The moment it was announced that superstar free agent John Tavares had elected to leave the New York Islanders in favour of his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs, there was an immediate reaction of shock, excitement and enthusiasm on social media from Leafs fans. But here’s the thing… it wasn’t just Leafs fans taking to Twitter and Facebook to celebrate the news, Leafs players did just the same.
Check out this Tweet from Tavares former junior teammate Nazem Kadri:
Austin Matthews also took to Twitter to express his excitement and to personally welcome Tavares to the team:
Still, despite this outpouring of excitement over the news, there was some trepidation from Leafs fans about Matthews in the wake of the Tavares signing. Would the youngster be okay with sharing the spotlight in Toronto? What will the acquisition of a legitimate superstar center mean for Matthews’ ice time moving forward? Also… does this mean that Tavares gets the captaincy? If so, how will this sit with Matthews?
Yesterday both Tavares and Matthews skated together in Toronto for the first time, at the Leafs’ practice facility. Meanwhile nearly 1,500 kms away in Thunder Bay, Matthews’ agent, the legendary Bobby Orr, issued a statement regarding his client and indicated that there’s nothing to the rumors that he’s in any way shape or form upset at the Tavares signing.
Check out these quotes, courtesy of Leafs insider Mike Zeisberger:
“That’s bull about [Matthews] being upset about the captaincy,” Orr said at the Staal Foundation Open in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
“That’s so wrong.”
“They’re a good team and they’re going to be a very good team. John puts them closer to their goal. That’s what Auston is concerned about.”
“John is a great hockey player,” Orr said. “Auston is a very good hockey player. They’re going to be great teammates.“I’ve spoken to Auston. He’s thrilled. He is thrilled John is coming. His goal is to be on a Stanley Cup team. Obviously having John on the team is going to help.”
Matthews’, of course, is due a new contract next offseason, but Orr hasn’t written off negotiating a new, long term deal with the Leafs this offseason.
“If [an extension] doesn’t happen this year before the season starts, he still has a year left, and he’ll fulfill his contract and we’ll see what happens after that. Hopefully they will get it done. He likes Toronto and he wants to stay in Toronto. I’m sure they’ll get it done.”
Whatever happens, the negotiations will not become a public spectacle, Orr said.
“You’re not going to read much about it,” he said. “Our guys will be trying to get it done and hopefully we will. But you’re not going to be reading something about it every day. You can guess all you want. When it happens, it will be announced. We’re not having a big thing about it.
“The job is to get the job done, make the Leafs happy, make Auston happy and let’s go. That is what it is about.”
So there you have it… when Bobby Orr speaks, you listen. Matthews is thrilled that Tavares is a member of the Leafs… just like the rest of us.