Free agent Tavares meeting with five teams that desperately want to sign him

Jun 26 2018, 5:32 am

It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for.

The John Tavares sweepstakes have begun, as one of the most valuable free agents ever prepares to hit the open market.

The New York Islanders centre, who hasn’t yet ruled out a return to Long Island, is free to speak with any team he likes before he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

So far, he has agreed to meet with five teams, in addition to the Islanders.

The Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, San Jose Sharks, and Dallas Stars are all in the mix. Each team currently has representatives at Tavares’ agent’s office in Los Angeles.

The appeal of Tavares is obvious. One of the top centres in the game, players like Tavares don’t often become unrestricted free agents – especially at age 27. Tavares is coming off a good season too, scoring 84 points in 82 games – and has 621 career points in 669 career games.

It’s a similar situation that Steven Stamkos found himself in two years ago, when he ultimately chose to re-sign in Tampa Bay.

The difference in this situation is that Tavares wouldn’t be re-signing with a perennial contender. The Islanders haven’t done much winning since they drafted him first overall in 2009. Tavares has played just 24 playoff games in his nine-year career and has been to the second round just once.

Of the five interested suitors, Toronto could be the most intriguing. A Mississauga native, he likely once dreamed of putting on a Leafs jersey – plus they have a good team with a coach he’s familiar with from Team Canada duty. Perhaps that’s something they’ll remind him of, when they make their pitch, which reportedly involves an elaborate promo video.

If Tavares wants a Stanley Cup, Tampa Bay and Boston could also be the best landing spots for him.

The Montreal Canadiens, long thought to be a team interested in Tavares’ services because of their need for a No. 1 centre, appear to be out of the running.

It’s hard to imagine Tavares wanting to join a team further away from contending than the Islanders, which might help to explain why the Canucks aren’t even going to try pursuing him.

Teams can sign Tavares up to a maximum of $15.9 million per season (ie. 20% of the salary cap), for up to seven years, except the Islanders, who are permitted to re-sign their own player to an eight-year deal. Connor McDavid currently has the largest average annual salary in the league, at $12.5 million.

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