Report: Five frontrunners in John Tavares sweepstakes

Islanders insider Andrew Gross blows the doors off the JT speculation and leaks the details of the superstar’s negotiations.

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It’s no secret that New York Islanders superstar John Tavares is going to become a very, very rich man this offseason. The 28 year old’s six year, $33 million contract expires on July 1st, 2018 at which point he’ll officially become an unrestricted free agent and available to the highest bidder.

Islanders insider Andrew Gross of Newsday Sports reports that Tavares new deal will likely pay him an average annual salary north of $10 million, which might preclude many teams from pursuing him in the first place.

From Gross, himself: 

It’s believed Tavares will garner around $10.5 million annually. There will be no hometown discount after completing a six-year, $33-million deal with the Islanders.

So, who does this put in the running? Gross lists five teams as potential suitors, not counting the Islanders themselves. Those teams? The San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Vegas Golden Knights, Detroit Red Wings and Vancouver Canucks. What about those Montreal Candiens rumors we’ve all heard? Or, how about his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs? Didn’t we hear rumblings about the New York Rangers too? Don’t buy it, says Gross.

Much like Stamkos last year, way too much has been written about Tavares, from Mississauga, Ontario, wanting to play for his hometown Maple Leafs. Beyond the fact the Maple Leafs must set aside money for Auston Matthews, Tavares likely wants nothing to do with the media cauldron that is Toronto. Ditto for Montreal. And, sorry Rangers fans, Tavares isn’t headed to Broadway.

As for the other five destinations, they all make sense in their own way. The Sharks, Blues, Golden Knights, Red Wings and Canucks will all have plenty of cap space and playing time for Tavares, should he elect to negotiate with these teams. But, it’s worth noting that Tavares likely won’t leave the Islanders for another middling, non-playoff team. Of the five suitors, only the Sharks and Golden Knights have qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season. Does Tavares really see the Blues, Red Wings and Canucks as being any closer to a Stanley Cup championship than the Islanders? That will weigh heavily into his decision making.

Remember that the Islanders do carry an advantage over the field in negotiations, as well. Only the Islanders can offer Tavares an eight year contract, while every other team is limited to the seven year cap as mandated by the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement. Would an additional year of security and a more lucrative contract be enough to keep JT in Long Islander? Or will he move on to a contender like the Sharks or Golden Knights? Time will tell.