The clock is ticking, but according to some NHL insiders, the clock might have already stopped. Pending free agent and star forward for the New York Islanders has yet to enter contract negotiations with the club that selected him first overall back in 2009, and now signs show that Tavares might be too disappointed and angry with the team to agree to sign with them.
“I think Tavares was disappointed they didn’t make moves at the deadline," explained Elliotte Friedman during a Friday morning radio hit on Toronto’s Sportsnet 590. "But I think the organization will tell him that they felt handcuffed, that they didn’t know what he was going to do and they had to keep their assets. Look, if John Tavares leaves they’re going to need those two first-rounders and they’re both lottery picks. I think it’s going to be a difficult conversation.
“The rumor around hockey is that he’s not happy with the way everything was handled. But until John Tavares says it for himself, we’re all guessing. But there is certainly a feeling that it’s less optimistic for them than before. However, I’ve learned over the years until the athlete speaks for himself or the agent comes right out and says it, you’re still guessing.
“And I’m sure the Islanders are going to go to him and say, ‘John, what do we have to do to make this work'"
The Islanders did not try to acquire goaltending or defensive help at the trade deadline. There was a rumour that an offer was made for defenseman Johnny Boychuk, but GM Garth Snow ignored it. No details on what was offered were given...
What could help the Islanders is that fact that they could get extremely lucky at the upcoming lottery draft to actually win the lottery with one of those two tickets and earn the right to claim stud defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, and then land another solid prospect with the other selection. That could convince Tavares to stay. But chances are slim...
Now, other contenders for the free agent have started to become more and more aggressive in the quest to land Tavares. Pierre LeBrun reported this week that the Montreal Canadiens could be landing Tavares as a free agent, but of course, GM Marc Bergevin won't be able to do it by himself:
"Montreal’s best chance on John Tavares is to have Carey Price and Shea Weber involved, which is what teams do. Those guys have Olympic memories together, World Cup of Hockey. Shea Weber remains that guy that every player in the league looks up to, as we know from NHL people. That’s I think your best play.
"The Canadiens have a lot of cap room. And I think that what they need to think of is, ‘Can we capitalize on this where there’s a player we like on a team and go to that team and say we know you hate that other contract on your payroll. We’ll take it. We’ll take that off your hands as part of this deal."
Tavares is in the final months of his bargain six-year, $33 million contract, which carries a cap hit of $5.5 million. The star forward should easily double that amount in his new deal, due to contract inflation since that pact was signed and current market value. An NHL executive told Darren Dreger back in January that he believes Tavares will receive a $15 million per season offer with a max seven-year term.