Potential unrestricted free agent John Tavares will begin meeting with the teams on his shortlist on Monday. According to The Athletic writers Arthur Staple and Pierre LeBrun, that list includes: the Islanders, Maple Leafs, Stars, Sharks, Bruins and Lightning.
There’s pros and cons that are attached to every NHL city, so let’s take a look at those points for each of the teams Tavares is reportedly considering.
• New York Islanders
Pros: Well, for starters, there’s some familiarity there. Tavares has spent his entire career with the Isles, so there has to be a certain value attached to that. But beyond familiarity, there’s other reasons he might stay.
Mathew Barzal would be one. He put up some impressive offensive totals during his first full year in the NHL and he’ll only get better as his career advances.
The Islanders have also added a Stanley Cup winning coach in Barry Trotz and they’ve made major changes to their front office that now has Lou Lamoriello as general manager. Those changes have seemingly helped the odds of Tavares re-signing with his current team.
New York also has the most cap space in the league right now, as they can spend over $32 million this summer (that will change if Tavares re-signs).
Cons: Tavares has been with the Islanders for almost a decade and they still haven’t been able to go on a long playoff run. Yes, there are new people in charge, but the roster will remain the same as it was last year.
Speaking of the roster, the Isles still don’t have a number one goalie and they have a hard time keeping the puck out of their own net. That was a major issue last season. Tavares can’t fix everything.
The Isles also have that unique arena situation. They’re getting a new arena but splitting games between two different venues is far from ideal, no matter how convenient the team tries to make it. Who knows how he feels about that?
• Toronto Maple Leafs
Pros: Tavares was born in Mississauga, Ontario, so going to play for the Leafs would be a type of homecoming for him. Going back there might not be a priority for him, but it can’t hurt.
The Leafs have built a team with a solid young core that includes Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Jake Gardiner. Tavares wouldn’t have to go to Toronto and be the go-to guy, he could go there and be one of the guys.
Although they haven’t had much playoff success over the last decade, adding Tavares would clearly take them to another level. He has to be aware of that.
Cons: Although Toronto is “home” for him, he also knows that it comes with a ton of media pressure. It might not be enough of a reason for him to stay away from the Leafs, but it’s definitely not a selling point.
Like the Islanders, there’s no denying that the Leafs have an issue on defense. It might not be as bad as the situation in New York, but the team isn’t good enough on the blue line right now and adding Tavares won’t fix that.
The Leafs haven’t won a playoff series in quite some time (2004), so if he’s looking for a team that has had playoff success lately, Toronto isn’t the place.
There’s also a bit of unknown with new GM Kyle Dubas. How will the rookie general manager adapt to his new responsibilities? It appears as though he’ll be fine, but we really won’t know for a couple of years.
• Dallas Stars
Pros: The Stars have a dynamic attack led by Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov. Adding Tavares to that mix would make them even more dangerous. That has to be enticing for the 27-year-old. Oh, and they also have John Klingberg on the blue line doesn’t hurt.
Like the Isles, the Stars also have a new head coach in Jim Montgomery. Obviously, he’s not as proven as Trotz, but he was in demand this spring.
Who doesn’t like money? The fact that there’s no state income tax in Texas is a huge plus for a guy who’s about to sign a long-term deal worth a lot of cash.
If you hate winter, the weather isn’t too shabby, either.
Cons: As talented as Dallas’ attack is, they’ve missed the playoffs in back-to-seasons and in eight of the last 10 years. Adding Tavares to the roster helps, but a lot of their shortcomings are things he can’t fix (like in Toronto and in New York).
The Stars have $19.8 million in cap space right now, but they only have 14 players under contract right now. Adding Tavares will cost roughly $12 million per year, so how much money will be left over to fix the rest of the issues on the roster?
No disrespect to Dallas, but it’s not a traditional hockey market. If that’s one of the things Tavares is looking for, he won’t find it there.
• San Jose Sharks
Pros: Sharks GM Doug Wilson has created almost $19 million in cap space for his team to make a serious push at Tavares. Unlike the Stars, the Sharks already have 19 players under contract for 2018-19.
The Sharks have also made it to the playoffs in three consecutive seasons, and they’ve gone at least two rounds in two of those years. That’s not too shabby given the parity in the NHL.
It’s California, baby!
Cons: That appearance in the Stanley Cup Final seems like it was a lifetime ago. Can they get back to that level if Tavares signs there? That remains to be seen.
The core players aren’t exactly spring chickens. Couture (29), Pavelski (33), Thornton (38), Burns (33) and Vlasic (31) are all close to 30 or over 30. Tavares would step in and become the youngest player of the bunch.
Kane and Melker Karlsson are the only forwards signed beyond next season. If things don’t work out this year, how different will the team look starting in 2020?
• Boston Bruins
Pros: The Bruins proved to be one of the better teams in the league from November on. Bruce Cassidy had them playing smart and fast hockey. If they could get Tavares to buy in to what they’re selling, that would be unreal.
This could be good or bad, but Tavares wouldn’t have to play on the top line if he joins the Bruins. Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand have incredible chemistry, so teams will focus most of their attention on them. That would leave Tavares with some juicy matchups.
Boston also has an incredible group of young talent and strong prospects coming through their pipeline. So even though they have older guys, there is a fresh batch of talent coming through the pipeline. Jake DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy and company could make the decision easier for Tavares.
Cons: Tavares is still one of the elite players in the NHL. How would he feel to playing second fiddle to the top line? There’s plenty of ice time and power play time to go around, but it’s still something that has to be considered. He’s been the top guy on his team since the day he stepped onto NHL ice.
As of right now, the Bruins have under $12 million in cap space. Sure, moves can be made, but they also have potential free agents that they’d like to bring back (Riley Nash being one). They have to add a backup goaltender if they let Anton Khudobin walk, too.
• Tampa Bay Lightning
Pros: Look at the Lightning’s roster, they’re stacked. Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej, Palat, Tyler Johnson, Brayden Point, J.T. Miller, Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Can you imagine if they add Tavares?
It’s not a traditional hockey market, but their recent success has given them quite a bit of national attention over the last couple of years. He still wouldn’t have to deal with a crazy amount of media on a daily basis.
Yes, weather and a lack of a state income tax comes into play here, too.
They’ve also gone at least three rounds in three of the last four years.
Cons: For whatever reason, the Lightning haven’t been able to get over the hump. Sure, they’ve been to the conference final three times in four years, but they’ve come up just short.
Tampa also has $10.5 million in cap space and they still have to re-sign Miller and a couple of role players.