NHL Rumor Mill – March 10, 2018
Ongoing speculation over the future of John Tavares plus the latest on the Canadiens in your NHL rumor mill.
UPDATE ON JOHN TAVARES
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Jared Clinton wonders if the New York Islanders’ current tailspin might affect center John Tavares’ future with the club. The 27-year-old Islanders captain is eligible for unrestricted free agent status on July 1. There’s no indication from Tavares as to his future plans, but Clinton suggests the club’s recent tumble in the standings and their obvious defensive weaknesses could hurt their chances of re-signing him.
Clinton notes the obvious comparison to Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos two year ago, but Stamkos was returning to a club that was coming off two straight conference finals and a Stanley Cup Final appearance and remains a championship contender with a deep roster. The same, however, cannot be said for the Isles. Clinton also pointed out Tavares’ recently voiced his unhappiness (“Obviously, this isn’t a whole lot of fun right now.”) over the club’s current struggles.
NEWSDAY: Neil Best reports Tavares’ comment doesn’t mean he’s looking to have fun with another club after this season. “I’m sure when people look at the way our team’s going, they want to speculate,” he said. “They speculate on teams that have won eight in a row, too. I just control what I control. It’s just other people talking.” Tavares acknowledged the interest in his future but insists he’s not worried about that right now, putting his focus on trying to help the Islanders win.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Speculation over Tavares will persist until July 1, unless he re-signs with the Islanders before then. Some will assume reaching the playoffs could be a determining factor, but he recently said missing the postseason wouldn’t trigger his departure.
Tavares has been very devoted to the Isles but I don’t think it’s blind loyalty. If he re-signs, money won’t be the issue as they’re likely prepared to pay him whatever he wants within the league’s salary-cap rules. I believe he’ll want assurances the club will quickly address its weaknesses and build into a contender.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols recently cited NHL insider Darren Dreger discussing the Montreal Canadiens’ plans on Thursday with Montreal’s TSN 690. He speculated Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin could take “some pretty bold actions” in the near future to improve the roster.
Dreger suspects Bergevin could pursue John Tavares if the New York Islanders star becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, which he suspects is looking more likely. He also wondered if Bergevin could use left wing Max Pacioretty as a trade chip, perhaps to bring in a center or a defenseman to help the club achieve their goal of being a Stanley Cup contender.
Earlier in the week, Dreger told Montreal’s TSN 690 he’d be surprised if Pacioretty returns with the Canadiens next season. While the Habs captain didn’t asked to be dealt, Dreger suspected the winger would’ve welcomed a trade. He believes there was interest in Pacioretty before the trade deadline but the asking price was too high, with the Canadiens seeking a good young No.2 center as part of the return. While no team was willing to make such a move in-season, Dreger suggested the possibility of something popping up in the offseason.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bergevin faces a daunting task this summer. He must find a good, established scoring center plus a skilled top-four defenseman. Pacioretty could help him land one or the other but not both.
If Tavares hits the open market, I don’t doubt Bergevin will pursue him. To be honest, however, I don’t believe he’ll have a reasonable chance of signing him. Why would Tavares leave a team that is, at best, a marginal playoff contender to join another one? Sure, the Habs could open the vault and pay him the league maximum, but I really don’t think being the league’s highest-paid player will be suitable enticement for Tavares.