Time is flying, and many NHL insiders believe New York Islanders captain John Tavares will keep waiting to make his final decision on his future in Long Island. During the second intermission of the Isles' game against the Montreal Canadiens last night, Pierre LeBrun mentioned that the star player could decide to test the free agency market, like Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos did two years ago.
However, Mark Spector of Sportsnet believes the Islanders could save themselves the trouble and convince Tavares to stay with the team if they made one major move before the trade deadline. He suggests the Islanders could improve their chances of re-signing Tavares by improving their goaltending before the Feb. 26 trade deadline. He points out the tandem of Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak is “borderline bad”, which could prove costly to their playoff hopes this season.
Last night, the Isles did pull off an overtime win, but Greiss still managed to allow four goals. There seems to be a better solution out there for the Islanders, which would not only improve their playoff chances, but also convince Tavares they are serious about playoff contention, and that, for years to come.
Spector notes that with the “Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators, Montreal, Arizona Coyotes, Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers” as potential deadline sellers and the Florida Panthers and Detroit Red Wings close to joining them, the goaltending market is quite scarce and GM Garth Snow will have to be quick in making the right move.
Spector suggests Buffalo’s Robin Lehner, Detroit’s Jimmy Howard and Montreal young Charlie Lindgren as possibilities and rules outs Edmonton’s Cam Talbot and Ottawa’s Craig Anderson. He notes Snow has extra picks in the first and second rounds of this year’s draft to use as trade bait:
"There is Robin Lehner in Buffalo, who has somehow fashioned a .910 save percentage behind a loose Sabres lineup. He has played a career total of two playoff games, five years ago in Ottawa. But Lehner is a pending RFA, which at least gives Snow flexibility in the aftermath.
Detroit would quite possibly make Jimmy Howard available, with another year remaining on his deal at $5.29 million. His numbers — .915 and 2.68 — are OK. But is “OK” enough to make the Islanders competitive in April and May?
Montreal might part with unproven Charlie Lindgren, but he has played only 11 NHL games. Arizona, Vancouver and Florida can’t help Snow. Edmonton won’t part with Cam Talbot, and it’s probably not a great time to invest in Ottawa’s Craig Anderson (.889 save percentage), struggling at age 36."
It remains to be seen if the Isles will be able to pull off such a move before the deadline. It could be the changing factor in Tavares' decision to remain in Long Island. But one thing is sure : Snow will pay him whatever he wants to stay with the team.
But that team needs to be a contender for years to come for Tavares to stay put as an Islander...