Updates on Tavares and Russell – September 10, 2016

by | Sep 10, 2016 | Rumors | 36 comments

Leafs fans hoping John Tavares will sign with Toronto in 2018 could be disappointed.

Leafs fans hoping John Tavares signs with Toronto in 2018 could be disappointed.

 More commentary on the “Toronto wants John Tavares” speculation, plus an update on the status of unrestricted free agent defenseman Kris Russell.

ESPN.COM: Pierre LeBrun reports Steven Stamkos offered up advice to Team Canada teammate John Tavares on how to handle the inevitable “Toronto wants Tavares” speculation over the next two years leading up to his eligibility for unrestricted free agency. “I just said to him, ‘Make sure you watch what you do on Twitter,'” Stamkos said with a chuckle this week. “That was my only advice. ‘Don’t stir the pot accidentally. Be careful.'”

The Mississauga-born Tavares has repeatedly said his intent is to remain with the New York Islanders, but he acknowledged he can’t control the speculation from fans and media linking him to the Maple Leafs. LeBrun said there’s zero sense at this point that Tavares wants to leave the Islanders. The earliest the talented center can re-sign with the Isles is July 1, 2017. While LeBrun says the betting is on that happening, he also notes the same thing was said about Stamkos last summer, when he entered the final season of his contract. Stamkos ultimately re-signed with the Lightning, but not until June 29 of this year. 

TSN 1050 (via TODAY’S SLAPSHOT): LeBrun yesterday repeated his belief that there’s “zero inclination” from talking to Tavares that he has the Leafs on his mind. ” I really think that he wants to be an Islander for life,” said LeBrun. He does believe, however, the new Islanders organization has the 12 months to prove their commitment to improving the Islanders. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t doubt Tavares’ commitment to the Islanders. He really wants to lead them to a championship. I agree with LeBrun that the ownership must prove they’re willing to do what’s necessary to build a winner.

It’s also worth noting the Isles currently have $27.9 million tied up in just nine players for 2018-19. That number will obviously increase before then, but their only notable free agents next summer are UFAs Cal Clutterbuck, PA Parenteau and Thomas Greiss plus restricted free agents Ryan Strome (currently still unsigned for 2016-17), Calvin de Haan, Adam Pelech and J-F Berube. The following year, their UFAs are Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, Josh Bailey, Jaroslav Halak, Thomas Hickey and Jason Chimera, while Brock Nelson, Shane Prince, Alan Quine, Ryan Pulock and Scott Mayfield will be RFAs. 

Even after re-signing or replacing those players, they should have sufficient cap space to meet Tavares’ asking price. Should Tavares become a UFA, there’s no guarantee he’ll be heading to Toronto. The Leafs would face stiff competition from several clubs for his services. Still, I don’t see Tavares leaving the Islanders.

If I were a Leaf fan, I wouldn’t waste my time with these silly UFA fantasies and instead put my faith in the young core of talent the Leafs are rebuilding with. As I’ve said before, the Leafs future lies with youngsters such as Auston Matthews, Alexander William Nylander and Morgan Rielly, not in the fruitless pursuit of cap-busting free-agent veterans from southern Ontario. 

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz recently pondered what he calls the “bizarre free agency saga” of defenseman Kris Russell. Despite Russell’s poor puck-possession numbers, Gretz notes his defensive player and reputation as a fearless shot blocker seemed to bolster his value at last season’s trade deadline and heading into this summer’s free-agent market. However, with training camp around the corner, the 29-year-old blueliner remains unsigned.

There was a rumor earlier this summer Russell rejected a four-year, $17 million offer from the Toronto Maple Leafs, but that was denied by his agent. There’s also reports as many as eight teams had serious discussions with Russell, but some of those clubs still must free up salary-cap space to make room for him. It’s still anticipated Russell could sign with a new club before training camps open in late-September. 

TSN 1040 (via TODAY’S SLAPSHOT):  Pierre LeBrun believes several teams have interest in Russell, but suggested his camp is waiting for some of the clubs to free up some cap space. He doesn’t see the Arizona Coyotes as taking on more salary to help one of those teams, considering they’ve already done so several times.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We saw the same thing happen last summer with defenseman Cody Franson, who ultimately signed with the Buffalo Sabres right before training camp opened last September. It’s also possible some of the teams interested in Russell are waiting to see what the Anaheim Ducks do once they re-sign restricted free agent blueliner Hampus Lindholm.

There’s been widespread speculation throughout this summer suggesting the Ducks will have to move a defenseman once Lindholm is signed, with Cam Fowler considered the likely trade candidate. If so, Russell could become “Plan B” for one of the teams that lose out in the bidding for Fowler. 



  1. Hi Lyle. In your comments, it should read Willie Nylander, not Alexander Nylander. The latter was drafted by Buffalo this year.

  2. ” As I’ve said before, the Leafs future lies with youngsters such as Auston Matthews, Alexander Nylander and Morgan Rielly”

    I’m pretty sure you mean William

    • Yes, I did. Fixed.

      • A bigger mistake was leaving out Mitch Marner. Considering Marner’s draft year was better than Stamkos’, Tavares, Hall, Seguin and every other OHL player in the last quarter century not named McDavid or Kane. Add to that this past year where he won every CHL mvp award possible and had a post season record of almost 2.5 points per game!

        I don’t think the Leafs will even want Tavares when he becomes a UFA

  3. I am one of the biggest Leaf fans around and the last thing I want to hear is this Tavares talk, just play the game and build/grow our team and see what he does when the time comes.

  4. Toronto is just like Vancouver, they always think or claim any and all free agents are going to sign with them.

    • how about a tourney where the 30 nhl teams are made up of players from their area. toronto against arizona would be ironic because of auston. I wonder what USA teams would be able to compete against Canada… Boston maybe. Pittsburgh would be well on their way. Maybe it would be a bit more fair in another decade or so.

      • Pittsburgh? They currently have 6 nhl players active in the league . Saad , Umberger, Trouchek, Mike Weber, Bartowski, Gibson.

        The highest is Minnesota, Michagan, Ny, Massachusetts…. I know you’re a Pittsburgh fan, but I wouldn’t exactly call Pittsburgh a city that produces the high tier NHL talent in the US.

      • they are on the way. its the generation that watched mario that is now developing. rinks, leagues, development all stemmed from mario. and now they could staff a top line in the nhl with troch, miller, saad. a nice start. Minny eas a good call though. being from pburgh a can remember having to drive 1/2 hour to a rink…. now… they are around the corner.

    • Yep! And it’s annoying as all hell! It’s amazing too considering not good FA that wasn’t last their prime has signed there pretty much ever. Not many players want to play for Toronto and for a lit if reasons the main reason being they have been terrible for decades.

      • I believe the reason they don’t want to play in T.O. IS ALL THE attention & scrutiny they constantly have to deal with

      • And decades of failure………..

  5. I would prefer the Leafs worry about what free agent defenceman are coming available. I think their forwards will be more than capable come time for the Leafs to truly compete. They’re still thin on D in my opinion.

    • 100 percent. With the exception of reilly there isn’t much to talk about. As good as Marner is I still feel the leafs should have drafted Hanifin. Specially given how deep the forward pool was this year.

    • With the expansion draft coming up this season could really benefit the Leafs in a search for more d-men. Right now with Suter having a NMC Minnesota risks loosing one of Spurgeon, Brodin, Scandella, or Dumba. Could be 2 if they choose to protect 7 forwards, but I don’t think they will go that root. I think they will do the 4-4-1.

      • How can they lose 2 of anything – I thought Las Vegas had 1 pick from each of the other 30 teams and that’s it. Was that assumption wrong?

    • free agent top d men DONT become available in FA. trade or grow is the only way.

  6. Tavares to the Leafs Now right on, that will have you guys Jonny mcDavid Stamkos and Tavares things are really looking up for you guys.

    • Haha hahahahaha. Exactly!

      • You just sit around making these comments regarding Toronto that no one is mentioning at all and then laugh about it as though it’s something that’s happened…completely moronic. Have either of you an intelligent hockey thought at all. It appears not.

    • It’s not all of us that buy into that crap Oil Fan. You have a lot to say considering who you cheer for. Try taking the high road just once! I have said on here many times before that I hope the Oilers become dominant and I am a Leafs fan! My biggest hope for the next few seasons is to see the Leafs, Jets, Flames, and Oilers improve! Any one of those three in a final against the Leafs would be amazing!

      • Lol. True. An Oiler fan saying that.

      • I’m a flames fan…diehard…and I’m hoping the oilers finally get it together…very excited to see what happens with McDavid playing a full season…I know there is a huge chance he could easily win the scoring title this season if he plays the entire season and that just makes you wonder how great Lucic and Puljajarvi could do just specifically due to McDavid…It could be anticlimactic or absolutely amazing…only time will tell. Toronto as well. I’m sooo excited to see how the superstar stud Mitch Marner…who became an OHL hockey god this past season…takes to the NHL as well as Mathews and the other great young talent Toronto has coming into this season. Add a very good proven young goal tender and only an idiot can’t see the potential there. Anyone who has any hockey sense at all knows there could be special things coming from these 2 teams as well as The flames this season more than any of the other Canadian teams. even Winnipeg could potentially explode into a force this season they could have something very special going on. Montreal…If Price can get back to form this season are a better team with the trade they made and a few aquisitions than they were 2 seasons ago they could come back from the dead. Really the only 2 Canadian teams who have shown no signs of improvement or any chance of making the playoffs I think are Ottawa and Vancouver…hanging their hat about 4 years too long solely on the talent of the Sedin sisters. Sure I make fun of their name but that’s exactly it…its just fun…Yes they were once quite a dominant force on the ice and still show flashes of that but it’s been not enough for too long now with very little effort made by management to try and help them out. I do have to say though they look like the sedans of old playing along side Eriksson in the last 2 World Cup games for Sweden. It’s been fun to watch them looking like they did a few years ago. Looks like they may have some chemistry with Erickson.

        There’s just 3 or 4 guys here at this site who’s only argument ever is to bash other teams. “Oh ya, well your team sucks” It’s quite pathetic actually. I can only assume it’s because all they know is their own team and actually have no knowledge of hockey at all. If they did they could see the potential in a building team they don’t cheer for. Or the potential of a good young player not associated with their own team. Do yourselves a favor…do some hockey research grab yourselves an intelligent thought and get in the game.

      • Really? Ottawa has done nothing to improve and has no chance at the playoffs?!

        They completely scrapped their disastrous coaching staff from last year and now have one of the better staffs in the league. Anyone who saw them play under Cameron last year can tell you that could be worth 10 points alone.

        MacArthur looks like he’s healthy and that is a top 6 forward gained for nothing. Brassard for Zibanejad finally gives them a very good left shot top 2 centre to complement Turris, who also missed or was injured 2/3 of last year. And they now have Phaneuf all year for the second pair with an improving Ceci. Their second pair left shot defenseman for over half of last year were Blowen and Wirecock.

        Do some research before you post such nonsense. I think Ottawa should be a 5-8 seed this season barring significant injuries.

      • Oh are the office staff playing the game

  7. Will Mitch Marner make this year’s version of the Leafs? …” Ignorance is Bliss” ….. Russell will play for certain. When and where could be anyone’s guess.

    • I heard that Marner has not gained the weight the Leafs wanted him to gain this past offseason. If so there is a good chance that he will be in the OHL again this season. Again something I have heard and is only speculation.

  8. Wonder if Russell is partly a victim of increased use of analytics to ascertain a players value. He will get signed for sure… NJ could use one more player on D and he would even be a middle pairing guy on that d… but on most teams he would be roughly a number 5 guy. he probably doesnt see it that way.

  9. Coiler fan, you are a broken record.

  10. Ugh….with ALL due respect for the few remaining realistic Leafs fans…there is nothing more annoying than the army of overzealous and delusional fans who believe every top pending UFA from Ontario, should sign in Toronto.

    • To be fair that pot, I think, was always heating up thanks to a wishful-thinking TO media. It only stood to reason that some fans – especially those who believe everything they see/hear on radio/TV or read in a column – bought into the hype.

  11. One comment Regarding Tavares: STOP IT! He plays for the Islanders when that changes let us know.

  12. As an Oiler fan and a general lover of hockey, I too want to see Canadian teams improve and regain being competitive and dominant forces. None of us have truly bounced back from the 90’s pre lockout when our teams couldn’t afford to compete against large American markets. It’s better now, but the league still needs to fix a few things to level the playing field. Namely, removing no-trade lists. Players should play where they’re dealt to or don’t play at all. That and, punt ‘the Count’ from the front office. Ah-ah-ahhh

  13. As a Leafs fan, my biggest worry right now is that foolish Jared Cowen buy-out challenge. No decision to be made until mid to late October?! Something that should have been reviewed last spring.
    So the Leafs essentially are handicapped by one contract going into camp.
    They only have two openings for adding contracts and plenty of young guys who are probably ready to sign a deal rather than go back into the draft. *IF TOR finds a good try-out guy to fill a role then they will have to wait rather than offer a guy a job. So that is essentially auditioning players for other teams to consider.

  14. Not one striker comment I’ve been reading this site for many years and this doesn’t happen very often

    • Nothing to say on this subject matter.