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Pros and cons for each team on John Tavares’ list

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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.

In San Jose, he’ll be surrounded by players like Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Evander Kane, Tomas Hertl, Joe Thornton (maybe), Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Martin Jones. That’s a solid group.

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.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

‘I’ve got to cut that [stuff] out’: Marchand admits he went too far

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Leading up to Bruins media day on Wednesday, we hadn’t heard anything suggesting Brad Marchand regretted the licks heard around the hockey world. His tune has suddenly changed.

During the team’s final media availability of the season, the 29-year-old admitted that what he did was unacceptable.

“After having a couple days, kind of looking back on the year and seeing what’s happened the last few days with all the media and everything, I think the biggest thing for me now is to really take a pretty hard looking in the mirror and realize the actions, some of the things that I’m doing have much bigger consequences,” Marchand said. “I’ve always been a pretty easy-going guy and there’s not a whole lot that phases me at all. I think it’s kind of gotten to the point where the last thing I ever want to do is bring the embarrassment to my teammates and the organization that it did.

“I have to be a lot better. I know I’ve said that in the past but that’s got to be the thing that I really work on the most. I think I’ve gotten my game to a pretty decent spot but I’ve got some character things and things that I’ve done that clearly need some fixing. That’s going to be the biggest thing that I take away from what’s happened the last few days.

“At the time, I didn’t think it there was a big deal at all. I couldn’t believe where it was going that it was even worth talking about it.”

“I’ve got to cut that [expletive] out,” Marchand added, per the Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa.

Either Marchand figured that out in a hurry, or someone in the Bruins organization got to him before he addressed the media. Without knowing for sure, it seems like someone spoke to him about kissing/licking opponents because his previous quotes and tweets suggested he had no regrets.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Either way, this is probably the best possible look for him heading into the offseason.

On another note, the Bruins forward announced that he played through a groin injury in the second round.

He wasn’t the only one on his team that had to battle through injury. Noel Acciari‘s groin injury will require offseason surgery, Riley Nash is hoping his injured hip doesn’t need to be operated on, Jake DeBrusk was dealing with a shoulder injury, Zdeno Chara played through an upper-body injury and Torey Krug suffered a fractured ankle in Game 4 against Tampa. He won’t require surgery, but he’ll have to be in a boot for two months.

Patrice Bergeron missed Game 4 against Toronto because of concussion-like symptoms. He had also been dealing with a groin injury that likely won’t require an operation.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Bruins should target a Rick Nash upgrade in free agency

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Unfortunately for the Boston Bruins, Rick Nash was … well, Rick Nash during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Fair or not, the typical narrative stuck. Nash generated a mountain of scoring chances (39 shots on goal in just 12 games), but connected on precious few, finishing with three goals and two assists for five points. It says a lot about his career-long playoff woes that his 7.7 shooting percentage during this run was actually a bit better than his career mark of six percent.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Nash is far from the only player outside of the first line (Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak) who fell short of the mark, but he stands out as being a guy who’s unlikely to return considering his expiring contract. Whether they bounce back or not, guys like David Krejci and David Backes are locked down through 2020-21.

[Lightning eliminate Bruins in Game 5]

Ultimately, Bruins GM Don Sweeney should look to free agency and ask himself: “Who can give us a little more than Rick Nash and other depth players?”

An unclear window

The Bruins deserve a ton of credit for drafting and developing some real gems in Pastrnak, Jake DeBrusk, and Charlie McAvoy. Even so, the Bruins are powered by some players whose windows of dominance could start to close. Brad Marchand will turn 30 on May 11. Krejci and Bergeron are both 32. Backes is 34. Zdeno Chara is still somehow a top pairing defenseman at 41.

Some aging curve questions are scary, and doubling down with a free agent can be really scary. That said, you never know when your window will close as a contender; the Bruins would be wise to take their best shots over the next season or two.

Intriguing wingers

The Bruins could very well get a younger version of Nash in some free agents who bring some size and skill to the table.

There’s a decent chance that Evander Kane will not hit the market, but if he does, the Bruins could conceivably be a good fit considering all of the veterans they have on hand. Kane isn’t the only interesting option, either.

James van Riemsdyk stands out as one of the more interesting fits. While there’s some risk that JVR could be the next Bobby Ryan (a consistent 20+ goal guy who was once cheap who could then sign an albatross deal), but the American winger has shown that he can score, even when he’s receiving minimal ice time. That said, van Riemsdyk is already 29 and hasn’t always been the most prolific playoff point producer, either.

Like Kane with the Sharks, it’s unclear if James Neal or David Perron will be back with the Vegas Golden Knights, but both are interesting considerations for Boston. Neal could add even more snarl to a lineup that already includes Backes and Marchand, not to mention his ability to score goals with remarkable consistency. Perron, meanwhile, would be the slicker option, and possibly the cheaper one?

Centers

Let’s get this out of the way first: any team with a shot at John Tavares should do what it takes to make it happen, even if it calls for creative trades. The Bruins are no exception, though it’s tough to image Tavares wearing the spoked B.

Another tough-to-imagine scenario: the return of Joe Thornton. That would be fun, though, wouldn’t it?

Now, the Nash example calls more for winger comparisons, but who’s to say that the Bruins wouldn’t dip into the market for a mid-level center? Such a gameplan could be fruitful if management believes that Krejci could be liberated by a Claude Giroux-style move to the wing, or more advantageous matchups as a third-line center. Among other ideas.

Paul Stastny would be intriguing.

He’s not the sexiest scorer, but Stastny is a strong two-way player. It’s tough to imagine the Jets being able to afford re-signing him considering that they’re going to have to give big raises to Connor Hellebuyck, Jacob Trouba, and Patrik Laine going forward. There’s quite a bit of risk with Stastny being 32, but he makes some stylistic sense, too.

The funniest idea

Hey, Leo Komarov is a pending UFA, and he obviously has chemistry with Marchand …

(Ideally) cheaper options

Generally speaking, NHL teams are better off exploiting the bargain bin instead of taking big swings. The Bruins have seen that firsthand, as the Backes deal is one they’d almost certainly want to take back. Many of the above ideas are expressed while realizing that, eventually, those contracts will probably be a headache.

Boston may instead be better off going short-term or cheaper, possibly with more than one signing.

Patrick Maroon‘s value should be interesting to follow. Will a team overpay for a big guy who can score a bit, or will his solid work with New Jersey go under the radar?

The Bruins might be better off going after Maroon or fellow short-time Devil Michael Grabner. Thomas Vanek is another interesting consideration. While he’s become a notably one-dimensional player, Vanek showed that he can really boost a team’s offense. In a specialist role, Vanek might excel, and the Bruins should keep an eye on him if the market is tepid.

***

Look, players usually hit free agency in the NHL for a reason. These are players who, for whatever reason, end up being deemed expendable.

The Bruins and other teams must look at free agency as finding the cherry on top, rather than some cure-all. Rick Nash fell short of that mark, but maybe one of these options could make the difference?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Bruins give Donato a shot; Marchand, DeBrusk game-time decisions

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When it comes to NHL coaches giving rookies/young players the call during the playoffs, sometimes you settle for “better late than never.”

Ryan Donato probably deserved more opportunities earlier during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, whether that meant attempting to finish off the Toronto Maple Leafs a little more efficiently or, now, possibly supplementing the Boston Bruins’ depth against the formidable Tampa Bay Lightning. The fresh-out-of-Harvard forward didn’t deny some frustration with all the healthy scratches after word surfaced that he’ll suit up for the Bruins in Game 4 tonight.

(That facial hair might count as a rookie mistake.)

Donato, 22, has only appeared in one postseason game so far, receiving 9:24 in ice time during Game 2 against the Maple Leafs on April 14. That’s a long time to sit, especially when you consider that the Ivy Leaguer passed his regular-season tests with flying colors (nine points in 12 games).

It’s not clear who Donato will line up with, and this isn’t down to playoff gamesmanship alone.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Both Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk are considered game-time decisions after missing a recent practice. The good news is that Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said that he believes they’ll play, but you never know in the playoffs; Patrice Bergeron‘s late scratch during the first round is an example of how things can go south after players get a chance to warm up.

The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa speculates that, under normal circumstances, Donato would replace struggling fellow young forward Danton Heinen. Marchand and DeBrusk being coin flips for Game 4 complicates such things.

During his regular season appearances, Donato’s most common even-strength linemate was David Krejci (by quite a margin, via Natural Stat Trick). Donato also saw time with Heinen and his Olympic teammate Brian Gionta.

Here’s one look at what the Bruins lineup might look like if Marchand and Heinen can both play:

It would certainly make some sense to keep Donato with Krejci, while DeBrusk might be able to jumpstart a struggling Riley Nash. Ideally, this alignment or a similar one would set up Donato & Co. to supplement that deadly top line, which could be especially important if Marchand isn’t all there (especially if Bergeron isn’t operating at full capacity, either).

“He steps off the bus and starts shooting”

In the video above this post’s headline, both Jeremy Roenick and Keith Jones campaigned for Donato to be added to the lineup even before the decision was made.

They both make salient points, yet Jones’ comment about shooting is especially noteworthy considering how this series is going.

As Joe Haggerty notes in this NBC Sports Boston piece, the Lightning have generated a 104-73 shots on goal edge against the Bruins so far during this series. That would be a disturbing mismatch for just about any team, but it’s especially startling for a Bruins team that was a possession behemoth for much of the regular season.

Despite being limited to just 9:24 in ice time during his lone postseason appearance, Donato fired three shots on goal. While he enjoyed the sort of cushy offensive zone starts you’d expect from a young player during the regular season, Donato did his part in generating promising possession stats during the regular season.

There’s a lot to like in adding Donato back into the lineup, even if Cassidy eases him in and doesn’t quite give him the minutes to really soar.

***

With the Lightning up 2-1 in the series, there’s a lot on the line for the Bruins in Game 4 tonight. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. ET; you can watch the action on NBCSN and stream it via this link.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Bruins’ top line (and Rick Nash!) deliver in Game 1 win

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The 2017-18 Stanley Cup Playoffs have been a familiar story for Boston Bruins forward Rick Nash. It is one we recite pretty much every year around this time. He is doing a lot of things well but for whatever reason is just completely unable to, you know, score goals. That finally changed for him on Saturday afternoon in the Bruin’s 6-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of their second-round series when Nash scored a pair of goals, including the goal that would go on to be the eventual game-winner.

After he scored just one goal in the first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Bruins had to be happy to see Nash come through with two big goals on Saturday.

His other goal opened the scoring for the Bruins when he smoothly deflected a David Pastrnak shot behind Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilveskiy.

While getting actual production from Nash was probably something of a surprise at this point for the Bruins, the rest of the Bruins’ offense came from the usual suspects and the top-line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak.

That trio has been arguably the best line in hockey all season and all three of them were great on Saturday.

Their final lines on the day:

  • Patrice Bergeron: two goals, one assist, five shots on goal and a plus-four rating
  • David Pastrnak: four assists, two shots on goal and a plus-four rating
  • Brad Marchand: one goal, three assists, a plus-four rating

Marchand thought he had a second goal when he beat Vasilevskiy with a one-timer only to have the goal immediately disallowed because of a cross-checking penalty that was being called on Pastrnak.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

It is just an absolutely dominant line that nobody has been able to stop. Through the first eight games of the playoffs Bergeron now has three goals and eight assists, Marchand has four goals and nine assists, while Pastrnak has five goals and 12(!) assists. That 17 points puts him into the league lead for the time being.

Jake DeBrusk wrapped up the scoring for the Bruins on Saturday when he scored his sixth goal of the playoffs, scoring on an empty-net with just under seven minutes to play in regulation. With the Lightning already trailing 5-2, coach Jon Cooper opted to go for the early goalie pull with his team on the power play as a desperation move to try and get back into the game. It did not work.

While the Bruins were lighting up the scoreboard again, Tuukka Rask played a really strong game in net and stopped 34 of the 36 shots he faced. The only two goals he allowed came on a long distance shot from Dan Girardi through a screen that Rask probably never saw, and a bizarre play where he lost a skate blade and was unable to move in his crease. The latter play resulted in him angrily throwing his skate blade across the ice in protest of not getting a whistle. Not getting a whistle, of course, was the correct call according to NHL rules. The goalie losing his mask is the only equipment issue that can lead to play being stopped.

Game 2 of the series is in Tampa Bay on Monday night.

Related: Tuukka Rask loses it, throws broken skate blade after giving up goal 

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.