Bookmark this page and when the Tavares dust settles, and tell me I am wrong. Every year, a star player's contract expires and he becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent. Excuse the run on cliches, but "the big fish" this season appears to be the New York Islanders' center John Tavares. "The clock is ticking" in Brooklyn and it doesn't seem he's all too excited about re-signing. Sure, "they're talking," but what does that really mean?
Is Tavares going to hold the Isles hostage like Stamkos did to Tampa? Is he going to let his situation drag on all season long and let rumors of a soon to be signed contract extension or trade hang over the team? Will he force a trade, test the market, or be straight up with the Islanders and Snow?
The truth is... he knows exactly what he's going to do right now so why not say it. He will not sign with the New York/ Brooklyn/ Seattle/ Hartford Islanders before next summer. Why? He would've by now. He hasn't, because he won't.
The Islanders will be able to come close enough to the $10 million he'll sign for so it's not about money. John knows where he wants to play and where he doesn't. There's two scenarios that will play out. If the Islanders have 40 wins by the deadline, Snow will keep him and roll ahead to try and win the cup. Whether they do or don't doesn't matter to Tavares, because a ring only enables him to have more power.
If they're out of it or treading water, he'll be traded by the deadline because even Snow will be able to read the writing on the wall. He can't let him go for nothing and will get a 1st rounder, a top prospect, and a good but not great player with a healthy cap hit. Then, John will have a tough decision to make. Every team will want him but will he sign long term with the team that trades for him. He won't sign for many unless he goes to one of these 8 teams that he'll give Garth the green light to trade him to. The list JT will hand to Snow will look much like this one.
15 Should - Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks have skated out a niche in this "cult hockey city" I would love to see continue to grow. Sure, the Ducks are up against the cap but they will have a ton of options. They have enough young talent and prospects to make a deadline deal and if they don't win it all, they can retool in the off season. They can trade Perry and make room for Tavares. On the ice, Tavares would even out the scoring and depth and create a great structure down the middle. Anaheim is also just his type of town and moves at his pace. He'd love the lifestyle, his money would go far, and he's got plenty of supporting cast members to coast him into a cup run before retirement.
14 Should Not - Los Angeles Kings
The Kings will be players and are a huge wild card. California teams have a lot to offer, and the Kings, like they did with Bishop, can throw a wrench into everything. If the wooden wheels continue to creak and the nails rust, they could clear a ton of room at the deadline by dealing a player like Jeff Carter.
Would Tavares be happy there? I doubt it. The team is just too old all over the roster and he knows it. His prime on the ice would be wasted, and though his prime off the ice would make many a men envious, JT is not "that guy?" The scene and teammates in L.A. don't suit him like the speed in Anaheim, and the Kings will start over through the draft.
13 Should - New Jersey Devils
I love him in Jersey and it is a good fit. The team still plays a nasty, fierce brand of hockey but they are turning the page with skilled young forwards and a decent farm. Who knows about Nico Hischier as a number one center, especially this young,, but if he were to slide in as a 2nd or 3rd center he would certainly be sheltered a little more. They've already got some potential 20-30 goal wingers, and a guy like Miles Wood could turn into the next Randy McKay.
Tavares is young enough to lead this team immediately and flip the script, both in the wins column and to bring their "fair weathered" fans back. A line of Tavares with Taylor Hall on his wing isn't a bad way to start building your group of forwards.
12 Should Not - Chicago Blackhawks
The Hawks will be watching closely and make their pitch but Tavares will, at the end, walk away. Like the Kings, Chicago's window is closing and they know it. Their farm team is also thin, so they just don't have the juice to keep Tavares happy over the next seven years. Don't be surprised if they acquire him at the deadline for one more push, but he won't sign there long term.
There is so much to love about playing in the Windy City, but so much comes down to Tavares' style. Toews and Kane are Chicago's speed, but it just doesn't fit Tavares that well. As much as Tavares wants to win, he also deserves to be paid like a superstar and Chicago can't do that for him with their salary cap situation.
11 Should - New York Rangers
It goes against my thesis that JT wants to avoid the spotlight so why would he go to the brightest of all in the U.S.? Because that's where the sun is. The Rangers are two years ahead of the other bright light teams in their turnover and have more cap relief ahead. They've got 2nd and 3rd line depth, a true #1 defenseman in Ryan McDonagh (and Shattenkirk set to join them), and #91 can slip through the cracks in New York.
It's just so huge and has such a short attention span and he's already learned how to slip away in Brooklyn. Plus, it would crush, I mean crush the Isles. There's no way Snow trades him there at the deadline, so when he tests the market, the Rangers will be all in. He can keep his anonymity, stay in the East, and like in New Jersey, have his cake and eat it too.
10 Should Not - St. Louis Blues
Though fantasy players would drool over a Tavares and Tarasenko combination plate, he'll forego spending the next seven years of his life under the arch. The Blues are in no man's land, good enough to make the playoffs and win a round or two at the most. But like other mid west hockey towns, he's going to pass. The Blues' window closed when Shattenkirk left and Jake Allen struggled as the true #1 goalie. They have gotten older on the back line and they had some great years with some really good teams. But the Blues are in a terrible position. They need a guy like Tavares because the fork in the road is turning in the wrong direction. When he doesn't sign there, look for Tarasenko rumors to spread. He's certainly a great player, but is he good enough alone to win a cup?
9 Should - Carolina Hurricanes
There has to be a dark horse and here it is. Jim Rutherford prior to his departure and Ron Francis in his current tenure have done a terrific job in turning over the Hurricanes roster and building a young, fast team lead by the very underrated Noah Hanifin. Last season, they were very competitive and with a very promising farm with the likes of Alex Nedeljkovic, Daniel Altshuller, Callum Booth, and Jake Bean, Tavares gives them instant credibility. They've been patient in Carolina and they are poised to strike. If they sign Tavares and wear "the Whale" as a throwback, they could light another strong fan base on fire. Carolina is, because of their potential, a team that could blow Tavares away with what they could offer.
8 Should Not - Detroit Red Wings
Like all good things come to an end, the fans in the winged city better prepare for a drought much like the late 70s and early 80s. We'll see how the name Hockeytown survives when the motor city's hockey team plays like a Geo Tracker. So why would Tavares play there? He won't, and it will hurt. They have a brand new, shiny stadium but no one to fill it. With Dylan Larkin's game sputtering, aging veterans, and guys like Athanasiou thinking more about returning to Russia as a negotiating tactic, the only bright spot is Anthony Mantha. If Detroit was smart, they'd get rid of everyone except him and rip a page from Pittsburgh and Edmonton's book. Tank and build to a better era of Red Wings hockey.
7 Should - Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers are another young and improving team that can certainly strike for a star in his late 20s. Tavares is close with many players on the team, would without a doubt fit in with the city, and would be an impact player. The Flyers will shed just under $10 million in albatross contracts next season and more in the next two years to re-sign Wayne Simmonds. The Flyers' rebuild could come full circle with a combination of Tavares as a centerpiece for older warriors like Simmonds and Claude Giroux, and young bulls like Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere, and other young names. It's also a city where he could light a fire under the fan base and complete the roster. Sure, they are deep at center, but will have plenty of valuable trade pieces and flexibility just when they need it.
6 Should Not - Montreal Canadiens
The bleu blanc et rouge have made their bed with acquiring Jonathan Drouin, Shea Weber, and the disastrous Price contract. Any chance of landing Tavares basically went down the drain by signing the elite, but aging netminder to over $10 million per year for the next 8 years. The only way they could even hope to offer JT a competitive contract would force them to gut the team. Not only that, but the team has maybe 4 years as a contender, and by that I mean just making the playoffs. They are no longer a lock to win the division, and conceivably, might be behind Toronto, Buffalo, and Boston. Tavares surely knows this, and after twiddling his thumbs with the Islanders he won't make the same mistake in Montreal.
5 Should - Minnesota Wild
Someone in the Central Division will go all in and the Wild have the best shot. The Wild, like Philly and Anaheim, is the type of town he fits. Though the Wild's defense is aging and Devan Dubnyk proved a little leaky in the 2nd half of last year, they've got some burgeoning offensive firepower. They also have interesting prospects like Ivan Lodnia and Mason Shaw who could benefit with a star like Tavares. And Minnesota? It's a fun, real hockey city and the kind of area hockey players love. It's a great fit for Tavares, as it was for Ryan Suter, and JT has that kind of persona. Heck, if they bring back the "N" with the star as a 3rd jersey, I might even move there.
4 Should Not - Washington Capitals
If this summer wasn't proof that players know the Caps are done, then people and fans are only seeing what they want to see. Star UFAs split town or stayed because they were offered ridiculous, over the top contracts they knew no one would offer them. Young, skilled but overrated players also dragged management over the coals for terrible team contracts.
What's left here are too many centers and a team, unlike the Penguins, that plays old. Their defense is shot and they're on thin ice. Tavares knows this, and though Barry Trotz is a fantastic coach, he slows down his horses. If you know a ship is sinking, what would you do? Tavares has to look at a team whose best is still ahead of them, not having just passed.
3 Should - Columbus Blue Jaclets
The real question is, do the Blue Jackets want #91? General manager Jarmo Kekalainen has probably done the best job in the entire NHL. Without tanking their way to success like Pittsburgh and Edmonton, Kekalainen has built an exciting team through high and low draft picks and trading egocentric, over priced players. The Johansen for Jones trade was brilliant, and they now have chemistry, skill, and hunger throughout the lineup. A lot of their young players like Cam Atkinson and company are due new contracts and Kekalainen will have to decide whether to keep them or bring in Tavares. If they pursue Tavares, Columbus could catch the fever and turn into a hot pocket like Anaheim and San Jose. He would be a hero there, fit the city and team, and have a serious chance to win during his prime.
2 Should Not - New York Islanders
I am sorry Isles fans, but I have one word for you: Pain. Now I know, sadly, you're used to it as the once proud franchise has disintegrated into a shell of its former self. From Mike Milbury on, GMs and owners have made you good folks suffer and there is more heartbreak to come. Seriously, honestly, if you were him, why would you stay? Sure, you have a decent farm team but your home life is on the rocks. Snow, since 2006, has basically managed a .500 team, made the playoffs 4 times in 11 years, made the playoffs in successive years only once, and well, there's more but I can't step on one of the iconic franchises anymore. Tavares is like a lover who has been telling you for years to get it together or else... Well, else is here.
1 Should - Toronto Mapple Leafs
I know everyone believes this is going to happen so it's no big surprise. But, there are only two ways he doesn't end up in blue and white. The first is if a good friend of Tavares gets in his ear and persuades him or has pictures of ... Second, if the Leafs win the cup this year or or have 40 wins by the deadline. Otherwise, he slides right in to provide the Leafs with the best offense since the Oilers' dynasty. What makes it worse for everyone is he'll take less money to go there, thus allowing the franchise to keep the complimentary pieces and youngsters they have. Get ready Canada, the wait is over, and Edmonton or Toronto will bring Lord Stanley home.