The Toronto Maple Leafs are all-in on pending free agent John Tavares this summer, that it seems almost impossible that they have any other plan ready if this one falls through. Tavares has become the Leafs' top priority, as the team prepared an impressive presentation for Tavares and his agency CAA, a project they dedicated to for many weeks.
The Leafs finally met with Tavares on Monday in Los Angeles and the coveted superstar is said to have truly enjoyed what Toronto has to offer. Shortly after that said meeting, it was reported that Tavares decided that no other team will get to make him a pitch before the opening of free agency as the Nashville Predators, Los Angeles Kings and Vegas Golden Knights did not get to meet with Tavares.
Tavares is said to have enjoyed the presentation by the Maple Leafs and it might have played a role in his decision to refuse to meet with the Predators, Kings and Golden Knights. Vegas was believed to have a great shot at landing Tavares, expecting the team to offer him a great contract offer due to the abundant cap space they have and could have convinced him to become the franchise's first captain. They also just made it to the Stanley Cup final, in their inaugural season, and Tavares is said to be looking to sign with a true Cup contender.
While the remaining six teams in the Tavares sweepstakes are still awaiting his decision, it looks like many were wrong about the Maple Leafs: they do have somewhat of a backup plan in mind. According to The Athletic's James Mirtle, the Leafs have held talks with free agent Derek Ryan, who could be the next available option down the centre in Toronto.
"Everything has been pointing to the Calgary Flames signing Ryan when he hits the free agent market at noon on Sunday, but I’m told he has multiple suitors willing to give him a multi-year deal worth more than $3-million a season. It’s believed that the Leafs have told Ryan to not make a final decision until they know what’s happening with Tavares, as he would then become their next target," writes Mirtle.
According to TSN senior hockey writer Frank Seravalli, Ryan held a meeting with the Flames on Thursday and the team could have an advantage the Canucks do not have in their pockets. The new Flames head coach Bill Peters gave Ryan his first shot in the National Hockey League, and the two men might be ready to collaborate again on the ice, this time in Calgary.
However, if the Leafs have convinced him to wait until Tavares makes up his mind, we might have a strong bidding process for Ryan tomorrow.