Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – March 18, 2018
New York Islanders captain John Tavares is the subject of this Sunday’s NHL rumor roundup.
TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons believes the worst the New York Islanders play, “the more drooling there seems to be over the possibility of John Tavares hitting the free-agent market in July.” He said teams “are already beginning to put together considered pitches” for the Islanders captain if he becomes the rare star who changes teams via free agency. He also thinks it no longer makes any sense for Tavares to remain loyal to the struggling Isles and it’s now time for the superstar to make a move.
Simmons feels the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues “are thought to be at the top of the list of suitors should he make himself available.” He also believes clubs with salary-cap space this summer and the need for a first-line center, such as the Vancouver Canucks, Vegas Golden Knights and New Jersey Devils, could also come calling, along with the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings and Carolina Hurricanes. Simmons also thinks the Toronto Maple Leafs could “juggle numbers” to see if landing Tavares is possible, though “it probably makes little sense position-wise or salary-cap-wise.”
SPORTSNET: Nick Kypreos reports the Islanders didn’t do any favors for Tavares by failing to bolster their roster at the trade deadline. “It almost feels like this thing is snowballing away from the Islanders and Tavares,” said Kypreos, who also noted a “lot of eyebrows being raised” by the Isles deciding to move Tavares to left wing for today’s game against Carolina.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks doesn’t see Tavares joining the Rangers as a free agent. “So he is going to leave the perpetually building Islanders, where he can sign for eight years, to come to the rebuilding Rangers, where he could only sign for seven years? Why?”
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cited TSN’s Darren Dreger’s appearance Friday on Buffalo’s WGR 550 discussing the notion of the Islanders doing a “sign-and-trade” with Tavares if the two sides are unable to reach agreement on a new contract before July 1. Dreger considers it unlikely, pointing out such a move is unprecedented at that time of year plus the Isles remain hopeful of keeping Tavares in the fold.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If we take Tavares at his word, staying with the Islanders doesn’t depend upon making the playoffs this season. Of course, he made those remarks when the Isles still had a shot at reaching the postseason dance. He and Isles general manager Garth Snow have said all the right things since last summer about a new contract, but the discussions aren’t expected to rev up until after the season is over.
Tavares has been very loyal to the Islanders, but there’s little to indicate the club is building toward Stanley Cup contender status. After nine seasons and with free agency beckoning, the 27-year-old Tavares is at a career crossroads and must choose between loyalty to the only NHL club he’s ever played with or joining a team that gives him a better shot at winning the Cup.
If Tavares decides to move on, the Sharks and Blues could be the front-runners. The Golden Knights made a pitch for Erik Karlsson at the trade deadline so I don’t rule them out as a potential destination. He’d not only make the Golden Knights better but would also give them their first marketable superstar.
The Devils could be an interesting option. Given Tavares’ loyalty to the Isles, perhaps he wouldn’t be comfortable joining a nearby rival. The Leafs could be tempted but they’ve already got a first-line superstar center in Auston Matthews, along with depth at center with William Nylander and Nazem Kadri. Their biggest need is for a top-two defenseman, not a first-line center. Blowing their budget signing Tavares won’t address that need.
What Brooks wrote about the Rangers also applies to the Canadiens, Canucks, Red Wings and Hurricanes. I’ll be very surprised if he lands with one of those clubs this summer.