John Tavares on signing with Maple Leafs: ‘It just felt right’

Getty Images
14 Comments

John Tavares spent his Saturday afternoon pacing at his home, torn between two cities.

After a week in Los Angeles where he met with representatives from six teams, Tavares’ list of potential destinations was whittled down to two: the Maple Leafs and Islanders. On one hand, he had the comfort of staying on Long Island and remaining with the franchise that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2009. The tug in the other direction was going home to Toronto and joining a team on the rise, and one that could potentially change into a Stanley Cup contender if he decided to join them.

Speaking to the media on Sunday afternoon, Tavares explained that his decision to sign a seven-year, $77 million deal with the Maple Leafs, which he finally decided on late Saturday night, “just felt right.”

“It was quite the process, one of the toughest weeks,” he said. “It was tough. You’re in one place for so long. You get so embedded, your roots are so deep in there and you care so much about the people and the people that have cared about you. It really took the right opportunity and the right fit. I thought it couldn’t be beat and certainly being from here and I think with where this team’s at and how good and young their core players are, and obviously seeing in recent weeks how the Marlies did and what the future holds with much more talent and the job they’ve done here, it was just hard to turn down.”

“This opportunity was just so rare. It just felt right,” he added.

[What’s next for Islanders with Tavares out?]

As he explained in several Tweets following the news, Tavares wanted to live out his childhood dream of playing in Toronto — he even showed off the Maple Leafs bed set he used as a kid. While the transition after nine years on Long Island would be different, he has a relationship with Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock, who coached the 27-year-old at the 2014 Olympics and 2016 World Cup of Hockey with Team Canada. And as he mentioned, there was the level of excitement of joining a franchise heading in a very different direction than his old one.

“It was hard to turn down this opportunity,” Tavares said.

Tavares and the Maple Leafs don’t visit the Islanders until Feb. 28 at Barclays Center. Maybe, as the fan base processes today’s news and the fall out, the raw emotions shown by some will subside over the next seven months and it will a night of appreciation for their former captain and not one featuring a chorus of boos during the tribute video.

The Islanders organization meant a lot to Tavares, which played a conflicting role in his decision-making process. When asked about it during Sunday’s press conference, he became a little choked up while reflecting about his time there. But while he’s leaving, he knows there’s still plenty of good pieces there to build around.

“That place means a lot to me. Everything I’ve been through there, the impact people had on me, the things we went through as a group, teammates that have been through there,” he said. “It was such a hard decision because just really how special it was. It’s a great organization, a tremendous fan base, tremendously loyal, tremendously passionate. 

“If you’ve ever been to a game with Islander fans, it’s something really unique… Just what I want to reiterate [from his Tweets] is just really thank you. Thank you for the impact that you made on me. I don’t know if words can describe how much I appreciated my time there, the impact everyone made on me.

“I think the organization’s in great hands. Some great people there. Obviously some new faces that are going to do some great things, I believe, and there’s some great talent there… I think the future’s bright there.”

MORE: John Tavares signs with Maple Leafs to live ‘childhood dream’

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
2 Comments

BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

“That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

“It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

“It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

“We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

TAKE NOTE

The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

UP NEXT

Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

“We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.