player who’s a year away from coming to North America.

Hopefully, ninth overall pick Vitali Kravtsov works out sooner than later. Especially if you go on what he said during a promising rookie camp. That he wants to be a Ranger sooner rather than stay in the KHL. There’s much to like about defense prospect K’Andre Miller, who Gorton moved up four spots to grab at number 22, even parting with the 48th pick. Some classified it as overpayment. But the mature Miller has a good head on his shoulders, and might be worth it. He is passionate about giving back to the community and speaks very elegantly. Hopefully, the package he’ll bring down the line will make Garden Faithful happy. Nils Lundkvist is a smooth skating D with puck handling skills and offensive potential. So, that first round was pretty good even without Oliver Wahlstrom, who was outspoken about the Rangers making a ‘mistake.’ Even with John Tavares gone, the rivalry between the Islanders and Rangers should be exciting for both fanbases to debate in the future.

Gorton made a pair of moves on Canada Day. One was re-signing forward Vladislav Namestnikov to a multi-year deal worth $8 million. Four million seems a bit high for the still unproven 25-year old Russian the Rangers acquired as part of the blockbuster trade that sent Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller to the Lightning. We’ll see if he can do better than the underwhelming two goals and two assists he picked up in 19 games under ex-coach Alain Vigneault. We know he can skate and make plays. There’s untapped potential. Hopefully, he can figure it out for rookie coach David Quinn.

The second move was one of those depth signings to possibly address some toughness on the blueline. Gorton signed former Senator Fredrik Claesson to a one-year contract for only $700,000. It’s a low risk move. The left shooting defenseman isn’t flashy, but physical. He’s only totaled 113 NHL games over three years with Ottawa, going 4-16-20 with a minus-eight rating.

This past season, he played in a career high 64 contests, registering a goal and six helpers with 35 penalty minutes and a minus-seven rating. He had 158 Hits and recorded 84 blocked shots. The glaring negative is his 33 giveaways as compared with 15 takeaways. For his career, Claesson has totaled 62 giveaways with only 28 takeaways. Yikes. Hopefully, he’s better than those statistics indicate. He averaged a shade over 15 minutes of ice time in ’17-18.

The 25-year old Swede will compete for a job in camp. If Kevin Shattenkirk, Brady Skjei and Marc Staal are the incumbents with sure jobs as the established leaders of the back end, then Neal Pionk, Tony DeAngelo, Brendan Smith, John Gilmour and Steven Kampfer should all have the inside track to the remaining four spots. Four because I figure they’ll only keep seven D and go with two extra forwards. Something they’ll be able to do much easier with so much cap room.

The Rangers currently rank third from the bottom with over $48 million on the salary cap. That’s with a estimated $78 million max. Once Gorton gets Skjei and Kevin Hayes taken care of, that should comprise at least established eight million. If they keep Jimmy Vesey and I don’t see why not with a college coach in town who’s familiar with what he brings, pencil him in for approximately $2 million.

That would leave about $20 million for Ryan Spooner, Gilmour and Ryan Sproul, who would be in Hartford. Gorton could always try to find a couple of bargains in a weak free agent class. Anthony Duclair is still available. Calvin de Haan is fielding offers from the Islanders, Devils and Rangers. I’m not surprised. I thought they would have interest in the defensive defenseman. I doubt he’ll sign with them. I believe the Devils will land him. It’s a good fit.

There’s really not much more to say. It’s going to be fairly quiet on the Ranger front. I’m okay with it. I want the kids to get a chance to compete for roster spots. So, I’m looking forward to seeing how Libor Hajek, Ryan Lindgren, Sean Day, Brett Howden, Ty Ronning, Ville Meskanen, and Michael Lindgren all look.

It’ll be very different this Fall. Enjoy the World Cup.

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Tavares says goodbye to Islanders, chooses the hometown Maple Leafs

John Tavares is going home. It sounds like it was a difficult decision for him to make. Shortly after Russia pulled a huge upset of Spain in the World Cup, he told the Islanders he was leaving via The Athletic.

The heavy rumors were true about Toronto last night. The 27-year old center is officially a Maple Leaf. He agreed to a seven-year contract worth a reported $77 million with his hometown team. He released a couple of tweets to the Islanders and the fans, who are not taking this bad news well.

It’s impossible to put yourself in Tavares’ shoes. He had six teams bidding for him after narrowing down his list. I’m sure the Islanders, Bruins, Lightning, Sharks, and Stars all made great offers. Ultimately, it came down to the Mississauga, Ontario native wanting to go home and play for the team he rooted for as a kid. He’ll turn 28 in September before his first game as a Leaf.

I can understand why he chose them. He described it in his tweet, hinting at a strong core that features Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and Nazem Kadri. That’s a scary thought when you add the talented Tavares to Toronto, who don’t care that they lost James van Riemsdyk to the Flyers and Tyler Bozak to the Blues. They also have a good supporting cast that includes Patrick Marleau, Zach Hyman, Connor Brown, Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, Nikita Zaitsev and Frederik Andersen.

If the Leafs can figure out a way to improve the blueline, they’ll be serious contenders. Andersen had to do a lot for them last season. The pressure is on coach Mike Babcock to deliver now that they added Tavares to a young nucleus. No more first round exits.

As far as the Islanders are concerned, what can they do? The remaining list of free agents isn’t good. They’ll save money losing Tavares after making a max offer of eight years at over $11 million per season. It’s not like he gave the Leafs a discount. Eleven million is not chunk change.

The former Islanders first overall pick in 2009 finishes with 272 goals, 349 assists, totaling 621 points in 669 career games. In three postseasons, he went 11-11-22 over 24 playoff games. Hardly enough in the time he’s been there. That had to be a factor in his decision despite new management doing the right thing for a change, bringing in Lou Lamoriello, who hired Stanley Cup winning coach Barry Trotz.

With uncertainty in net and on defense, it had to impact Tavares’ decision. Even following a great draft that saw them net future NHLers Oliver Wahlstrom, Noah Dobson and Bode Wilde, it wasn’t enough to sway Tavares. The Isles have a good pipeline with Kieffer Bellows and possibly Linus Soderstrom a year away. The goalie will take longer to develop than the scoring forward and son of former NHLer Brian Bellows.

The interesting thing is the Islanders don’t necessarily have a bad roster. Featuring Calder winner Mathew Barzal, who only put up 85 points (22-63-85) to lead the team in scoring and assists, the heir apparent is ready to lead a team that still includes Josh Bailey, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Anthony Beauvillier, Casey Cizikas, and Jordan Eberle.

The back end needs work. However, they were able to re-sign Thomas Hickey to a affordable four-year deal worth an average of $2.5 million. That’s great value for a underrated player. Assuming Calvin de Haan leaves, they still have Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuk, Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, and Scott Mayfield. Pulock is a restricted free agent due a raise following a breakout season. He went 10-22-32 in 68 games. Sebastian Aho could challenge Mayfield for the sixth spot.

Maybe having a better coach will help. Trotz has a good defensive system, which his former team executed to perfection to stun the hockey would in winning the Stanley Cup. Holding players accountable and making them more defensively responsible should be beneficial.

Don’t rule out Lamoriello making a trade for either Ryan O’Reilly or Jeff Skinner. I’m sure he’s working the phones with so much cap space available. I wonder if he’ll look to dump Boychuk, who can’t stay healthy. Andrew Ladd could be another candidate if they can find a team to take the contract.

Finding a starting goalie is important. It’s not going to be Christopher Gibson starting on Opening Night. I don’t believe Thomas Greiss is starter material. It’s slim pickings. Perhaps they’ll go and sign Steve Mason after the Canadiens didn’t waste any time getting rid of him.

It’ll be interesting to see the direction the Islanders go in. Don’t forget 40-goalscorer Lee is unrestricted in 2019. They need to get him locked up. The summer just became more interesting.

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Stastny agrees to sign with Vegas, clarification on O’Reilly

It’s officially Canada Day. Happy Canada Day to all those who celebrate up north. The July 1 frenzy doesn’t officially get started until high noon. However, that doesn’t mean teams haven’t reached agreements with players.

The biggest name today is Paul Stastny. He had agreed to sign with the Golden Knights. According to reports, it’s expected to be for three years. No details on the financial terms yet. TSN’s Bob McKenzie all but confirmed it along with some additional information.

If it’s true that Vegas is in on Erik Karlsson, holy moly. They had been rumored to have interest as far back as the trade deadline. Ottawa is saying goodbye to the potential 2019 unrestricted free agent. Despicable by Eugene Melnyk. Bobby Ryan will join Karlsson.

I can understand why they’re gonna do it. They can get back a great return for Karlsson, speeding up their rebuild. Plus they’ll rid themselves of Ryan’s expensive contract, which pays him an average cap hit of $7.25 million through 2022. They’ll free up plenty of room to re-sign Matt Duchene and be active next summer.

Clarifying on Ryan O’Reilly, I wanted to correct something I said in the last post. The Sabres have until midnight tonight to pay him the $7.5 million signing bonus. McKenzie made that point clear earlier.

Good stuff from the number one TSN insider. He’s been busy the past 24 hours and will be even busier later today.

David Perron will return to St. Louis following his career year with Vegas. The term is said to be four years for an AAV of $4 million. Fair value for a veteran forward who maximized his potential playing for Vegas. A good addition for the Blues. I wonder though if he’ll feel the pressure to perform under increased expectations.

Jack Johnson to the Penguins will become official. It’s for five years and around $16 million. I don’t get the fascination with the former Blue Jacket defenseman. He’s 31 and became the odd man out under John Tortorella. The Pens have fixed other D before. Maybe they’re banking on reuniting him with buddy Sidney Crosby, which should motivate Johnson. Five years though?

Antoine Roussel is going to the Canucks for four years with an AAV of $3.2 million per season. Not sure I would’ve gone four years on him. Especially off a down season. But he’s a solid secondary player, who can supply offense and toughness.

The Devils are expected to sign veteran defenseman Eric Gryba. McKenzie reported it. So, it has merit. He’s nothing special. But is gritty and physical.

Roman Polak will be headed to Dallas. Speaking of tough, he loves to hit. He’s a bottom pair defenseman, who’ll rack up hits and fight occasionally. So, the Stars beef up.

In a feel good story, Tomas Plekanec will return to Montreal. That’s great. He’ll get to play his 1,000th career game with the only team he knew until he was traded to rival Toronto as a rental. That’ll be a great moment for a classy player.

John Tavares probably won’t decide for a while. He can only receive seven years now. That includes the Islanders, who lost the extra year last night when Tavares didn’t agree to re-upping. What will he do? I have no clue. But it’s an important decision for him and his fiancée. The last big contract he’ll probably get unless he takes a short term contract to try to win, similar to NBA players. We’ll see.

That’s about it for now. See you later.

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Flyers bring back JVR, Tavares still silent as Canada Day hits

The biggest news still hasn’t come yet. It looks like John Tavares will not be accepting the Islanders’ eight-year max contract offer. Midnight is about to hit and still nothing on his decision. Maybe it’s gonna be a wait for the Isles, Bruins, Leafs, Lightning, Sharks and Stars.

If that’s what he wants, it’s up to him. He doesn’t have to decide tonight or on Canada Day, which it is officially. So, maybe the July 1 frenzy won’t have many fireworks.

What we do know is this. The Flyers just became a serious player in the East. They’ve brought back James van Riemsdyk, agreeing to a five-year deal worth a reported average of $7 million per season. I figured it would be no higher than that for him. I just had the wrong I-95 team. I thought the Devils would get him. But somehow, I underestimated the Flyers again.

JVR’s addition spells the almost certain subtraction of Wayne Simmonds. They need to free up salary. Simmonds isn’t re-signing next year anyway. Not with the role he had this past season. Add in van Riemsdyk to Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Jakub Voracek, Travis Konecny, and Nolan Patrick, and the Flyers just got a whole lot scarier. Not to mention dynamic duo Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere on the blueline. We still don’t know about goalie. Isn’t that always the case with Philadelphia?

As far as other free agent news, Ryan Reaves re-signed with the Golden Knights. They reached agreement on a multi-year deal worth $2.775 million AAV. Not bad for a fourth line tough guy, who scored four goals with the Pens and Golden Knights. He did get two in the playoffs for Vegas, including the clincher that sent the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final. That’s more than twice what he earned.

Reaves had also been rumored to the Rangers, who had interest in a strong character that’s a lot tougher than anyone they have. They’re gonna need that. I’m not sure where they’ll go. Don’t tell me Leo Komarov either. Yes. He’s ornery and infuriates opponents with hits that sometimes are cheap. But eh. I’ll pass.

Ryan O’Reilly hasn’t moved from Buffalo yet. That means the Sabres are on the hook for $7.5 million due to a bonus that just kicked in. Happy July! It doesn’t mean he won’t be dealt. They could also keep him. It’s not like he’s a bad player. He’s a solid two-way center, who can play in any situation, produce points, and win draws. A very complete player. Why put so much pressure on Casey Mittlestadt?

In case I forgot to mention it, Jonathan Bernier went to the Red Wings, agreeing to a three-year deal. It’s still not available what he signed for. Brian would’ve preferred him over Carter “E.F.” Hutton, who the Sabres inked for three years. Terms remain disclosed.

I wonder how much activity we’ll see on a Sunday. I got school work due. I’ll try to provide an update during a break.

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Tavares decision looming on eve of Canada Day

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.

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Calm before…the calm? Crickets going into FA weekend

Usually FA binge day isn’t on the weekend, the last time I remember being home for July 1 was an ill-fated FA period for the Devils in 2012.  Granted, they didn’t lose key FA Zach Parise till the actual holiday on the 4th but that’s still what I associate with that offseason free agency.  More often it seems like the Devils lose more than they gain in FA, and that might even be true this year though their two biggest FA’s are the middling John Moore and the suddenly-popular Patrick Maroon who saw little interest in the trade deadline (we got him for a third-rounder after nobody else even called Edmonton on him) – but has no fewer than six teams interested in him now.

Although it’s been quiet vis-a-vis rumors in Devil-land, the only concrete one seems to be that they’re among the teams with interest in Maroon and bringing him back.  But at what price?  If Maroon has that many suitors hard for me to see Ray Shero getting into a bidding war for a slow 30-year old winger that isn’t exactly the prototype for the Devils’ speed-based system, but did seem to fit in pretty well during his brief period after the trade deadline.  If you’re looking for big fish Maroon, the Leafs’ James van Riemsdyk and the Isles’ Calvin deHaan might be as big as you can get.  With John Carlson re-signing with the Caps and John Tavares ruling out the Devils – and a lot of other teams – before FA, the two really big fish will be off the market by July 1 unless JT is actually leaving the Island.

Where that leaves the Devils is anyone’s guess but mine is that you probably won’t see a lot from Shero until JT signs and some of the dust settles among the second-tier FA’s.  Just because he hasn’t made a big trade yet, doesn’t mean he won’t.  It’s been around this time the last couple years where Shero struck with trades for Taylor Hall and Marcus Johansson.  I’d prefer to improve via trades than FA, especially since Shero’s record has largely been good there, Michael Grabner dud excepted.  I could see him making a run for the guys I mentioned though it would be against the grain for Shero to give out long-term deals to older players.

With the weather touching triple digits on Sunday I’ll be indoors with air conditioning tuning back and forth between the World Cup and NHLN for the free agency news, but as with every July 1 I more or less have to expect the worst and hope for anything better.

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Rangers linked to Komarov, Nash may not play next year

It looks like the Rangers could be actually adding someone to the roster. They’ve been reportedly linked to soon to be former Maple Leaf Leo Komarov.

A gritty and versatile forward who plays an agitating physical style, the 31-year old who has represented Finland at the Olympics and World Championship, Komarov is the kind of veteran the Rangers are looking for. They want experienced guys with character. Something the annoying pest brings.

If it’s true that it’s a multi-year deal, that’s the only drawback. I would rather have Uncle Leo on a one-year contract. Given the direction the Rangers are going, short-term is better for any free agent they bring in.

Komarov loves to throw his weight around. He can get underneath the skin of opponents. His role diminished in ’17-18 under coach Mike Babcock. After consecutive seasons in which he reached double digits in goals and over 30 points, his production dropped to seven goals and 12 assists over 74 contests. He only appeared in two playoff games during Toronto’s first round series loss to Boston in seven.

If he is indeed signing here, I wouldn’t be opposed. This younger roster needs some edge. I could care less about his Corsi. You can’t have our kids being pushed around. So if it’s Komarov or Antoine Roussel, I’m for it.

As for the Rangers Prospect Camp, it sounds promising. Top pick Vitali Kravtsov has impressed with his unique skill.

Brett Howden and Libor Hajek both sound determined on trying to make the team out of training camp. Last year’s first round picks Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil feel even more ready to be on the roster as 19-year olds.

There’s also 22-year old Finnish prospect Ville Meskanen. A player they signed in the Spring. Gordie Clark likes what he sees so far. Maybe he can be a surprise addition on a team that lacks scoring. We’ll see.

In other free agent news, ex-Ranger Rick Nash sounds like he’s considering sitting out next season. If he does, it’ll be due to the concussions he sustained. He’s had a lot of injuries the past few years. When it comes to health, that’s more important along with family than playing hockey.

There were quite a few teams interested. But I think this is the best decision Nash can make. So, he’ll forego the July 1 signing period. Best wishes to him and his family.

The Sabres continue to actively try to move center Ryan O’Reilly. They have two days left before the July 1 deadline. Otherwise, they’re on the hook for a $7.5 million signing bonus that kicks in. The asking price is high. GM Jason Botterill is looking for a first round pick, second round pick and a good prospect. Montreal has interest due to their glaring center hole.

Botterill swung a deal with his former team Pittsburgh by acquiring Conor Sheary and Matt Hunwick for a 2019 conditional fourth round pick. Basically, it’s a win win for both teams. The Sabres add two depth players who can help up front and on the back end. The Penguins dump salary to free up cap space. Maybe they’ll use it to add someone. Jeff Skinner possibly?

John Tavares has finished meeting with all five teams on his list aside from the Islanders. So, he spoke to the Bruins, Leafs, Lightning, Sharks and Stars. Each presentation lasted about two hours. He’s flown home to Toronto and will make a decision soon. Maybe it’ll come in the next 24 hours. But my guess is he’ll wait till June 30 on July 1 Eve. The free agent frenzy begins at noon on Sunday.

There are plenty of suitors for James van Riemsdyk, including the Devils and Rangers. I’ll take the latter with a grain of salt. As much as I like him, I highly doubt GM Jeff Gorton would pay JVR the kind of salary and term he’s looking for. It makes better sense for the Devils, who can use another finisher to take pressure off Hart winner Taylor Hall.

That’s going to do it for this post. Stay tuned for more this weekend.

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