Rumor: Tavares to… the Penguins?

NHL insider Elliotte Friedman drops a bomb!

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In his latest 31 Thoughts column for Sportsnet, NHL insider Elliotte Friedman dissects the New York Islanders’ situation regarding superstar captain and pending unrestricted free-agent John Tavares, as well as the rumors that former Toronto Maple Leafs executive Lou Lamoriello will join the Islanders front office staff.

Straight from Friedman, himself:

Nothing involving Lamoriello gets announced until he decides it does, but a move to the Islanders is the rumour that just won’t die. I do believe there have been talks and that it is a serious possibility. Assuming he does take over, that probably means a new pitch to keep John Tavares. The captain’s done a very good job of staying under the radar, keeping a lid on his future.

Is this the desperation move that the Islanders need to keep Tavares in Long Island… er Brooklyn? Clearly longtime general manager Garth Snow doesn’t have what it takes to retain Tavares, but… how do you say no to a guy like Lamoriello? If in fact Lamoriello succeeds Snow as the Islanders’ new GM, don’t be surprised if a Tavares signing follows shortly thereafter.

Then again, there’s also the chance that none of that happens Tavares elects to leave the Isles through free-agency. If this is the case, don’t be surprised if another Eastern Conference powerhouse elects to get into the bidding.

Again, straight from Friedman:

Someone we do not expect is going to come out of nowhere to take a run at him. It’s purely a guess, but Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is the kind of guy I could see staying up at night figuring out how to do it.

Wow… could you imagine!? The Pittsburgh Penguins with Tavares, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin all down the middle? You know you’ve got depth when Derick Brassard is your fourth line center and Riley Sheahan is a healthy scratch. Crazy!

But… let’s get real. Tavares is going to cost upwards of $10+ million on the open market and there’s no way the Penguins can fit him into their salary structure, unless they elect to trade a veteran like Phil Kessel or Kris Letang. Impossible? No. Likely? Probably not.

All indications are that Tavares WILL test the free-agent market and the early speculation is that the Montreal Canadiens, San Jose Sharks, New York Rangers and Vegas Golden Knights will all be the biggest suitors come July 1st, 2018. Also, just because Tavares hasn’t signed a deal with the Islanders yet, doesn’t mean he won’t ultimately return to the team after testing the market. You may recall that Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos went to the brink of free-agency, meeting with several suitors in advance, before electing to re-up on a long term deal with the Lightning just days before the opening of free-agency. Tavares could pull a similar move, or even elect to re-sign with the Islanders AFTER July 1st.