In case you missed it, last night the NHL’s biggest free agent, superstar John Tavares, officially hit the open market as a free agent. He had until midnight Eastern Time to sign an eight year extension with the New York Islanders, but electing to opt for free agency and can now only sign a maximum seven year deal with ANY team. It was reported yesterday that Tavares would make his decision BEFORE midnight and inform all of the teams who have inquired of his intentions.
The rumor world was buzzing last night at midnight searching for ANY indication that Tavares had signed, spoken with or even acknowledged the Islanders but… no dice. This morning however, Sportsnet analyst and NHL insider Elliotte Friedman managed to get an “official” update from Tavares and agent Pat Brisson:
Officially, there is confirmation John Tavares did not sign last night…he is now eligible for maximum a seven-year deal.
And there you have it… John Tavares is OFFICIALLY an unrestricted free agent. After the drama that played out two years ago with Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos before he opted to NOT test the market and instead re-sign with the Lightning, the news of Tavares’ decision to go to free agency has a lot of fans very happy.
The frontrunners to land Tavares seem to be the Toronto Maple Leafs and San Jose Sharks. Depending on which report you read however, the Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning are also in the mix.
Get ready hockey fans, it’s expected that Tavares will make his announcement at some point today. Get your popcorn ready.
No word on when exactly Tavares plans to make things official, but it's worth noting that he's currently in Toronto, as that is where he makes his offseason home. This, of course, has led to widespread speculation that he'll be signing with his hometown Leafs. Then again, some late night reports indicate that the Sharks have upped their original offer and are going "all in" to add Tavares. This, after the team also announced a brand new, long term deal for forward Logan Couture, as well.