New York Islanders captain and superstar forward John Tavares is set to become the most coveted free agent to hit the open market in a long time. You know it, Tavares will be eligible for free agency on July 1st, after playing the first nine years of his career with the Isles, who selected him first overall back in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
However, you need to ask the famous question: If Tavares makes it to July 1st without a contract extension from the Islanders, which team has the best to sign him as a free agent? One NHL analyst has an expected response to that very question.
Joe DiBiase of WGR550 Sports Radio cites TSN’s Gord Miller who recently suggested that the Buffalo Sabres could be a destination for Tavares if he chooses to test this summer’s unrestricted free agent market. Yes, you read right.
“I’ve started talking to NHL people since the lottery, I think this makes the Sabres a legit contender to sign John Tavares. Tavares wants to win. That’s his number one thing, he wants to win and he wants to play in a hockey market. Buffalo is a good hockey market. Now you got Rasmus Dahlin coming, they already have Ristolainen, got Eichel, they’ve got an owner who’s willing to spend money,” said Miller.
Miller, who also added that Buffalo is close to Tavares’ hometown of Toronto, believes the upcoming draft set to take place in Dallas on June 22 will be a major factor in Tavares' decision.
"It's close to home, but it's not in Toronto with all the scrutiny. His Uncle John played lacrosse in Buffalo and is a legend there. All the sudden with Buffalo winning the draft lottery, they look like a team players would want to play for."
However, not so fast. Miller's TSN colleague's Darren Dreger does not believe that Tavares will make the decision to head to Buffalo, especially since the Sabres have not been able to prove they can be a true Cup contender in the past seasons.
“I wouldn’t say 0%, but I’d say as close to 0% as you can get… I don’t think that John Tavares knows anything about Rasmus Dahlin. Next to nothing. Until he and future free agents see this kid on the ice and know he can play, I don’t know the influence is there. If Tavares goes to free agency, I’m not saying he’d dismiss the possibility of Buffalo, I’m just saying Buffalo would be further down the list.”
It was recently reported that Tavares could choose to sign a shorter contract elsewhere as he tests the free agent waters for the first time in his career. We will need to stay tuned to have an answer on the superstar's future...