John Tavares will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2017-18 season, and he will be one of the hottest commodities on the market. Tavares will be 27 years old at the time of his potential free agency at the end of the 2017-18 season and will be entering the prime of his career. The former number one overall pick (2009) will be finished with his ninth season in the NHL, and could be looking to make a lot more money than he has been so far in his career. Tavares has been a consistent player throughout his NHL career with the Islanders, and hasn’t had the success in the postseason as he would have liked to have so far in his career.
The New York Islanders captain has been trying to make it to the not only the Stanley Cup Finals, but to the Eastern Conference Finals as well. Tavares in his tenure with the Islanders has only made the playoffs three times (2013, 2015, 2016) and has only won one playoff series. He scored the series clinching goal against Florida in 2016 to help the Islanders win their first playoff series since 1993. Other than that, the Islanders haven’t lived up to the standards that their faithful fans would have liked in the John Tavares Era. Tavares is top ten in franchise history in goals, assists, and points. He has been the guy for the Islanders since entering the league in 2009, but not having the help to push for a Stanley Cup title could push him out the door. Here are 8 teams that he could play for in 2018, and 7 that he won’t.
15 Could - Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks will have a little over $25 million in cap space going into the 2018 free agency period. Anaheim also has two of Tavares’ team Canada teammates in Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, which could be a huge attraction for the Islanders’ captain. Perry and Getzlaf should be trying their very best to try and persuade their national team teammate to join them in Anaheim. With the Ducks making the playoffs consistently year in and year out, it could be a big factor in if Tavares would consider playing for the Ducks or not. Look for the Ducks to try and build a four-headed monster with Tavares, Perry, Getzlaf, and Kesler as they will try and acquire Tavares in the 2018 free agency period to try and help bring the Ducks back to the Stanley Cup Finals.
14 Won’t – Arizona Coyotes
Even with their cap space of over $36 million, the Coyotes don’t have the assets to help draw a marquee free agent like John Tavares. Arizona’s best player that would be under contract in 2018 is Oliver Ekman-Larsson, which no offense to Ekman-Larsson, but that doesn't exactly generate excitement for the franchise. Arizona being a mediocre team for the past few seasons definitely doesn’t help their push to try and get John Tavares.
Arizona has not made the playoffs since 2012 and has been one of the most inconsistent teams due to the lack of talent that they have had on their roster. Tavares would want to play with talent and Arizona doesn’t have the type of talent that could draw the attention of Tavares to come play in Arizona.
13 Could – Columbus Blue Jackets
With $23.7 million in cap room and the Blue Jackets being one of the best teams in the league currently this could be an attraction for Tavares. The Blue Jackets will have the cap room to get Tavares and more to help bring a title to Columbus for the first time in franchise history. Columbus hasn’t had a big-time superstar since they had Rick Nash from 2002-2012, and Tavares could be that next big thing they need to be able to make a successful playoff run. The Columbus Blue Jackets have their goalie locked up (Sergei Bobrovsky) and they have young talent that is locked up for the 2018-19 campaign. Look for Tavares to consider Columbus a landing spot due to the young talent, playoff potential, and the goal to win now and not rebuild.
12 Won’t – Vancouver Canucks
With not having a solid postseason run since they went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011, it is safe to say the Vancouver is in a rebuilding phase. Even with $40.6 million in cap space Tavares definitely won’t want to go to a team in the rebuilding phase during his free agent period. The Sedin brothers won’t be under contract in 2018, so could end up retiring after the 2017-18 season. If they don’t retire they will definitely re-sign with Vancouver which isn’t enough to get John Tavares to come aboard.
Now if there are no Sedins, the best option that Vancouver will have as a scoring option is Loui Eriksson who has not been as effective in his short tenure in Vancouver so far. With that being said I don’t see Vancouver being a threat to getting not only John Tavares, but any major talent in free agency.
11 Could – San Jose Sharks
San Jose made the Stanley Cup Finals in 2015-16, and have been a consistent regular season team for the past five seasons where they have won 40 plus games. The Sharks have been one of the National Hockey League’s teams since 2008 where they won a franchise record 53 games and finished with a total of 117 points. With the Sharks missing the playoffs twice since 1997-98 and adding $33.3 million that they will have in cap space, that could be a big-time factor for them in the John Tavares sweepstakes in 2018. With guys like Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, and Logan Couture under contract that could be the deciding factor that could help convince Tavares to take his talents to the bay area and to be a part of the San Jose Sharks.
10 Won’t – Chicago Blackhawks
Here we come to the most successful franchise over the past decade with their success both in the regular season and the postseason. Chicago has won three Stanley Cups since the 2009-10 season, and has been to the playoffs every year since. The Blackhawks have made moves to help bring different guys in to help create a special team that can help both a player looking for an opportunity to win a Stanley Cup, but to help the Blackhawks win another Stanley Cup title as well.
With the Blackhawks only having a little over $8 million in cap space (and keep in mind they'll have other guys to re-sign next season) definitely doesn’t help their case to get the talent of John Tavares. They do have talent under contract in Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Artemi Panarin, and company, but they will not have the cap space to be able to add another high-quality talent like John Tavares.
As much as Tavares wants to win, he also deserves to be paid like a superstar and the Hawks won't be able to do that.
9 Could – Winnipeg Jets
The Winnipeg Jets are one of the most interesting teams of who Tavares could play for in 2018. Even though the Jets have only made the playoffs once since moving back to Winnipeg in 2011, they still can make a strong push towards acquiring Tavares with their young talent that they currently have. The young talent on this team includes Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, and company are all under contract beyond 2018. Laine is currently 19 years old and will be 21 by the time the 2018-19 season comes around, and has been an all-around talent for the Jets in the 2016-17 season. Winnipeg has a projected $43.125 million in cap space and that could be a big-time reason why Winnipeg could be a destination that Tavares could play for in 2018.
8 Won’t – Montreal Canadiens
The Canadiens are an iconic franchise and have been a strong presence in the Eastern Conference over the past five seasons, but the talent that they have under contract in 2018 doesn’t seem like a type of talent that can attract John Tavares.
Montreal has a projected $42.4 million in cap space, but the $42.4 million is misleading because the Habs have several big names to re-sign going into that season.
Yes, Max Pacioretty, Shea Weber, and Brandon Gallagher are under contract, but Carey Price is not who has been the glue for the Montreal Canadiens success for the past five seasons. Price is a former MVP and Vezina Trophy winner and without him I don’t see Montreal as a landing spot that would attract the talent of a John Tavares.
7 Could – Edmonton Oilers
Even without Connor McDavid under contract beyond 2018, the Oilers are still a very young team that has all the potential in the world to get John Tavares. With the Oilers just having $33 million without McDavid signed, they'd still have Milan Lucic, Jordan Eberle, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins under contract that could be a huge help to lure Tavares to play in Edmonton.
I can see Peter Chiarelli going all in on Tavares in 2018, to help and bring a Stanley Cup title to Edmonton for the first time since 1989-90 when the Gretzky-less Oilers managed to win one last Cup before losing their core. With Edmonton making the playoffs this season, and poised to make another run again next season, Tavares could take advantage and sign with a young team that has the potential to be a future Stanley Cup dynasty.
6 Won’t – Boston Bruins
The Bruins have way too many centers under contract in 2018, and even with their $22.5 million in cap space I don’t see Tavares taking his talents to Boston. Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron have played with Tavares on the Canadian National team and many think they could try and get Tavares to play with them in Boston, but I just don’t see him fitting into their lineup. With Krejci, Bergeron, and Backes in the lineup there is no way they could fit Tavares in there too.
Boston does have the talent to be able to attract Tavares, but with the Bruins tied in with so many other centers, it just doesn't seem like the best option for Tavares. Who knows though, perhaps the Bruins will move someone out of town to make room for Tavares.
5 Could – Calgary Flames
With Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Dougie Hamilton, and company along with the $33 million in cap space I like the Flames’ chances to acquire no.91. The Flames have been in the playoffs twice in the last three seasons, and have the young talent that could lure John Tavares to potentially come to Calgary. Tavares can help push Calgary in the right direction that could give the Flames a superstar that they haven’t had since they had Jarome Iginla from 1996-2013. No offense to Johnny Gaudreau who is an outstanding talent, but Tavares is a former number one overall pick can help push Calgary to not only consistently make the playoffs year in and year out, but to help push Calgary back into the Stanley Cup Finals.
4 Won’t – Pittsburgh Penguins
Wouldn’t it be great to see Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang to team up with John Tavares on one team? That would be not only an insane potential power play, but it would also be an insane top two lines for the Penguins. This will not happen in a cap era.
Sure, the Pens have $22.4 million in cap space going into 2017-18, but they have their own guys to re-sign, so that cap number is going to shrink. You also would think that the Pens will inevitably bring in some names this summer.
The Pens have had enough trouble balancing Malkin and Crosby, so Tavares being bumped down to play behind the two or moving to the wing wouldn't make sense. You also have to take into account Tavares' competitive side. If he were to leave Brooklyn, he doesn't seem like the guy who would simply join his team's main competition. He's not going to pull a Kevin Durant here.
3 Could – New York Islanders
Is the talent there for Tavares to want to go back to the Islanders after the 2017-18 season? Absolutely not, but for a guy who loves the Islanders organization he could spend his whole career as a member of the team. Tavares is top ten in goals, assists, and points in the Islanders franchise history. He has been the heart and soul of this team since entering the league in 2009. With Andrew Ladd being the best scoring option available for the Islanders that is currently under contract for 2018-19 it doesn’t look good for Tavares staying with the Islanders.
But don’t believe for a second that he will leave because there is no help. He is a loyal guy. Tavares will stay if the Islanders’ make some big moves going into next season, and leading up to the 2018 free agency period.
2 Won’t – New York Rangers
The rivals of the New York Islanders are the most unlikely spot for John Tavares to end up in 2018-19. Even with the Rangers having a projected $32 million in cap space and love to make a big splash, there is no realistic shot that you will ever see John Tavares will ever wear a New York Rangers uniform. Tavares has been loyal to the Islanders for his whole career and if he were to leave there would be no chance that he would leave to go join a rival team even if they are better than the Islanders.
The Rangers will have Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, and company under contract in 2018, but Tavares won't go to the Rangers due to the fact that he has been the face of the New York Islanders franchise and I can’t see him changing from one New York team to the other. If he leaves the Islanders, he's going to do so in a graceful fashion and not join a rival team.
1 Could – Toronto Maple Leafs
Yes, the Toronto Maple Leafs are a realistic option for John Tavares who is from Mississauga Ontario, Canada, less than an hour away from Toronto. The Maple Leafs will have a projected $42.7 million in cap space and have some very quality young talent in Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and company that will be under contract beyond 2018. The Maple Leafs have made the playoffs this season, and should be poised for another run next season as well.
Toronto would love to have a top-quality talent in John Tavares to help lead the way to go into the promise land of the postseason for years to come. Tavares could be what the Maple Leafs need to be able to bring the first Stanley Cup title back to Toronto for the first time since 1967.