Even in the offseason, the Toronto Maple Leafs continue to find themselves at the forefront of the hockey world.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie caused a mini-firestorm on late Monday afternoon, tweeting out that the Leafs appear to be working on a promotional video to pitch to potential unrestricted free agent John Tavares.
There was even some talk that the Leafs last week quickly put in a sheet of ice at the ACC, presumably as part of some video shooting.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 18, 2018
While the Leafs can’t officially sign Tavares (or any other unrestricted free agent) until July 1st, there’s nothing officially stopping Toronto from beginning to craft their pitch.
McKenzie went on to add that the Air Canada Centre ice may have been added back into the arena, as a background for the video.
It’s fun to speculate what the video could entail. Auston Matthews skating up to the camera, pointing to the rafters, and seeing the two of their jerseys being retired next to a few Stanley Cup banners?
Or perhaps Mike Babcock saying, “Welcome home, Johnny!'”
Though they’ll run into contract issues down the road, the Leafs have quite a bit of cap space for next season as of right now, with about $24 million to play with entering free agency. With as many as five forwards who featured in the team’s playoffs set to hit unrestricted free agency themselves, it’s possible the Leafs offer a lucrative package to lure in Tavares.
If the rumours hold true, it won’t be the first time that MLSE has gone big in recruiting a top-tier talent to their organization.
In 2014, when bringing over English striker Jermain Defoe from Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur to Toronto FC, the recruiting process included introductions to his mother from Drake and Lebron James.
And in 2016, the Leafs themselves held a meeting with the mayor of Toronto, as well as the CEO of Canadian Tire, presumably to discuss potential endorsement deals.
Tavares has spent his entire career with the Islanders since being drafted first overall back in 2009. The Toronto native has registered 272 goals and 349 assists in 669 NHL games, including a career-high 37 goals this past season. The Islanders have failed to make the playoffs six of his nine years there, winning just a single playoff series.
Much like the Leafs, the Islanders themselves have recently gone under major changes in their front office. They currently do not have a head coach, with bench boss Doug Weight being fired alongside general manager Garth Snow earlier this month. Former Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello joined the Islanders in late May, being named the President of Hockey Operations before eventually absorbing Snow’s duties.