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The John Tavares Contract Encyclopedia Volume 3 (2018) [Updated: 7/1/18]

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A third and final volume of articles, notes, commentary and more related to the free agency of Islanders captain John Tavares.

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2018 NHL All-Star - Portraits Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Previously on the John Tavares Free Agency Encyclopedia:

Volume 1 (2016-2017), A New Hope?

Volume 2 (2017-2018), The Encyclopedia Strikes Back

and also:

Tavares Encyclopedia Epilogue: What I Learned From Two Years in Limbo


Final Update: Sunday, July 1, 2018, 1:07 pm. The End.

Leafs Tavares

Via Arthur Staple in The Athletic:

It’s true that the Isles might not have Lamoriello or Trotz had Tavares signed last offseason. But if he harbored so many doubts about the direction of the team, why not share those with ownership at any point during 2017-18 so the Islanders could move on? Instead, Tavares and his camp asked last summer to be given time and to not be moved, which feels like an unnecessary slap now that he’s moved on for nothing.

This was a wrenching decision for Tavares, according to people who know him. But that won’t absolve him of responsibility in all this — particularly in taking right up to the midnight deadline on Saturday to be able to sign an eight-year deal. Tavares held on through the last minute into Sunday and the Islanders were left in the lurch.

And now, perhaps the toughest part of this long process, the Islanders have to catch up to other teams in the free-agent market. They have over $32 million in cap space with the free-agent market now open, but there are precious few candidates out there worth spending such capital on.


July 1, 2018 (1) After 72 hours of #TavaresWatch, with no official word from Tavares or his agent, time has officially run out on the New York Islanders.

(Update: Tavares didn’t sign with the Islanders on June 30th.)

Via Mark Herrmann in Newsday (emphasis mine):

The Islanders knew how much he always has loved Long Island and has appreciated what that crest on the front of his jersey means to people who live here. But management also knew how much he wanted a tangible chance to shoot for the Stanley Cup. Winning that one playoff series was nice, but the decision-makers never improved the team enough to make it a slam-dunk decision for Tavares to stay.

For his part, Tavares could have made life easier for the team and fan base. Word around the team was that he emphatically asked not to be dealt at the trading deadline, when he might have brought a handsome return (and possibly changed the course of the playoffs). It led the Islanders to stand pat, which put them at risk of getting nothing for the best asset they have had since they dealt Pat LaFontaine (for star Pierre Turgeon and significant other talent).

Expect that part about not being traded to come up again, once this whole thing plays out.

Via Arthur Staple in The Athletic:

Nothing is official, but it appears the Islanders are out of the John Tavares pursuit. Their ability to offer an eight-year contract expired at midnight ET on Saturday night and that was really their biggest leverage over the other teams.

A few tidbits from Saturday’s long day of silence on Tavares: It’s believed his camp rejected the possibility of any team (most likely the Leafs) offering a large, one-year deal now with the promise of an eight-year extension on Jan. 1, so Saturday was down to weighing an eight-year offer from the Islanders vs. seven-year offers from other teams.

Tavares chose not to sign and now the Islanders are all but out of it, barring a Lou Lamoriello surprise.


June 29, 2018 Okay, I lied. Here’s nother update.

Today, the hockey world waited for word of Tavares’s decision and got only absolute silence. It was so dead, even Bob McKenzie, Bobby Mac, Bobby Margarita, Uncle Bob, The Bobfather, the Original Hockey Insider, was dry:

At least the reigning Hart Trophy winner’s got jokes about it.

More on the silence becoming “quite deafening” by Andrew Gross of Newsday:

Since the free agent market opens on Sunday and the Islanders’ advantage of being able to offer an eight-year deal expires after Saturday, any delay in announcing he is going to return to the franchise that selected him first overall in 2009 heightens the speculation Tavares is preparing to leave.

But, of course, that’s pure speculation as the Tavares camp has been practically devoid of leaks throughout the process.

“No clue of how to read this whole scenario,” NBC Sports analyst Pierre McGuire said in a text message to Newsday. “He is clearly being wise and looking at things carefully and thoroughly.”

As if to torture us all, the Islanders did make two smaller signings, inking AHL farmhands Christopher Gibson and Seth Helgeson to new budget deals. Meanwhile across the country, the Los Angeles Kings locked up their big potential UFA Drew Doughty to an enormous eight-year extension, making Islanders fans incredibly jealous that Kings fans won’t have to go through this same crap.

Damn. That’s cold, Kings.

So the Islanders, Leafs, Stars, Bruins, Sharks and Lightning all wait to hear the final verdict. Still, everyone’s plugging away making their cases for their team to land the player. Bruins star Patrice Bergeron even put in a call to tell Tavares all about Boston on his team’s behalf.

Flyers GM Ron Hextall wanted to put in a call to Tavares, but was denied a meeting by his camp, proving once again that the captain’s Islanders loyalty is strong. But Arpon Basu says that Tavares flat out saying no to the Montreal Canadiens was a favor to them and should cause the historic franchise to take a long, hard look at their current status.

The fact they weren’t given the opportunity to even speak to Tavares can and should be seen as a slap in the face. But not a painful one. A useful one. A wake up call.

Perhaps the Canadiens need a slap in the face, one that makes it clear to them that the unique hockey culture in Montreal, the storied history of the franchise and all those banners hanging in the rafters of the Bell Centre don’t mean much anymore. After 25 years without a new one, it might be time to stop banking on those banners and start banking on when the next one will appear.

At Puck Daddy, Ryan Lambert argues that Tavares would be doing himself a favor by walking away from the historically dysfunctional Islanders, even after they’ve brought in Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz.

So why on earth would Tavares, whose current team boasts no meaningful supporting cast apart from Mat Barzal and now, Barry Trotz. And no ability to be meaningfully competitive in a division with a number of elite teams even if he returns. And no fan support. And a horrible arena situation that’s years from being resolved even if an end is finally in sight. And no one in the local media paying attention (for good reason). And no chance to improve to “Cup contender” status any time soon. And no local ties apart from the fact that he’s been employed there for a decade.

The Islanders cannot, then, reasonably make the argument that Long Island is the best place for Tavares to ply his trade for what will likely be the remainder of his career, especially because their new GM isn’t exactly a guy with a track record of luring or retaining top talent since everyone got over their Y2K worries.

I don’t agree with all of Lambert’s specifics, but his premise isn’t wrong. It’s not hard to see that if the Islanders had had a fraction of success over his nine years here, Tavares might have been compelled to sign sooner, or it would have made his decision easier. The euphoria of winning their first playoff series in 23 years wore off quickly, and one month of significant hirings and firings might not be enough to erase back-to-back abysmal seasons.

Alas, here we are. All waiting for a sign.

As of midnight Saturday, barring a contract extension, John Tavares will begin his final 24 hours as a New York Islander.


June 28, 2018 (2) Meetings done, pitches made, notes taken. The day after, was a whole lotta nothing.

As in, literally nothing.

The silence is enough to drive you crazy, as it seems to have done to TSN hosts Jay and Dan.

But even nothing can be something, especially at the apex of #TavaresWatch. Some people were having fun, at least. Like Bruins player development coordinator Jaime Langenbrunner and our ol’ pal Brooksie:

As he is prone to do, Arthur Staple stirred the pot a little while simply relaying that Tavares was on a plane out of LA.

Although there’s nothing more to report, it’s obviously a very tense time for Islanders fans. But Staple says their torture may soon come to an end, as time ticks down on the deadline by which Tavares needs to decide where he will play.

In fact, the Islanders will almost certainly know by Friday whether Tavares is staying for eight years and somewhere between $92-100 million. That sort of contract takes time to finalize, so with the midnight deadline on Saturday looming — after that, Tavares is considered an unrestricted free agent and cannot get the eighth year from the Isles anymore — Tavares and his camp will let Lou Lamoriello know on Friday to either start the contract process or say goodbye after nine seasons.

Tavares reportedly was impressed by the thorough pitches from all six teams: The Leafs, Islanders, Sharks, Bruins, Lightning and Stars. It’s believed that, should Tavares walk away from the Isles, it’s the Sharks and Leafs at Nos. 1 and 2 on his list;

Not only do the the Islanders need to sign Tavares by Saturday if he plans on getting the eighth year on his contract that only they can offer, but they have player needs to attend to beyond just their number one center.

In addition to that last link about the many holes the Islanders need to fill, Andrew Gross says that losing their captain shouldn’t be complete disaster for them.

Still, while Tavares’ departure would represent a seismic shift in the organization’s foundation, calling it an unmitigated disaster may be Chicken Little claiming the sky is falling.

For one, the threat of Tavares leaving finally shook the Islanders’ co-owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky into addressing long-standing management problems.

Hiring Lou Lamoriello as president — in reality, the organization’s absolute authority for all hockey matters — brought a credibility to the Islanders that has been lacking since the days of Bill Torrey and Al Arbour.

Lamoriello forces an accountability into the organization — to all personnel on and off the ice — that was sorely lacking.

In an subscriber-only article for ESPN Insiders, Matthew Coller says the team that needs Tavares the most is… unsurprisingly, the Islanders. Losing a superstar as a free agent can be a difficult thing to get over for a franchise. So far, the only ones to understand that are the New Jersey Devils, who lost defenseman Scott Niedermayer to Anaheim in 2005. And while Niedermayer and his brother Rob led the Ducks to their only Stanley Cup two seasons later, the normally solid Devils entered a period of major unrest afterwards.

Obviously, adding a player of Tavares’s calibre is a huge deal, and you’d try to fit him in anyway you can. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman gave us our best and really only glimpse into the Tavares talking meetings while also admitting his team would need to lose some pieces should he come to Florida.

”I would say it was more than an informal meeting,” Yzerman said, “... and that’s about all I have to say.”

The Islanders, Lightning, San Jose Sharks, Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs made presentations to Tavares during the NHL interview period that began Sunday.

”It’s not illegal tampering, it’s a period to talk to free agents and I do personally like it,” Yzerman said. “It gives everybody a chance to think it through. As opposed to July 1 when everyone ... the players, the agents and the teams are making decisions as quickly as possible under duress. ... So I think it’s a better process.”

The Sharks contingent included their owner, German mystery man Hasso Plattner, who talked to Tavares about his business interests, according to The Athletic’s Craig Custance. If you’ve never heard of Plattner, don’t sweat it. Few have. Which is why his presence was kind of a big deal.

But his appearance at the Tavares proceedings made an impression. He spoke and gave some background about how he operates his company, his team and his philosophy — how he certainly has his opinions about the Sharks and watches every game with passion, but also with the knowledge of someone who knows when, and when not, to get involved. It was impressive.

It’s also consistent with those who know Plattner.

“He’s funny, self-effacing,” said an NHL source. “He’s just a regular man.”

A regular man worth $13.6 billion, according to Bloomberg.

And if thinking it through and bringing the owner in doesn’t work, you can always try burgers, which is what some Stars fans are hoping to lure Tavares with using Texas-based chain Whataburger.

”Mr. Tavares may need some convincing to choose Texas over New York and the other states he’s looking at,” LaGesse’s post says. “Besides no state income tax, Texas has this magical place called Whataburger.”

”Dallas Stars Hockey Fans wants to provide John with some free Whatafries so he can score some Whatagoals in Victory Green for seasons to come.”

This is clearly an attempt to thwart New York’s Bagel Boss, who are using cross country bagel delivery and an offer of free bagels for Tavares to entice him to stay with the Islanders. We’ll see which delicious dish he ends up choosing.

The waiting, as has been said repeatedly, is the hardest part. That’s true for the Islanders and their fans more than for anyone. But after all this time, the entire world seems to be waiting for an answer.

Even John’s uncle - the lacrosse legend also named John Tavares - doesn’t know which way he’s going to go.

Uncle John, who lives in the Toronto area where people are rooting for the Islanders star to return home, says he’s been telling everyone the same thing. “I wish I had the answer,” he said, “but John has kept his cards close to his chest, so your guess is as good as mine.”

I started this Encyclopedia in the summer of 2016. And after adding multiple entries a week almost every week for the next two years totaling over 90,000 words, I am beyond exhausted. Keeping track of all the little tidbits has become much more difficult, as has formulating complete, cohesive sentences to string them all together.

My goal was to give all of these stories a single place where people could catch up on the latest happenings with Tavares’s free agency, and also document this crucial moment in Islanders history. I’m confident in saying that I’ve done that.

I’m also confident in saying that this might be the penultimate entry, and that the next one might be Tavares’s final decision. One way or the other, it’s almost time to move on.


June 28, 2018 (1) Wednesday began with the news that no additional teams would be added to Tavares’s already packed schedule. This was either a good development or a bad one depending on many factors, including the reader’s mental state at the time.

That doesn’t mean Tavares wouldn’t hear from other teams, just that they wouldn’t get a meeting with time running short.

So when will we hear a decision? And what could it be? Hell if anyone knows.

According to Darren Dreger on TSN’s Insider Trading, all of the teams “pulled out all the stops” in their presentations, but a decision could take until Saturday.

Whatever happens will have a ripple effect throughout the NHL. There’s a good argument that Tavares is kinda holding up the entire league, even for teams that aren’t in the running to sign him. General managers are no doubt waiting on trades and signings of their own just to see where Tavares lands.

As for the teams that are in the running, Dom Luszczyszyn at The Athletic analyzes which teams go from bubble teams to contenders just by adding him. The Bruins and Lightning would become Stanley Cup favorites (and Tampa a veritable “superteam”) with him on their respective rosters. Meanwhile, the Islanders go from “Bottom 10” to “Bubble Team” by keeping their captain. Dream big.

Obviously, losing him would impact the Islanders in a major way. Arthur Staple scared the hell out of Islanders Country by posting, “What’s the next step for the Islanders if John Tavares decides to leave?” The thing is, they have other roster spots to consider filling (like, uh, goalie) and this process might be preventing them from being aggressive with free agents when the signing period opens on Sunday and have them turning more to trades.

Most teams have a head start on the Islanders in this free-agent window, especially among centers — Lamoriello’s focus has been Tavares and, as evidenced by his L.A. vigil, that will be the focus until Tavares says yea or nay. So the Islanders might not be in the aggressive group of free-agent pursuers when the doors open at noon on Sunday.

That lends a little more credence to the possibility of a trade to fill Tavares’ spot. The Sabres’ Ryan O’Reilly has been on the market for a bit now and the Canadiens have reportedly been the most aggressive team in seeking a deal; O’Reilly is due a $7.5 million bonus on July 1, after which some more teams might jump into the fray at a higher cost in players and draft picks.

Signing free agents means money, and singing a John Tavares means throwing a lot of dough at him. Sports Illustrated took a clinical approach to player salaries and the taxes they incur, and Marc Antoine Godin of The Athletic says that the specter of prohibitively high taxes scaring players off from playing in Quebec can be busted by a smart enough agent.

I know, fascinating stuff… especially when all we want is an answer from the man himself. Well, if you want to skip all that lame ass math and just click a button for fun, TSN has a “Tavares Calculator” all set up so you can see how much money Tavares will have taken out of his pocket depending on which team he ends up choosing.

First up on Wednesday were the Dallas Stars, who sent a trio of Jims to pitch to one John.

For the Stars, always an intriguing team but rarely a great one, Just talking to Tavares constitutes a victory in and of itself. That’s not to say that our friends at the great Defending Big D wouldn’t love to add him, but this week was kind of a spotlight moment for the franchise.

Via the Stars’ in-house reporter Mike Heika:

Why are the Stars in this conversation? That’s maybe the most intriguing part of the process if you’re a fan in Dallas.

The guess is because they have a team that is thick with talent. Tavares could join a group that includes Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, Ben Bishop, John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen. He could join a team that should be aggressive and relentless under new coach Jim Montgomery. He could join a team that could win now and possibly for several years to come.

If that’s his thinking, it’s encouraging for fans who want the same thing.

(Unfortunately, for teams that were outside of the party, the opposite is true. Teams like the Stars division rival St. Louis Blues, for example, look like a team big star players might not want a part of.)

Anyway, the Jims exited the meeting and Jim 2 (that would GM Jim Nill) had some kind words for the dude who just interviewed them.

Next up were the Tampa Bay Lightning, led by their GM, the intimidating Steve Yzerman.

While that meeting was going on, the Bolts were unveiling their new practice facility back in FLA, which looks super nice. Almost as nice as the one the Islanders unveiled back in October that’s just a few minutes from Tavares’s current home.

And when the meeting was done, Yzerman shuffled back to the Death Star to await word from his Bothan spies.

The Maple Leafs’ meeting with Tavares happened two days ago, but if you think they weren’t still talked about today, you must be new here. Their pitch was different than the one they tried on Steven Stamkos two years ago, featuring 100% less private sector CEOs.

After having current Leafs players talk about how much they like playing in Toronto, former GM Brian Burke told Sportsnet radio that some guys like it and many don’t. Burke cited how reporters were critical of young star Auston Matthews after he didn’t speak with them after a loss in the playoffs, and the entire Leafs tenure of Phil Kessel, who couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there.

Out in Edmonton, aged scribe Jim Matheson wonders what all this racket is about and wishes all of you kids would just get off of Matthews’s lawn.

Yeah, because having two great centers would definitely be a liability…

And then there’s the even more aged Don Cherry, who’s been unusually quiet about this whole thing. Well Grapes took time out from celebrating the troops and designing new suits to post a short screed about it on his weird Twitter app that only he uses.

Here it is in full:

Cherry Tavares free agency

Cherry’s old team the Boston Bruins had their meeting with Tavares on Tuesday, and former Islanders analyst Billy Jaffe immediately shot down hosts Toucher and Rich when they intimated it may be all about the money for him. Jaffe says the Bruins are a logical fit, but thinks San Jose makes sense, too.

On their Vice podcast, Biscuits, Sean “Down Goes Brown” McIndoe and Dave Lozo also say the Sharks could be the frontrunners for Tavares. And on NHL Network, EJ Hradek wonders if getting away from New York, and only facing the Islanders twice a year, would appeal to him.

Meanwhile, San Jose GM Doug Wilson isn’t wasting anytime and is reportedly set to sign center Logan Couture to an eight-year extension, which seems like it could impact (or perhaps depend upon) whether or not they sign Tavares.

So where are we right now? Basically, we’re all in John Tavares’s hands. Arthur Staple told News 12 Long Island from the Islanders rookie camp that he still believes Tavares re-signs, but there are gonna be some tense hours for the fanbase before that.

Later, he said Lamoriello and company might do some more talking.

But ultimately, the only thing left to do is wait. Elliotte Friedman says that Tavares, is “debriefing Wednesday night with agent Pat Brisson. It is in his hands now.” He told Sportsnet also that:

But his colleague Chris Johnston says they’re going to convalesce a little first.

There are plenty of reasons by Tavares shouldn’t sign with the Islanders. But I hope during this reflection time, he listens to the opening of yesterday’s Isles Seat podcast, in which Brian Compton’s young son Chris reads an impassioned letter to his hero, imploring him to stay.

I know there’s a chance you may not play for the Islanders anymore. I hope you decide to stay because this is where you belong. My dad told me what it was like at the COliseum the night you were drafted. He said you gave the fans hope again. I hope i get to still watch you and Anders celebrate goals next season. Please don’t go. Let’s go Islanders.

Now who could resist a sales pitch like that?


June 27, 2018 After one day of meetings, it seemed everyone was already sick of this whole Tavares Show.

Tavares, though, continues to power through the process because that’s powering through is he does all the time. And just when we thought we knew everything about the guy, today we learned that he has taken a Leslie Knope-style approach to this thing even down to bringing his own binder.

Via Chris Johnston of Sportsnet:

The entire process has been carefully considered.

Tavares is a meticulous guy who spent the last couple months reviewing his options and had a 77-page book prepared that contained a deep dive into each of the organizations he was most likely to find appealing.

Back on Long Island, the Islanders opened their prospects camp, and Tavares made a surprise appearance there (in a way) thanks to first round pick, Oliver Wahlstrom:

But it was all about the Maple Leafs (it’s hockey; everything is always about the Leafs) and how their chances to sign Tavares stack up after their meeting with the player and his agent Pat Brisson on Monday. Toronto players were asked how they would feel about adding Tavares to the roster (“He’s one of the elite players in the league,” said Connor Brown. Riveting...), but would acquiring Tavares mean one of their highly-touted young players would need to be subtracted? Somehow these things always come down to William Nylander getting traded, and sure enough, that came up again.

It was Bruce Arthur’s turn at the Toronto Star to write a fawning piece about how Tavares NEEDS to join the Leafs for reasons us common folks wouldn’t understand. I’m surprised Bruce stopped counting the attendance at various American sporting events long enough to write something, but I guess it’s a special time. And Sportsnet continue to pound the drums for a one-year deal plus eight-year deal super value combo meal that most likely won’t happen.

Darren Dreger stirred the pot with this late day, third hand radio hit revelation:

In that pitch, the Leafs, according to Michael Traikos of The National Post, “offered Tavares a variety of short- and long-term contracts that would make him one of the highest-paid players in the NHL.” But Traikos wonders if playing in a big market that’s also his hometown is even something Tavares wants. And like everyone else, he writes about Tavares lifting the Cup for Toronto as if there aren’t entire generations of Islanders fans waiting to see him do the same thing for them.

But it was NHL.com writer Mike Zeisberger and Jeff Blair Show guest host George Rusic that offered one of the more balance takes on the subject on Sportsnet 590. Zeisberger talked about Tavares perhaps wanting to avoid the spotlight of playing in Toronto after relaying what he heard regarding Monday’s meetings:

There was certainly nothing that happened yesterday with the Islanders that has made that organization doubt themselves that they have a very good shot at getting John Tavares back.

Rusic later asked a question that seemingly no one in Canadian sports media has bothered to ask this entire time which is, “Why do people think the Islanders have zero chance to win the Stanley Cup?” Sure, they need a ton of help, but teams can turn around fast. No one thought the Capitals would win the whole thing this year, and they did. And the guy that coached them to that championship now works for the Islanders (look, it’s been a long week. Gimme a break).

The conversation was a nice change of pace from the norm, which is represented here by failed GM and radio shouter Craig Button and this video on TSN which is basically a list of players he knows, none of whom play for the Islanders. Craig Button is the type of guy who talks throughout a movie, misses everything that happens, then asks you why a character is doing what they did.

His ignorance of one of the NHL’s 31 member clubs is somehow considered analysis by one of the largest sports media corporations in the country. Must be a nice gig.

Greg Wyshynski stuck to the usual handicapping list while the San Jose Sharks and Boston Bruins had their turns at the CAA offices in Los Angeles.

We’ll probably have more tomorrow, but for now, it’s a story told in tweets. Think of this as The Further Adventures of John Lu, Sports Agent Stakeout Cop. The Sharks contingent arrived, then left. In between, there was some partial nudity and one player’s grandmother offering her thoughts on what Tavares should do.

Yup. That’s Joe Pavelski’s grandma.

Afternoon was the allotted time for the Boston Bruins, who kept their group tight with just GM Don Sweeney, coach Bruce Cassidy and president/legend Cam Neely coming through the doors. But their meeting was the shortest of the four we’ve seen so far.

Thursday will be the day for the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars to make their pitches. Tavares would be a tight fit under the cap for the Lightning, and it’ll be even tighter now that they’ve signed winger JT Miller to a new five-year contract worth $5.25 million a season. But never put anything past GM Steve Yzerman, who tends to get what he wants.

As with the Leafs, Dallas’s inclusion could also mean problems for the Stars payroll after a year or two.

Like everything in Winnipeg, the Jets were left out in the cold. But GM Kevin Cheveldayoff knows his team’s roster and free agency, particularly that of deadline acquisition Paul Stastny, hinges upon Tavares’s decision.

Kevin Cheveldayoff clearly hasn’t lost his sense of humour.

The general manager of the Winnipeg Jets had just spoken to reporters for nearly 14 minutes after the first day of development camp when he announced he was rushing to the airport because he had a plane to catch to Los Angeles.

After Wednesday, who knows. Maybe it’s over, maybe not.

Before that, let’s go back to New York, where Arthur Staple called in to WFAN’s Joe and Evan this afternoon. While pegging the chances that Tavares stays with the Islanders at 80/20, Staple also offered a few other notable insights inside his nine minute spot.

As to why Tavares would even be going through multiple daily meetings, Staple believes it was a commitment the captain made that he just wants to see through:

”I think it’s the process,” Staple said. “I hate that word. It’s used a lot in sports these days, but when he decided last summer that he wasn’t going to even discuss signing pretty much until the end of the season, I think he was committing to a process that involved talking to other teams. ... And now, with what they’ve done in the last month, I think that’s certainly the case. I think he’s coming this far, and I think it would be delinquent on his part, he feels ... to not listen to other teams and at least see what’s out there.”

The hirings of Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz seemed to send a message not just to Tavares, but his teammates back on Long Island, too. And the belief is now that the old status quo didn’t need to continue.

As for when to expect an end to this ordeal, Staple offered a reasonable and ominous timeline:

”If you hear something Friday or Saturday, he’s an Islander,” Staple said. “If nothing happens till Sunday, goodbye, John Tavares.”

And for a bit of breaking news, as of Wednesday morning, Tavares will no longer hear any more pitches after today:


June 25, 2018 Oh god. This is worse than I thought.

All along, I’ve tried to create a document that more or less tells the story of this moment in Islanders history, one chapter at a time. Sometimes, those chapters are larger and more complex than others. Right now, they’re absolutely packed to the gills and more twisty than a Halloween corn maze.

The day Islanders fans have been dreading is here, in which John Tavares and his agent Pat Brisson meet with teams who can offer him a free agent contract. The simultaneous tweets about the meetings sent Twitter into a frenzy, but the basic information is this:

We’ll get back to the meetings in a little bit, but first the table needed to be set. Before the teams were finalized, Bob McKenzie told Montreal’s TSN 690 about the chances to “bend yourself in a pretzel there trying to figure out all of the permutations” but also about the balance between the known and the unknown that Tavares is facing.

Via Chris Nichols at FRS Sports:

The one thing we do know is that he’s dealing with the known quantity of where he’s been his whole career. So there’s always that that’s kind of going for the New York Islanders. I would assume it’s going for the New York Islanders. I guess you could spin that around and say that could be a negative, too, that there are still question marks. Who’s going to play goal for the New York Islanders. It’s great they got Barry Trotz, but he can’t play goal and they need a goalie.

“So do you worry about that minutiae, or do you just say, ‘In Lou I trust.’ And right now there seems to be that feeling, that it even got to this point and the Islanders are still very much in the picture, suggests that Lou has done a pretty incredible sales job on John Tavares because otherwise you get that feeling like he’s done with them and he’s just moving on to another team – but that’s not the case here.”

The always astute McKenzie also talked on TSN about the deep, personal, emotional connection Tavares has formed with the Islanders and how difficult it can be to leave a team and a place you’ve known since you were 18. It also makes it very difficult to get a real read on the situation, even for the original Hockey Insider.

Once the teams were set, Pierre LeBrun made quick cases for each, and relayed some surprise at some of the invitees. Craig Button, who’s been in a lather about Tavares coming to Toronto for two years, unsurprisingly says he would fit “fantastically well” with the current Leafs.

Elliotte Friedman opened up his 31 Thoughts column with Tavares some guessing how how things could go.

Adding to the drama is the fact Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello went right from Dallas to California. It’s a smart move, staying close to the action. (He’s probably got the room bugged.) The Islanders don’t count as one of the five; Tavares already knows what he’s got there.

All things being equal, my feeling from the beginning was Tavares wanted to remain an Islander. But, as the season progressed and they slid from a playoff position, you could see the frustration on his face. Clearly, ownership saw it, too, bringing in Lamoriello and Barry Trotz. The organization is paying a ton of money in salaries when you add what is still owed to Garth Snow and Doug Weight.

If Tavares returns, ownership will consider that money well spent.

The one we were waiting for, of course, was Arthur Staple’s report on the meetings. He also runs down the candidates, but says the Islanders still have the lead.

It is still the Islanders’ game to win. Lamoriello’s consistent contact with Tavares since the president and GM took over a little more than a month ago, coupled with Tavares’ desire to lead the Isles to prominence and a Stanley Cup, cannot be overlooked. This week will be stressful for sure, however.

(On Sunday, Newsday’s Andrew Gross was on Hockey Night New York and said he also believes that Tavares will return to the Islanders because of his loyalty to the team and his adopted home. His section starts around the one hour mark)

For the teams that are invited to the meetings, it’s an exciting time. Your team has a chance to add one of the league’s best players to its roster. Congrats!

  • Bruins writer Ty Anderson asks readers to simply imagine the Bruins, one of the league’s best teams last season, with Tavares and Patrice Bergeron down the middle.
  • Meanwhile, Bruins network NESN quotes St. Louis reporter Andy Strickland that San Jose might be have the inside track on Tavares if he leaves the Islanders (I told you this was twisty. That sentence gives me a headache).
  • The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz reminds Sharks fans on why their team could and should add Tavares, and also why it might not happen.
  • Dallas Sports Days asked a bunch of Stars players what they thought about the team maybe signing Tavares and their collective answer was basically, “Yeah, cool. I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about this.”
  • Our pals at Raw Charge think Tavares joining his buddy Steven Stamkos would be great, but Joe Smith of the Athletic asked Stamkos how he dealt with this same craziness when he was a pending UFA two seasons ago:

Stamkos recalled a few “sleepless” nights in his weeklong courting, which ended in him signing an eight-year, $68 million deal with the Lightning on June 29, 2016. Stamkos said he knew deep down all along he wanted to stay in Tampa Bay. So why go through this?

“When you get this far and this close to free agency, it’s worth looking at the possibilities,” Stamkos explained when he signed. “When you make a decision of this magnitude, especially when you’re talking about your life, your career, the thought all along is, let’s just be as informed as possible. It was just about following your heart and being loyal to the organization that brought me up and made me the player and person that I am today.”

You can make Pro and Con lists for each team to sign Tavares, as Michael Traikos of the National Post and Joey Alfieri of NBC Sports did. Sportsnet’s Tim and Sid talk about favorites and conveniently forget that the Islanders exist, so to hell with them.

Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post chose to go straight to the handicapping route, and had the Islanders as the lead horse, followed by the Sharks, then Leafs and Lightning.

The most likely scenario is Tavares hears what is out there and still decides to return to the Islanders. He is a loyal person, and he and his fiancée — they’re scheduled to be married in August — enjoy living on Long Island. But the biggest factor is that in the last month, the entire tenor and reputation of the organization has changed course.

Principal owner Scott Malkin made the investment in Lou Lamoriello as president (and acting as general manager), and then Lamoriello was authorized to make the expensive hire of coach Barry Trotz just a few days after he won the Stanley Cup with the Capitals. This past weekend’s draft then went exceptionally well in terms of restocking the prospect pool, while Lamoriello is set on going out into the free-agent market with the intent of making this team competitive this season. That is exactly the type of commitment Tavares wanted to see — along with the pending new arena at Belmont Park — and now it can make his decision to stay that much easier.

But Toronto won’t go down without a fight, and the Toronto Star has made it its mission to deliver Tavares to the Leafs on a blue and white platter. Kevin McGran fielded only Tavares questions today and sentient honeydew melon Damien Cox basically re-wrote the same tripe his colleague Dave Feschuk posted Monday morning, although with less Stockholm Syndrome and more nostalgia:

Again, the general consensus seems to be Tavares will stay put. He seems to have a loyalty to that organization that supersedes what the organization has done for him.

But if he wants all that the Leafs have to offer, this is his chance. If he wants to play in the world’s biggest market not far from his hometown on a strong Original Six team that could soon be reaching for a Cup, this is his chance.

On the other hand, some wonder if the Leafs signing Tavares is even a good idea. Lyle Richardson says Toronto doesn’t even need Tavares to be good, and Ken Campbell comes right out and asks if signing a guy until he’s 36 (which is ancient in pro athlete years) makes sense

First of all, from everything that hockey analytics and the eye test tell us is that Tavares is a player in decline. Now, that doesn’t mean he still can’t be an effective player for three or four or maybe even five years, but it’s unrealistic to think that the John Tavares you’ll have a couple of years down the road is the same as the one you’ll be signing on July 1. And even though Tavares has worked extremely hard to improve his skating the past couple of seasons to the point where it’s not a detriment, it’s still not one of his strong points. He’s certainly not going to get any faster and players that can’t keep up with the pace of a faster and younger NHL don’t seem to age very well.

Even for the teams that are out of the running (sorry Habs), the Tavares decision will affect how they do business when free agency begins on Sunday. Chris Johnston says the floodgates will open once the decision is made and maybe some trades start happening. St. Louis was left on the sidelines and are pondering their next move, while former Blue Paul Stastny might end up being the recipient of a big deal just because he’s the next best center available, according to Craig Custance. And if you’re a team like the Vancouver Canucks, getting left off the guest list shows you have a lot more work to do.

One team that won’t be at the table will be the Pittsburgh Penguins, with GM Jim Rutherford cracking wise about what it would have taken to steal Tavares from a division rival.

Via Jonathan Bambulie of the Tribune:

The Penguins were described in national media reports as potential darkhorses to enter the fray to sign Tavares, the top prize in this year’s free-agent class.

Looking at his salary cap situation, Rutherford laughed off the notion Monday afternoon.

“I’m a creative. I’m not a magician,” he joked.

Another guy having fun was Dave Lozo, who ginned up a dramatic interpretation of how the meetings will go, as only he can for Vice.

Tavares: I am about winning, something you apparently know very little about.

Dubas: I just won the Calder Cup a week ago and the Leafs GM job the week before that from the guy who is running your current team. I’ve won more in the past two weeks than you’ve won in nine years with the Islanders. Now, I’d like to show you a 24-part presentation about how analytics can help you become a better player.

Tavares: Guards, seize him.

Dubas is dragged from the room by two CAA security guards

Ready for the twist? This all happened BEFORE THE ACTUAL MEETINGS, which began on Monday afternoon, California time. The Leafs were the first up (probably because they pushed their way to the head of the line) and, naturally, they were followed by a large and shameless throng of media:

Let’s go to former Red Wing Mike Commodore for his thoughts on how the Leafs probably did:

In a somewhat surprising turn, the Islanders went second, and as per Lou Lamoriello’s usual MO, snuck in under the cover of darkness:

Lamoriello has been in near constant contact with Brisson and Tavares since before his hiring was even announced. Same goes for Trotz, who is also at the offices, along with Islanders co-owner Scott Malkin, who has also been chatting with Brisson for over a year ahead of this time. Andrew Gross says the negotiations will most likely continue with the Islanders and their captain.

Man, did John Lu and Arash Madani lose a couple of bets to someone in their respective offices? Staking out an agent’s office waiting for hockey guys to pop in and out is a crappy way to start the summer.

That’s all just Day 1. Up next:

I’m already tired.


June 25, 2018 Welcome to Hell Week, Islanders fans.

The Tavares camp’s meeting with the five clubs begin today at agent Pat Brisson’s offices in Los Angeles. There are hundreds of considerations and permutations related to any team involved, including the Islanders, who are represented out west by president and GM Lou Lamoriello.

On Saturday, Chris Botta laid out how Brisson has been a quiet puppet master behind the scenes this whole time and some of the reasons Tavares could stay or bolt. And at The Hockey News, Ken Campbell noted how no one goes into these meetings cold without doing their homework first.

The teams meeting Tavares will technically not be able to negotiate or discuss money or term of a contract, but they do go into this process armed with the knowledge of what the Islanders are offering. But that’s actually secondary. Tavares was always going to get his money. And since they can offer only seven-year deals, they’d have to offer Tavares $12.6 million per year to equal the entire value of the eight-year deal the Islanders have on the table.

Late Sunday night, Arthur Staple revealed the closest thing to a final list of the invitees that we’ve seen so far:

This list is subject to change, and in his article about this weekends rumors and revelations, Dom writes that Brisson and Tavares have gone about this in a way that maintains as much integrity as possible.

However this all turns out, Tavares and CAA have played this quite well in a way that maintains Tavares’ sense of loyalty to the team while also taking advantage of his CBA-given right to do exactly this, which isn’t exactly a Stamkos, more like a Stamkos 2.0 Expansion Pack. In the process, mega-agency CAA learns yet more about other teams’ plans and pitches, and increases the odds of the Isles — or another team — bidding more and more to secure #91’s services for the next seven or eight years.

As for the teams themselves, Bruins GM Don Sweeney wasn’t saying anything at the draft, but with a black-and-gold water carrying army of writers, he didn’t have to.

Via Jimmy Murphy’s Bruins Buzz:

An NHL source confirmed to CLNS Media that the Bruins have indeed on more than one occasion reached out to the Tavares camp. However, there was no clear indication whether or not the Bruins are one of those aforementioned five teams. Following the conclusion of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft Saturday Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney played coy with the media about whether the Bruins were in the mix.

Via Dakota Randall at NESN:

Tavares, without question, is one of the best players in the NHL, and the Bruins would be a better team with him in the fold. But throwing substantial money at one player might prevent Boston from re-signing some of its rising stars, such as Ryan Donato, Jake DeBrusk and Charlie McAvoy, when they hit free agency.

And via the immortal H. Joe “Haggs” Haggerty, esq:

Our brothers and sisters at Stanley Cup of Chowder have no idea how Boston could fit Tavares under the cap, but they’re just happy to be nominated.

The Predators are a fairly new entry if they are indeed included.

It’s also wild that the Habs and Golden Knights wouldn’t be included, since they’ve been among the teams most prominently vying for Tavares, either publicly (Montreal) or potentially (Vegas). Guess we’ll find out (and laugh at) what happened later.

The Maple Leafs have long been expected to be a player, and Frank Seravalli at TSN remixes James Mirtle’s idea from the day before about Toronto offering a massive one-year deal in the hope of winning a Cup next season. He calls the scenario “likely a looooooong shot” and goes on to explain all of the ways the plan could fail.

The more difficult part is in trying to reason why Tavares would be interested in that type of contract structure.

Like anyone else, professional athletes crave security. Tavares could be leaving as much as $72 or more million on the table, if a recent report about the Islanders’ ballpark offer of eight years, $88 million is accurate.

Insurance is a possibility, but it is expensive. There is no way to insure all of that $70-plus million, and Tavares already paid for insurance last year in the final year of his deal in New York.

The Dallas Stars are another team that would have to get creative if they want to sign Tavares. Like the Leafs, the longer things go, the dicier the contract would get. At The Athletic, Sean Shapiro lays out those logistics:

A future with Seguin and Tavares is possible, but it will require difficult long-term decisions as Benn, Seguin, and Tavares move into their 30s. It’s an expensive venture and it could work, but only if the Stars are able to develop from within and take advantage of entry-level contracts. They won’t have much space for other free agents.

You know what I always have space for? Delicious New York bagels, the best on Earth. Bagel Boss is a beloved local franchise nd its owner, Donald Rosner, is a dedicated Islanders fan. And he’s not about to sit on the sidelines while these Tavares meetings happen across the country.

I have to admit, this was a twist I did not see coming.

Tavares isn’t going to find a better deal than that anywhere. Let’s hope he returns to take Donald up on his offer.

The Toronto Star’s Dave Feschuk doesn’t think the bagels should sway Tavares. In fact, the writer who Phil Kessel called “such an idiot” on his way out the door to Pittsburgh, thinks Tavares wanting to stay with the Islanders amounts to Stockholm Syndrome, the condition in which the kidnapped begin to sympathize with their abductors.

They’d tell him, in a quiet moment before he and agent Pat Brisson were to begin hearing recruiting pitches from a handful of NHL teams including the Maple Leafs in Los Angeles, that under no circumstances should he even consider re-signing with the New York Islanders. They’d point out that he’s got the potential to become the NHL’s free-agent catch of the century; that there’ll never be another moment in his life quite like this, with the hockey world genuflecting at his feet. And as for the warm feelings Tavares no doubt harbours for the only NHL club he’s ever known — the same club that’s been essentially wasting his talents since 2009 — they’d politely inform Tavares that the phenomenon is known as Stockholm Syndrome. The only known cure is escape.

For Feschuk, loyalty in sports is “pure folly.” Pretty funny coming from a guy who writes about a team that hasn’t won a Stanley Cup in 50 years.


June 24, 2018 The 2018 NHL Entry Draft is over, and fearless leader Dom has your write-ups of all the Islanders second day picks. Meanwhile in John Tavares land, we are at DEFCON 4, people.

Here’s how we got here: We learned on Friday that Tavares and his agent Pat Brisson would announce Saturday if they would take meetings with other teams ahead of the free agency period, which begins on July 1st. During the second round of the draft, multiple sources reported that the meetings would indeed take place beginning today in Los Angeles, the location of Brisson’s home office.

That the meetings are happening isn’t a surprise. As we said previously, it’s Tavares’s right under the CBA to take them, and having waited this long, it only makes good business sense that he does so. It’s also Brisson’s job to do what’s best for his clients, and that includes making sure everyone does his due diligence.

Still, it’s newsworthy and an important, if inevitable, step in this process that’s already been excruciating for Islanders fans.

The relevant quotes from the below articles are all the same. In each, Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello says:

“I have no disappointment, I have no discouragement. I think he’s earned every right to make whatever choice he has. The most important thing is that we hope the decision is to be an Islander”

And

“There’s been a commitment from ownership, Scott Malkin, he wanted this franchise to be the best in the NHL and he gave me the authority to go out and do whatever is necessary to do that and the first decision was to get a coach. And, in my opinion, we got one of the best coaches in the NHL [Barry Trotz]. Now, what we have to do is certainly convince our player that this is the right situation for him. But he has to make that decision.”

But what is possibly surprising is the optimistic vibe the articles have in regards to Tavares re-signing with his current club.

Via Andrew Gross in Newsday:

The news on Tavares cannot be seen as a surprise after he went the whole season without signing an extension. At this point, it makes good business sense to gauge the market.

At the same time, it should do nothing to dampen the optimism generated in the negotiations since Lamoriello was hired on May 22 and the Stanley Cup-winning Trotz was hired on Thursday after he resigned from the Capitals in a salary impasse.

Via Brett Cyrgalis in the New York Post:

Tavares made his declaration about the meetings on Saturday during the second round of the draft, but Islanders brass remained optimistic Tavares is going to re-sign before reaching unrestricted free agency on July 1. New Islanders president Lou Lamoriello also made it clear he respects the fact that Tavares earned the right to see what’s out there.

Via Cyrgalis’s Post mate, Larry Brooks:

The expectation is that Tavares will re-up with the Islanders for an eight-year deal in the $100 million neighborhood, but there’s always the chance that a suitor will sweep him off his feet. Toronto, for instance, which might try to appeal to him to come home on a one-year deal for $15.9 million as the first player ever to receive a max contract, and for a team seemingly much closer to winning the Stanley Cup than the Islanders. Probably not, but at least president Brendan Shanahan and general manager Kyle Dubas will have the opportunity to make their pitch.

Via Michael Traikos, The National Post:

The Islanders are not out of the mix. If anything, they’re still the preferred choice.

This feels all too familiar. Two years ago, it was Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos who was supposedly willing to entertain offers heading into the summer free agency period. He did, with the Leafs making a generous offer to the Markham, Ont., native. And then, two days before July 1, Stamkos signed an eight-year contract worth US$68 million with the team that drafted him and which also gave him the best chance to win a Stanley Cup.

The circumstances are slightly different, but don’t be surprised if Tavares ends up going down a similar path with the Islanders. As a pending unrestricted free agent, it’s his right to see what he might fetch on the open market. It’s also his right take that offer back to the Islanders in hopes that they match it or make him an even better offer.

Traikos also says, “As Lamoriello spoke, there was no hint of worry or concern that he had just blown an opportunity to re-sign the team’s captain and franchise player. He’ll get another chance to make another pitch, he said.”

While cooking up a uniquely tiered, multi-year deal for Tavares to join the Maple Leafs, The Athletic’s James Mirtle says it might not ultimately matter:

Because Tavares is by far the top pending free agent this year, everyone in the hockey world is paying attention to these proceedings. But everyone is also saying they expect him to remain an Islander, with what’s believed to be an eight-year deal in the $11-million-a-season range on the table already.

That would mean Tavares ends up with the second highest cap hit in the NHL, trailing only Connor McDavid’s $12.5-million.

“J.T. not going anywhere,” one well-connected source texted late Saturday night.

An ESPN story by Greg Wyshynski adds Lou’s thoughts on whether or not the Islanders have done enough to retain their star player: “That’s a question you need to ask him.” The accompanying draft grades article by Wyshynski and colleague Emily Kaplan also adds the possibility that Tavares will return:

The odds are still good that Tavares remains with the Islanders, who can give him eight years on a contract and where he’s professed a desire to stay to help return the franchise to glory. But that doesn’t make this any easier for Islanders fans.

No, it does not. Trust me on this. While I do take solace in these consistent reports, as Lamoriello himself has said in regards to this situation, “Nothing is done until it’s done.”

Arthur Staple in The Athletic brings the most details on the meetings, specifically the fact that Lamoriello himself will be on hand in LA while they’re going on:

Lamoriello flew to L.A. with Pat Brisson, Tavares’ agent, and it appears that the Isles president and GM will be stationed in Southern California until Tavares has met with all the teams he and his representatives have invited to CAA’s offices. Keeping Tavares in the fold is Lamoriello’s biggest priority now that he has Barry Trotz behind the bench, so Lamoriello is clearly not letting anything get past him in his pursuit.

So which teams are on the docket? According to Pierre LeBrun, Brisson was still finalizing the guest list as of Saturday night. We might not know for sure, but everyone seems to agree that the Sharks and Maple Leafs will be two of them, with the Golden Knights a strong possibility and the Lightning a darkhorse. The Stars, might also be, but nothing has been confirmed, if it ever is. The Canadiens, who has been salivating openly about Tavares for 18 months, is an unknown.

San Jose has about $20 million in open cap space. Vegas has even more and just came off an appearance in the Stanley Cup final. Toronto is Tavares’s hometown, and Tampa employs his best friend, Steven Stamkos. But the Leafs will have a cap crunch coming up next season and the Lightning would have to move a number of contracts to fit Tavares in. Dallas GM Jim Nill is the NHL’s three time defending off season champion, and is always involved in these things.

On a post-draft 31 Thoughts podcast, Elliotte Friedman guesses Boston and Chicago might be included as well (around the 21:00 minute mark). He also says, “If you leave the Islanders out of that field, you’re making a big mistake.” Friedman believes the kids the Islanders drafted in the first round could help Tavares in two years, but Jeff Marek wonders who their goalie will be when that happens.

The Los Angeles Kings were previously believed to be a possible suitor for Tavares, but signing Ilya Kovalchuk out of the KHL effectively takes them out of the running.

At least someone’s having fun:

Again, we don’t know for sure. But just being mentioned in this scenario is an extremely significant opportunity for these hopeful clubs and their blog-manning fans.

In trying to guess how each team might approach their presentations to Tavares, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston lists some of the unique factors they could each hit on during their allotted time. On Twitter, I took issue with a few of these ideas, which seem to completely ignore comparable existing options Tavares already has with the Islanders. But in fairness to Johnston, he opens with the current scuttlebutt filtering around the league, even as word of the meetings leaked out.

Looming ominously over the proceedings is the prevailing industry thought that Tavares is merely performing his due diligence before signing an eight-year extension to stay with the New York Islanders. The face of the franchise has maintained an active dialogue with general manager Lou Lamoriello these past few weeks. He’s also a loyal guy who has seen the organization make a concerted effort this off-season to assuage concerns that they might never be in position to challenge for a Stanley Cup.

That feeling is shared by the team’s longest-serving beat writer as well.

There was also word of actual money being discussed, mainly thanks to this unsourced tweet by The Fourth Period editor, Dave Pagnotta.

But Staple says that number might not be accurate, and both he and Gross say Tavares could make $11 or $12 million a season.

Who can we say isn’t on the list? Well, one’s a no brainer, no matter how many bloggers tried to will it into existence:

Another loser we the St. Louis Blues, who seemed like a team with the need and the space for a player of Tavares’s talents. Alas, our friends at St. Louis Game Time will need to look elsewhere for a first line center.

So, like I said: DEFCON 4, which calls for increased intelligence watch, strengthened security measures and increased readiness levels. But it also means this ordeal is almost over.

As Dom put it in the stinger of his post on the meetings:

One way or another, our long encyclopedic nightmare will soon be over and we can get on with the business of the hockey team trying to return to glory.

Amen, dude.

But Steve Simmons won’t let go so easily, writing a treacly letter to Tavares in his Sunday column that’s meant to guilt him into signing somewhere else using Hall of Famers who missed out on the Cup. I wonder what team he has in mind...

Dear John Tavares,

Far be it for me to pass on any advice, but I happen to have a son your age, so I’m more than used to sticking my nose in where it doesn’t belong.

It’s about your future, John. And even more than that, it’s about you. You may not realize this but as you proceed towards free agency, there’s a little piece of every hockey fan you’re carrying with you. They have a stake of some kind in your future. It isn’t often we see greatness available on July 1.

You are the popular Toronto house of a few summers ago. If you allow it, there will be multiple bidders on your services. And maybe those bidding again.

I can’t begin to tell you where to sign but I can pass this on: These are the prime years of your career, make sure to choose a team you can contend with, almost immediately. A team that has the structure around it to build into a champion. A team that can feature you with the best linemates possible, the best power play companions, and a way to feature all it is that goes into winning.

You have lost too many games, John. Too many great seasons wasted on lousy Islanders teams. Twenty-four playoff games in nine seasons. Devante Smith-Pelly played 24 playoff games this year in Washington.

Pick up the phone. Talk to Marcel Dionne. Talk to Gil Perreault. Talk to Darryl Sittler. They were your kind of stars. Ask them how much they would want the Stanley Cup they never won. Listen to them.

Your friend, Steve

It’s been a wild ride. But the end is coming.


June 23, 2018 The Islanders ended up holding onto their two first round picks at the NHL Entry Draft, using them to take USNDP forward Oliver Wahlstrom at No. 11 and QMJHL defenseman Noah Dobson at 12. No, neither is a starting goalie (rumored target Phillip Grubauer was traded before the draft to Colorado, along with Brooks Orpik, for a second rounder. He wasn’t coming here for a variety of reasons), but both players were expected to go much higher, and the reviews for the Islanders work have been very positive.

Prior to the draft, Darren Dreger dropped this nugget that seems like it could be of significance:

So either this document can be closed this weekend, or it will continue to next week.

The guess has been for a while that Tavares will indeed listen to a few teams about what they can offer him for his services. At Islanders Point Blank, Chris Botta hints that the idea might be coming more from agent Pat Brisson than from the player himself.

There has been a sense among industry insiders that agent Pat Brisson has always wanted Tavares to at least listen to other teams. Newport Sports Management Inc., who is led by Don Meehan, made the arrangements this time a year ago for Steven Stamkos, who then decided to re-sign with Tampa Bay. Since Tavares signed his second contract with the Islanders earlier than he could have and at below-market value, Brisson may want to make sure Tavares considers all of his options before putting his name on his next deal. That’s Brisson doing his job. He’s really good at it.

That morning on Sportsnet 590, Elliotte Friedman opined on what those meetings might be like, with the possibility of the hyper humble Tavares trying to keep things on the downlow.

Via Chris Nichols at FRS Sports (scroll way down)

“And the one thing that has been said before is that he’s going to be in Los Angeles. If he does go through the recruitment week, basically what’s going to happen is some teams are going to come to him. And I’m wondering if we get as far as, ‘He’s doing this, and these are the teams he’s going to see,’ because I think there’s going to be some – from what I hear, there’s the potential that he’s going to have some distaste for constantly, ‘Oh, he’s doing this, he’s doing that,’ and having it not being accurate.

“So I think it is possible if he doesn’t sign in New York that they come out and say, ‘He’s going to be in L.A. and these are the teams he’s going to see.’

So maybe he listens, maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he tells us who he’ll listen to, maybe he doesn’t. Maybe signs, maybe be doesn’t.

On Thursday, Arthur Staple told NHL Network that he feels bringing in Lamoriello and Trotz gives the Islanders a great chance to retain Tavares.

Just don’t ask Lou Lamoriello because you’ll get nothin’, son.

I’d expect another update sometime this weekend.


June 22, 2018 A lot’s happened in the last 24 hours so listen up, Chico.

The Islanders made the rumors official and named Barry Trotz head coach on Thursday the 21st. While hiring a coach with a fresh, hot-out-of-the-oven Stanley Cup and over a thousand games coached means a ton to the franchise, the bigger concern at the moment was how it affected John Tavares’s free agency.

At first blush, the answer appears to be, “a lot.”

Arthur Staple, the Athletic:

So the Islanders have Lamoriello. They have Trotz. Do they have John Tavares, the third leg of their own Triple Crown? Signs are certainly pointing to yes, especially after Trotz and Tavares, who worked together on Canada’s World Cup team two years ago, spoke this week about the new coach’s vision for the Isles.

“John is such a big part of the team,” Trotz said. “We talked about a lot of things – the vision relayed to me from Lou, we talked about the team, areas we feel we can fix together. Areas we can look to improve upon. He’s as classy a captain as you can have. Passionate, very insightful, very intelligent. He has one goal and that’s to win.”

Tavares may still host four or five teams hoping to sign him at CAA’s offices in Los Angeles next week, but the pull of Lamoriello and Trotz appears to be strong for the captain. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him receive those handful of teams and then sign an eight-year deal with the Islanders a day or two before free agency begins.

Brett Cyrgalis, New York Post:

The total restructuring of the organization that continued with the hiring of Barry Trotz as the new head coach on Thursday could only have been thought of as fantasy a few months ago.

And if negotiations with captain John Tavares continue to progress — if the sides close what now seems like a very small gap and Tavares re-signs rather than hits free agency on July 1 — then it really will seem like the Islanders have completely turned the corner.

Lauren Theisen, Deadspin (whoa, seriously?)

But Lou Lamoriello, a Hockey Hall of Famer, and Trotz, still riding high on his championship, give the Islanders at least a sheen of respectability, and that might be enough to offset the gloomy clouds hovering above the franchise. No other team can offer the mentorship of the man who just coached Alex Ovechkin to the happiest moment of his life, and Trotz could very well be the asset that sways Tavares. But if the gambit doesn’t pay off, and Tavares goes elsewhere, the Islanders are going to be stuck with a very expensive coach doomed to yell at a bunch of abandoned sidekicks.

Andrew Gross, Newsday:

Trotz’s confidence in Lamoriello’s leadership abilities also extends to negotiations with franchise player John Tavares, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

“I felt strongly that once Lou gets with John, Lou is going to execute a plan, a long-term plan that will be very successful so we can chase the Stanley Cup and win a Stanley Cup,” Trotz said.

Trotz said the negotiations were in “good hands” and said there has been “constant contact” between Lamoriello, Tavares and Tavares’ agent, Pat Brisson.

Gross gave all of Islanders Country heart palpitations even before the hiring was completed with a pair of tweets indications that maybe the team and Tavares were close on something.

Warning if you enter the replies to these: Erection jokes lay ahead

It’s important to note that Trotz and Tavares has already spoken to one another, much like when we learned Tavares and Lou Lamoriello had been in contact before the latter was officially named GM last month. It doesn’t take a large leap to assume Trotz would not have taken the job if he didn’t know for sure (or close to it) that Tavares would still be here if he did.

Lamoriello, as per usual, isn’t tipping his hand about anything.

Not only did they bring in two guys with four Stanley Cups and a million games between them, but the Islanders actually literally moved the team and re-arranged the schedule to make Tavares happy.

The 2018-19 NHL schedule was released on Thursday as well and the Islanders have increased the number of games they’ll play at Nassau Coliseum to 20. Is that a big thing to Tavares, too? You bet.

Meanwhile in Canada, it’s important that the additional storyline continue throughout draft weekend.

Chris Johnston, Sportsnet:

Bringing in the well-respected Trotz – whom Tavares won the World Cup of Hockey with back in 2016 – is a step in the right direction for an organization trying to sign its captain before he tests the open market. The team’s ownership wants to prove to No. 91 that it is serious about taking things to the next level and committing north of $20-million to land Trotz is certainly a big departure from past practice.

Still, general manager Lou Lamoriello isn’t sure if it’ll be enough. He’s had daily conversations with Tavares and his agent, Pat Brisson of CAA Sports, but still finds himself just days from having rival teams attempt to woo his franchise cornerstone away.

Darren Dreger, on TSN’s The Insiders:

“Just ongoing talk. Clearly John Tavares has to make a decision as to whether or not the deal he has with the New York Islanders is strong enough, his belief that they can contend for a Stanley Cup sooner than later, that he avoids unrestricted free agency.

“It seems like he’s leaning into going into that interview period early next week. I expect his agent Pat Brisson and John Tavares will have multiple conversations within the next several hours.”

Dreger says (if you’re in a region that allows it to be played) that Tavares is currently on a bachelor’s retreat ahead of his wedding this summer, so, uh, maybe sitting in a boardroom watching an iMovie about how great it would be to play for the Maple Leafs isn’t in the front of his mind right now.

Pierre Lebrun, The Athletic:

And if you are Tavares, days away from the UFA speaking window opening, you’re thinking the Islanders are doing everything they can to turn the corner.

Tavares and his agent, Pat Brisson, were slated to have more discussions Thursday, according to a source, and no doubt the Trotz hire adds another wrinkle to a very difficult decision for the franchise player.

Does he still go ahead and talk to teams next week at least to satisfy his curiosity, like Steven Stamkos did two years ago, or does Tavares, who has always sounded so loyal to an Islanders franchise that perhaps didn’t always deserve it, decide the Trotz hire is the clincher and stay put without even talking to other teams?

LeBrun also put the kibosh on his own patented idea of a sign-and-trade for Tavares. Or, rather, Lamoriello put the kibosh on it for him.

As I told Mike on our fortunately-timed Islanders Anxiety podcast, I would never say Tavares returning is a slam dunk. It’s very possible, if not likely that he does meet with a few teams beginning on Sunday, just to hear what they have to say, which is going to make me a crazy person next week.

Staple says the number would be about four or five clubs, and Johnston says, “it’s notable that Tavares is due to be at Brisson’s office in Los Angeles on Monday for the start of the free-agent interview period.”

So we’re still gonna have to wait. The important thing to remember is that the Islanders hiring Trotz robbed the Leafs of a great assistant coach. Good god.

Still, some teams are still looking at adding Tavares as a free agent. The Boston Bruins aren’t a team we’ve talked about a lot, but they might be harboring some desire for the Islanders captain.

Via The Athletic’s Jimmy Murphy at Bruins Buzz:

“The Bruins really are in a great position right now,” the source said Tuesday. “I’m not saying they’re a frontrunner for Tavares right now and who knows if he even reaches free agency with the Isles signing Barry Trotz? But don’t count Don Sweeney out on anything! He’s proven already he can pull off some big deals and he’s built a solid enough foundation of young talent that he can use some them or his veteran core to land a big fish.”

Let’s go to our own Garik16 for a rebuttal:

The Vegas Golden Knights are still lurking, with their run to the Cup final and tons of cap space. But according to Dreger (via Knights on Ice) they might have their sights set on free agent Ilya Kovalchuk instead.

Yowza. That’s a lot to take in, and an incredible amount of change for one franchise over the course of a few weeks. No, Tavares hasn’t signed and he could still talk to teams about why he should sign with them.

But with Lamoriello and Trotz in tow, more games at the arena closest to his home, and a bump in the salary cap across the board (up to $79.5 million), things have definitely turned in the Islanders favor after two straight disastrous, disappointing and tumultuous seasons on the ice.


June 20,2018 I didn’t get to listen to this yesterday, but it feels worthy of inclusion.

Appearing on the More Sports Now podcast with Devils radio man Matt Loughlin, Arthur Staple says that while Tavares might listen to other teams next week, his information still points to a return to the Islanders.

Listen here. From the 8:30 mark:

My gut and all the things that I’m hearing tell me that he’s gonna listen and - and perhaps like Steven Stamkos, his good friend, from a couple of years ago - he’ll do some listening but the ultimately decide that eight more years with the Islanders is a better option, especially considering what they’ve done the last month or so.

Well, then. I like the sound of Art’s gut.

Wait, that came out wrong...

Wait. That also came out wrong...

Okay, moving on. Maybe the above scenario comes to pass, and maybe it doesn’t. Either teams are gonna try to sell him and, of course, Toronto has its perfect wet dream all planned out.

Via Terry Koshan, Sun Media:

It brings to mind what Lou Lamoriello said on locker cleanout day in April, which seems a lot longer than not quite two months ago: “The franchise is at the best state it can be in … the future is extremely bright. The foundation of this team should only get better and better because our most talented players are our young players.”

Wouldn’t it be something if the Leafs used clips of Lamoriello speaking on the club’s bright future in its promotional video for John Tavares? What else would Tavares need to hear, even as Lamoriello is now trying to convince him to stay with the New York Islanders and remain that team’s most important player?

Take a cold shower, Terry. We still have a few days to go on this.


June 19, 2018 Today started with a bang. Two bangs, actually.

The Senators traded Mike Hoffman to San Jose for forward Mikkel Boedker and a couple of prospects because… let’s just say he had to go. Anyway, the Sharks then flipped Hoffman to Florida for three draft picks, which is a way better package than they gave up for him. All before 10:00 ET.

That tidy bit of work by GM Doug Wilson clears both Boedker’s and Hoffman’s salaries off the books and might have some ramifications when it comes to the Sharks’ pursuit of John Tavares.

Via Kevin Kurz in The Athletic:

If Tavares doesn’t re-sign with the Islanders, other NHL teams are permitted to start speaking to his camp this Sunday. Tuesday’s maneuverings just add to the mounting evidence that the Sharks will be among those teams.

Assuming Tavares commands about $11 million per season, the Sharks now have more space to fit that kind of salary under the cap. It also leaves them room to re-sign [Joe] Thornton, whom Wilson indicated on Monday is willing to be flexible on his next one-year extension.

Meanwhile, over on his side of the vertical, Arthur Staple gives us an update as to where Tavares and his team are right now.

— Tavares has been in consistent contact with Lamoriello of late, as reported by my colleague Pierre LeBrun and others. It is believed that they have discussed the path forward for the Islanders rather than trading numbers; the contract is the easy part. Tavares still wants to see what moves will be made this week.

And it seems, even if [Barry] Trotz comes in as coach and Lamoriello lands a goaltender in a draft-weekend deal, that Tavares plans to get to that five-day window and listen to pitches. He may even visit another team or two — bet on the Leafs being a team he’d visit if Toronto makes a pitch. More likely that team representatives will go to CAA’s offices in Los Angeles to meet Tavares and his reps, as TSN’s Darren Dreger and others have reported.

Staple calls that scenario, “a nervous time for Islanders fans,” and, having dealt with them on Twitter longer than anyone, he would know. Another thing we don’t like is “moving parts,” which is exactly what Newsday’s Andrew Gross says is going on right now.

In a Q&A at The Athletic, Craig Custance can’t decide if Tavares should wait for Barry Trotz to join the Islanders before making a decision or if Trotz should wait until Tavares returns to join the Islanders to make a decision. Oy vey.

But that talking period looms large. It sounds likes it’s definitely happening but will include just a handful of teams, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger and confirmed by Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Midwest.

We can assume the Sharks would probably be one of those five teams, even before they cleared all that cap space. But Paul Gackle of the Mercury News says Tavares joining San Jose is probably still a longshot. Sharks radio man Dan Rusanowsky says a lot of words but leaves things up in the air.

Of course, all of Canada expects the Leafs to be involved, because you’re not allowed to fart north of the border without the Leafs being involved. Nick Kypreos was asked about it on Sportsnet’s The Good Show and expects an entire presentation from the team, if they get a chance. Steve Simmons stomps his feet and demands that Toronto GM Kyle Dubas get an audience with Tavares because gosh darnit, he has to.

Will the Los Angeles Kings be invited? We haven’t heard a ton about them, and GM Rob Blake is keeping this civil.

This is all a lot to take in, and will only become even more next week, when these meetings between Tavares and other teams can start taking place. As Brian Compton says on this week’s IslesSeat podcast (around the 35:00 mark), Tavares has the right to talk to other teams, per the CBA, and can and should exercise it.

That doesn’t mean we have to like it, and if you’re an Islanders fan, chances are you don’t. For so long, this franchise has operated as a bastard stepchild of the NHL, always making due with the scraps left over by the favored teams. Every positive thing came with a caveat, and every negative thing seemed to be magnified tenfold. I’m not nearly as confident as Brian is that, given the choice, Tavares will stay with the Islanders. Idon’t know what Lou Lamoriello has been telling Tavares during their “path forward” talks, but I hope it’s convincing.

I wish I could have taken Ryan Lambert’s advice earlier about not paying attention to this stuff.

I guess the simplest advice I can give to you for the next few weeks is: Take it easy. It was a long season and you deserve a few weeks off. Don’t make yourself miserable about hockey for once.

It’s too late for me, dude. I have a job to finish, and so does Lamoriello. I wish us both luck.


June 18, 2018 You can feel the pressure building around the Tavares decision as we approach the free agency talking period.

Will Tavares reach that period? We don’t know. When last we checked in, he and the Islanders were having daily talks, which Kevin Weekes and Dave Reid of NHL Network both say is a good sign. ESPN is already on top of things with Photoshop, grafting Tavares in a bunch of different jerseys (again) because people like pictures. Hell, some folks are already setting their teams lines with Tavares on them.

General managers are talking... but not really talking.

Wilson, of course, isn’t permitted to talk publicly about John Tavares, who may or may not re-sign with the New York Islanders. If he doesn’t, other NHL teams are permitted to start making their pitches for the top-line center in less than a week, on June 24, a day after the June 22-23 draft in Dallas.

In a perfect Sharks world, they would sign Tavares to a blockbuster contract, and also find a way to keep emotional leader Joe Thornton in the fold, and thus enter the 2018-19 season as one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup.

If Tavares does get to talk to other teams beginning on the 24th, Bob McKenzie says the Leafs are ready to pull out all the stops. And by “pull out all the stops,” we mean they’re going to use iMovie to make a little video presentation because apparently, John Tavares has never heard of the Toronto Maple Leafs and seeing them on TV is supposed to impress him.

Transcript via Chris Nichols at FRS Sports:

“I probably should hesitate to even say this, because it’ll be such a Toronto thing to say,” began McKenzie, at which point listeners’ ears perked right up. “But if John Tavares gets to free agency, and I don’t know that he will because the most recent reports – and Dregs got the ball rolling on that last week – say his focal point is on negotiating a contract with the Islanders right now. So he may do that in short order, we don’t know. We’re waiting to see on that. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Leafs put together a proposal or try to make something happen, get creative.

“I’m not saying they get him. I’m not not saying that it’s their Plan A. I’m just saying that I don’t think they would let that opportunity slide by without trying to get involved.

None of this is out of the ordinary for NHL teams and free agents, but because it’s the Leafs, it’s a big deal. Nichols reports that the majority of McKenzie’s appearance on Leafs Lunch on TSN 1050 today was about Tavares. But as you can tell from the transcript and this tweet, Uncle Bob isn’t saying anything about Tavares’s decision because he doesn’t know.

On TSN’s Insiders, Dreger reiterated that Tavares and the Islanders are talking frequently, but that nothing is a done deal. This is the first we’re hearing about a previous offer levied by former GM Garth Snow.

“The focus is, as I said then, the same now, continuing to negotiate with the New York Islanders. Now, what’s different about the negotiations is of course Lou Lamoriello is at the helm. He’s guiding the discussion and he continues to speak to Pat Brisson on a day-by-day basis. He’s actively involved with John Tavares, talking with John directly. But you have to rewind the clock here a little bit. Garth Snow tabled an offer for Tavares with an eight-year term – maximum obviously – back in February. And that wasn’t good enough. It was around $80 million. That was a significant amount back then, so there’s been progress made, but obviously if they were to a point where they were willing to agree to terms, they would do that,” Dreger said.

We don’t know what’s going to happen, but we can look at what has happened. Brian Compton has a very nice article on NHL.com asking a number of Tavares’s ex-teammates and coaches about what kind of player and person he is.

It doesn’t really reveal much about his free agency, but it speaks volumes about how much Tavares has meant to the Islanders franchise since his drafting in 2009.

”That changed my life completely,” Parenteau said of playing with Tavares. “I can retire in peace now just because of those two years.

”It’s crazy that I was 27 and he was 19, and I learned from him. [I learned] how to be a pro. I didn’t have it in me, really. Maybe that’s why I spent so much time in the minors, but I learned from him, and he learned the social part. I think we were a good combo for those two years. I was keeping him loose a little bit, and he pushed me.

”Hockey’s his life. He’s very serious, he’s very dedicated, like more than anybody I’ve played with, and I’ve played with a lot of guys, a lot of top-end prospects and elite players. He’s by far the most dedicated I’ve played with.”

Seriously, take a few minutes and read it. It’s great.

One guy Compton spoke to was Tavares’s first NHL coach, Scott Gordon. If he stays with the Islanders, who will his coach be? Well, it’s funny you should ask...


June 15, 2018 The fallout from Thursday’s news that the Islanders and Tavares are talking extension continued on Friday. After standing next to Darren Dreger when he delivered the message on TSN’s Insider Trading, The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun polled some executives who sound about ready to concede that Tavares will return to the Islanders.

LeBrun also threw in a little update of his own.

Yes, I do believe Lamoriello’s arrival at the helm of the Islanders and the steady hand that comes with that no doubt has improved the chances of Tavares staying put. And the veteran hockey man has been in constant touch with Pat Brisson, Tavares’ agent, since coming on board.

“We’ve been having ongoing dialogue with the Isles for the past three weeks on a daily basis,” Brisson told The Athletic via text message Thursday night.

LeBrun is careful to say we still don’t know which way Tavares is really leaning (and continued to say so in a fantasy roster session on TSN radio). So in case you were thinking that things were looking too good for the Islanders, don’t worry.

Same goes for Chris Botta’s take on the news over at Islanders Point Blank. While the leak tells us the sides are negotiating with Lou Lamoriello in good faith (which is good) it doesn’t mean Tavares is staying for sure (which could be bad) but it’s also much better than what Garth Snow had been doing (which is less than nothing and worse than anything anyone has ever done about anything ever).

In his weekly column at ESPN, Greg Wyshynski says, “the notion of Tavares actually going to market appears to be increasingly unlikely” while crediting the new GM and prospective arena with changing the team’s fortunes.

The hiring of Lou Lamoriello seems to have fortified that notion around the league, taking away some franchise instability that might have otherwise compelled Tavares to leave. Add in Belmont, and now you have two potential repellants off the table.

Lamoriello’s influence was the topic of conversation on Sportsnet’s Hockey Central at Noon. Not a whole lot actually gets said, but Damien Cox and Darren Millard say that dealing with a respected manager like Lamoriello makes a huge difference for a player.

At NHL Network, diminutive former goalie and longtime color analyst Darren Pang says more or less the same thing and adds that Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals’ jubilant celebration after finally getting over the hump following years of disappointment might work its way into Lamoriello’s sales pitch. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but ol’ Panger is so jazzed about the idea, you want to believe him.

We could have an answer soon, or we could not. But this was a twist I’m not sure a lot of people saw coming. Here’s hoping Lou can stick the landing.


June 14, 2018 Today started pretty normally in Tavares world with the usual selection of content that we’ve come to expect over the last two years: citizen blogs passionately writing up ways for their teams to acquire Tavares, mainstream writers sloppily writing up ways for their local teams to acquire Tavares; Sportstalk folks dancing in circles around the topic because they have to; Arthur Staple appearing on a podcast to spill the beans about what he knows; and even some teams possibly dropping out of the running altogether.

Then, just before 5 pm ET, TSN’s Darren Dreger blew the game open:

On that afternoon’s Insider Trading segment, Dreger reiterated what he said, only in video form. He also added that if negotiations don’t go smoothly, Tavares could still get to the free agent talking period, beginning on the 24th.

Dreger: Well there is a chance. No question about that. But the reality is, currently John Tavares and his agent, Pat Brisson of CAA Hockey, are focused on negotiations with the New York Islanders. Now, Lou Lamoriello has been in daily communication with Brisson and in fact he’s talked on many occasions with Tavares, offering up his vision as to how they see they build the New York Islanders into a contending team. So let’s say maybe by the weekend or early next week, the negotiations aren’t going as well as Tavares would like, well then you look at that interview period as more of a reality.

(NHL.com’s Brian Compton believes he could get to talking regardless.)

As one may expect, not only was this nugget a significant piece of news, but a positive one for the Islanders, something we haven’t seen a lot of over the last few months.

In his post here at Lighthouse Hockey, Dominik makes clear that, although the news sounds like a big break for the Islanders, it could also be the latest move in this interminable chess match.

(Honestly, the report from Dreger is just a couple of sentences, it’s likely based on info from people who want this to be out there for their own strategic reason, and the info is subject to change. We’re just posting it because you know it’s gonna be on the webz and you’re wondering where it came from. Dreger is the same insider who said mid-winter he just had a “feeling” Tavares would want to sign in Montreal.)

Still, it’s something. And combined with the recent Jon Taffer-like takeover by Lou Lamoriello that has excised the franchise of a few characters that had drawn their ire, Islanders fans aren’t going to let reasonable doubt interrupt their parade preparations.


June 12, 2018 Arthur Staple’s notebook at The Athletic gives us an update of sorts on how John Tavares might tackle the free agent talking period, which begins on June 24th. Everything’s up in the air right now, but as usual, it sounds like Tavares will keep things humble.

— As for Tavares, there’s no word yet on how the five-day contact window will work for him, though it doesn’t seem as if Pat Brisson and Tavares’ crew of reps at CAA will line up teams outside their Los Angeles offices, the way Newport Sports did for Steven Stamkos’ brief trip through the contact period two summers ago before he re-signed with the Lightning on June 30, 2016.

Rest assured, however, Tavares is going to listen. He’s come this far and it just doesn’t seem as if he would shut it all down before he hears who will be in there pitching a seven-year deal in the neighborhood of $11 million per year, or more if it truly becomes a July 1 bidding war.

Staple’s line that, “It’s long been believed that the Kings and the Leafs would be his preferred destinations if he could choose.” got some play on social media, but unless I hear Tavares say it himself, I don’t want to believe it.

On Sportsnet, Elliotte Friedman resurrects an old ghost, saying he believes Tavares is “looking for reasons” to stay with the Islanders.

Meanwhile, The Hockey News’s Matt Larkin lists the Top 5 destinations for Tavares. The Islanders are No. 1, but the list includes some real longshots like the Devils, Red Wings and Blue Jackets.

The Islanders are also No. 1 on Down Goes Brown’s list of teams facing the toughest offseasons. Hard to argue with this idea:

The job ahead: Re-sign John Tavares. That’s not the only job, but it’s the only one that matters right now. The 27-year-old centre has been the Islanders’ franchise for almost a decade, but now sits just weeks away from reaching unrestricted free agency. He’s been eligible for an extension since last summer, so the fact that the situation remains unresolved is clearly a bad sign for the Isles. Losing Tavares for nothing (or for some pittance of draft picks in a late-June trade of his rights) would be a disaster. They need to get this done.

Not on that list are the St. Louis Blues, who missed the playoffs two years after a run to the Western Conference final. They appear at a crossroads right now and while our brethren and sistren at St. Louis Gamet Time see Tavares as a key part of their offseason plans, another, newer Blues blog called The Crest on the Front offers a compelling reason why Tavares might be taking his time. It’s all about next year’s salary cap.

If John Tavares signed a new 8-year deal based on the 2016-17 cap of $75,000,000 where he earned 13.50% of the cap, his contract would be:

8-year, $81,000,000, $10,125,000 AAV, 13.50% of the cap.

But by waiting until what could be the largest single season-over-season increase in the cap, potentially to $82,000,000, his contract would be:

8-year, $88,560,000, $11,070,000 AAV, 13.50% of the cap.

Long story short, by waiting until the cap is announced John Tavares may earn a little more than $7,500,000.

Thanks to Chris Howard for sharing this around #IslesTwitter.

Normally, I have a loose threshold on the type of content I include here. A lot of other citizen bloggers have written about Tavares over the last two years, and I’ve tended to ignore them in favor of more widely-read outlets with either more newsy updates or hysterical hot takes.

But this post was well-written and reasoned and seemed like it made sense on a realistic level. Also, I want to believe this will all be over with Tavares re-signing sometime next week.


June 10, 2018 Boy, there must be something in the water out in Vancouver these days. On Sportnet 650’s The Playbook, hosts Satiar Shah and Jawn Jang ask reporter Chris Johnston repeatedly about the chances of the Canucks signing Tavares, no matter how many times Johnston (clearly hedging his bets to make sure that not only do the Islanders have a slim chance of re-signing their captain, but that any other team has a slightly-better-than-slim chance of signing him), says it ain’t happening.

You can listen to the whole thing here. Johnston says the door is still open for the Islanders to re-sign their captain, but they’re going to have to share the stage with some other teams once he gets to the talking window.

My favorite part is at the end when the group talks about Arizona defenseman and possible 2019 unrestricted free agent Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Johnston says he believes the talented, quiet blueliner will remain with the perpetually disappointing Coyotes because he likes living there and, “they’re on a better path” thanks to a bunch of prospects. The fact that A. Tavares has said repeatedly that he likes living on Long Island and B. the Islanders are, again, a few weeks from probably having the league’s Rookie of the Year apparently don’t matter. Okay. Got it.

(Update: yeah, sounds like that’s gonna happen. Not a good look for the Islanders’ last regime if the Coyotes, for god’s sake, pull that off.)

Meanwhile back east, Pittsburgh columnist Jason Mackey advises you to not envision a deadly center line in Pittsburgh with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Tavares down the middle.

Believe the Penguins are going to make a run at UFA-to-be John Tavares at your own peril.

With Lou Lamoriello now in charge of the Islanders, it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising that Lamoriello convinces Tavares to stay. Moreover, it’s almost impossible to see the Penguins shoehorning one of the league’s best centers in under the cap.

You’ve convinced me, Jason.

But it’s in Philadelphia where we find the rarest beast of all: an actually good article about a team’s ability and chances of signing Tavares using all of the most up-to-date information about where his situation currently stands.

Broad Street Hockey has long been one of the very best hockey blogs on SB Nation or anywhere else. They’ve specialized in detailed, smart analysis of the Flyers forever and writer Kurt (full disclosure: a Twitter friend of mine), does a great job laying out what’s happened so far and what it means to Philly’s chances of landing Tavares.

So I guess the answer here is this: it’s clearly possible that Tavares is going to leave the Islanders. This wouldn’t have dragged out this long if his return was a sure thing, and the Isles wouldn’t be pushing this hard at this point to get it done if they were that confident that it would. There’s enough of a funny smell here that, if we’re not calling the fire department, we should at least call the local non-emergency number.

But, with all of that said: there’s no information out there suggesting that the Isles are out of the running, franchise players tend to stay with their teams, and as we saw with Stamkos a couple of years ago, these things can get resolved last-minute. Of all of the possible timelines in front of us, I don’t know if I’d guess that a majority of them have Tavares returning to Brooklyn, but at least a plurality of them probably do, at least until we get some significant information suggesting otherwise.

Seriously, it’s good, which isn’t something I’ve said about too many entries here over the last two seasons.

And I’m not just saying that because I like Kurt and he linked to all three volumes of this Encyclopedia and concluded that Tavares and the Flyers are most likely not a match. If a lot more articles had been like this, I might be slightly further away from the complete mental breakdown I feel I’m close to. I could throw my friend Josh Liles’s article about Tavares for Dallas Sports Day in the same boat.


June 10, 2018 LOL WUT

(Emphasis mine. From Sportsnet’s Iain MacIntyre)

POSSIBLE OFF-SEASON TARGETS

John Tavares, C – Why not dream big? The Sedins’ retirement created $14 million in cap space for Canucks and it might take most of that (times seven years) to get Tavares. The best free agent available probably will re-sign with Lou Lamoriello’s New York Islanders, and if he doesn’t, he is expected to go somewhere where he has a chance to win a Stanley Cup soon. But the Canucks can offer him lots of money, the captaincy and excellent young forwards to help groom. Tavares is an outlier UFA, a 27-year-old still young enough to fit Vancouver’s rebuild and be in his prime when the team makes it back to the playoffs.

As of today, CapFriendly has the Islanders having over $28 million in free cap space this offseason, most in the NHL. Tavares has been the Islanders captain since 2015. And Mathew Barzal is about two weeks from being named the Calder Trophy winner.

This entire paraphrase is a Blue Dynamite-induced hallucination.

But sure. Dream big.


June 8, 2018 A few final links from a busy week for the Islanders (and, the Washington Capitals. Congrats to our SBN brothers and sisters at Japers Rink on their franchise’s first Stanley Cup).

A day before the clincher, Elliotte Friedman and special guest David Amber discussed Tavares on this week’s 31 Thoughts podcast. Everything was totally fine until Amber asked, “Make the case for Tavares to re-sign there,” at which point it kinda went off the rails and into Canadian sportstalk radio heavy breathing. Aside from a cursory “Well, there’s a loyalty factor there” from Friedman that was quickly dismissed, the segment was a lot of dreaming about the best places for Tavares to play, none of which were the team he’s made his home playing with. The conversation starts around the 24:40 mark.

I don’t expect journalists or hosts to care that much about the Islanders anyway (especially Canadian ones), but I kind of expected more from two hard working guys who always appear knowledgeable about what’s going on around the entire league. I don’t know. Maybe this end game is getting to me.

More entertaining was Arthur Staple’s appearance on Craig Custance’s Full 60 podcast at The Athletic. Staple talks about the Islanders’ past, present and future, including those of Lou Lamoriello, Garth Snow and Doug Weight and Tavares. Custance asks good questions and also mentions that he heard from a source that if anyone is capable of convincing someone of signing a contract, it’s Lou.

The entire show is worth a listen, not just for the Islanders stuff but to hear Staple’s tales of being a music writer in the early 90’s. Anyway, here’s Wonderwall.

Coming off an incredible run and loss in the Stanley Cup Final, will the Vegas Golden Knights use all that cap space to pick up some marquee free agents? Bob McKenzie thinks so.

Via Chris Nichols at FRS Sports:

“I’ve got a funny feeling they’re going to be big game hunting,” noted Bob McKenzie during a Friday morning radio hit on Edmonton’s TSN 1260. “I think they’re going to be using their dollars, their cap space and buoyed by the year they had to get in on all of the big boys.

“So John Tavares, free agent: ‘Let’s talk to him.’

“John Carlson, free agent: ‘Let’s talk to him.’

“Ottawa going to trade Erik Karlsson: ‘Let’s talk to them.’

But we’ll tie things up with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeff “Gordo” Gordon, who posts just a two entry Q&A about Tavares and the Blues that hits every single note it possibly could. It’s a masterpiece of economy and a treasure trove of cliches, all wrapped in one hilarious Fun-Sized package.

Here is the article in its entirety:

QUESTION: Looks like a housecleaning with the Islanders, as Lou Lamoriello takes control. Does this impact the possibility of John Tavares coming to the Blues? Percentage chance that Tavares will wear The Note?

GORDO: Obviously the Islanders are way more attractive to Tavares with Lamoriello in charge. Garth Snow was an awful GM. Tavares liked coach Doug Weight well enough, but it was clear Weight had no idea how to win in today’s NHL.

So the chances to Tavares coming here have to be less than 5 percent.

Follow-up: Would the Blues entertain dangling Tarasenko in a Tavares trade? The Tarasenko-led Blues just doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Blues haven’t looked like a contender in a few years.

GORDO: So, how many titles has Tavares led the Islanders to?

I haven’t laughed out loud at an entry in this thing in a long time, but I did after reading this. Thanks, Gordo.


June 6, 2018 The Score certainly misses Justin Bourne and company. A fellow named Josh Wegman has decided that Lou Lamoriello must rebuild the Islanders, and let John Tavares walk for absolutely nothing.

As much as signing John Tavares to a long-term contract extension would be a huge win for the New York Islanders, it’s time to start being realistic. The best free agent to hit the open market in recent memory is highly unlikely to return to an organization that defines mediocrity and instability.

This seems to be the reason why Lou was brought aboard, and why he’s looking for a new head coach - to make the team stable and show a commitment to winning. But no matter, the Johnny ABS Train is off and rolling, and your conductor spends the rest of the article listing all the ways the Isles need to “avoid making the same mistakes Snow made,” while simultaneously advocating for the Isles to make the biggest mistake of the decade in letting their captain jump ship.

Mind you, it’s nice to have a backup plan in case the full-court press doesn’t work out... but the man is basically saying not to try at all, just tear it down. He wants Lou to deal Eberle and Lee as well. And he also says a lot of contradictory things, such as “prioritize youth” even though “the pipeline isn’t exactly ripening with talent,” and that Garth Snow didn’t “prioritze goal prevention” even though he spent an entire draft on defenseman, has about ten of them in minors or juniors, and has acquired (in some form or fashion) TWENTY different goaltenders during his 11-year tenure as GM. (And that doesn’t count the eternal contract given to Rick DiPietro, nor the selection of the immortal Cody Rosen.)

Mr. Wegman also wants you to know that Garth is bad at the draft, and in making his case he covers the Isles’ first selection in years 2010-2014, conveniently forgetting that drafts last seven rounds, and even in the years he chose, he ignores Brock Nelson and Josh Ho-Sang as fellow first-rounders. I mean, Garth wasn’t the best at the draft but the case is already dark enough without deciding to try to make it worse than it actually was.

Couple of listens from a day in which Toronto was abuzz about Brooklyn:

  • On Sportsnet’s Starting Lineup morning show, The Star’s Damian Cox makes up some nonsense about Tavares saying he was more loyal to Doug Weight and Garth Snow than to the organization (about one minute in), which is just crazy pants. He makes some okay points later but maybe he was just coming off an acid trip earlier.
  • On Hockey Central at Noon, Darren Millard and Gord Stelleck asked some deep philosophical questions about how the Islanders’ moves affect the Leafs (of course) and answered them with some word salad with “Tavares,” “Winning” and other buzzwords thrown in there.
  • A suntanned Elliotte Friedman talked to NHL Network about Tavares and said he thinks there’s a chance he stays, which reads worse than it sounds when you hear him say it.
  • Finally, Lou Lamoriello himself called into Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown and John Shannon and had a very genial, friendly conversation about his busy day yesterday, including why he fired Weight (“I have my reasons why. The interaction that I had with Doug, he knows why.”) and if he thinks he can sign Tavares before July 1st (“No Comment.”)

That “No Comment” was probably more about Lamoriello’s longstanding policy of keeping conversations with players private more than anything. But it just sits there like a cinder block afterwards.


June 5, 2018 When Lou Lamoriello was hired as the Islanders president of hockey operations, it was about a lot more than just John Tavares. How much more? Well, today we found out.

Lamoriello has done what some of us thought could never be done, relieving GM Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight of their duties and re-assigning them elsewhere in the organization. It is a huge day in the direction of the franchise, but the immediate question on everyone’s mind (well, almost everyone’s mind) is how will these decisions affect the team’s ability to sign Tavares?

A lot has already been written about this today, along with recaps about what was said at an afternoon conference call and analyzing the much needed culture change that’s finally come to the organization.

Arthur Staple, The Athletic:

For years, the Islanders operated with a small budget and creative thinking. There were no splashy hires at coach, no big-name advisors brought in to a tiny staff. Lamoriello’s hiring hinted that those days were over; Tuesday’s firings cemented that thought, and now anything and everything is on the table for a team that needed a kick in the pants.

John Tavares surely knows that. There may be mixed emotions for him in seeing Snow and Weight removed from their duties — the Islanders’ announcement on Tuesday stated that both will stay in the organization and Lamoriello said “I feel they can be valuable, picking their brain, asking their opinion in certain areas” going forward — but Tavares is reportedly “fine” with the moves, according to a league source.

Mark Herrmann, Newsday:

With Lamoriello calling the shots, there was no room for Snow. With Snow gone, there was no place for Weight. The Islanders wisely got over the fear that Tavares would be offended by those moves.

Sure, the player was close to Weight. But Tavares had played just as hard (and often better) for Jack Capuano. If the star really were so committed to the general manager who drafted him and the teammate-turned-coach who mentored him, he would have signed long ago. He didn’t. He does not want to end up like Don Mattingly, spinning his wheels loyally and patiently for one organization without ever having a real sniff of a championship.

Brian Compton, NHL.com:

It is indeed a new day for New York, which has won one playoff series in 25 years, a six-game victory against the Florida Panthers in 2016. That lack of success could be a reason why Tavares, the Islanders captain, has yet to re-sign, though Lamoriello said the moves Tuesday had nothing to do with it.

Lamoriello has been in daily contact with Tavares’ agent, Pat Brisson, according to The Athletic.

”That certainly has not and did not enter into any of the decisions that are made,” Lamoriello said.

Chris Johnston, Sportsnet:

The real wild card in all of this is Tavares, who has the potential to become the NHL’s first blue-ribbon unrestricted free agent in a decade but has maintained a strong line of communication with the Islanders since the season ended.

He could virtually have his pick of the league if he wanted to. Money and term aren’t likely to be a serious sticking point in New York or anywhere else. But the 27-year-old centre knows his legacy will be tied to championships and needs to be comfortable that this next contract is signed with an organization where the Stanley Cup is the sole focus.

It sure sounds like Lamoriello is trying to dramatically reposition the Islanders in that light. He intends to impose structure and change the way the entire organization operates.

But the HOTTEST TAEKS seem break into two camps:

And

Which stance turns out to be correct remains to be seen. For Brady, a sportstalk radio personality in... [checks notes] Toronto, it pays to say that Tavares is ready to move on. I don’t know who his sources are, but as the person that’s been buried under several tons of jibber-jabber about this topic since 2016, I can say that it’s hard for me to reconcile the idea that the guy who we keep hearing is a loyal, practical, professional hockey machine who’s focused only on winning would also be the kind of guy who would refuse to sign a contract extension because his old landlord was demoted.

On NHL Network, former Devil Ken Daneyko says that if Tavares is truly the no-nonsense type that wants to win, he may have found a kinship with Lamoriello, despite his close relationship with Doug Weight.

And on Sportsnet’s Tim and Sid Show, John Shannon says, “if there’s anyone who can convince John Tavares to sign with the Islanders, it’s Lou Lamoriello,” although he, like Pierre McGuire, also has his arena timeline backwards.

Meanwhile in Montreal, Gazette columnist Pat Hickey seems ready to throw in the Habs’ Tavares towel.

While Tuesday’s developments are welcome news to the long suffering Islanders fans, they are a blow to fans in Montreal, Toronto, San Jose and other teams hoping to add the all-star centre.

What Tavares really thinks will be known in due time. Until then, today’s actions will prove to be whatever catalyst you think it will be. Hooray! Everybody wins...

...except anyone who spent $5 on this year’s Hockey News Free Agency Preview Special Edition, which is now comically out-of-date. Sorry, friend.


June 1, 2018 We are officially one month until John Tavares can become a free agent. No, I didn’t think we’d be here. But, like it or not, we’re in the final stretch now.

On a day off during the Stanley Cup final, TSN provided two updates on the Tavares situation. The first was from Bob McKenzie, who appeared on the Leafs Lunch radio staple to say that while the Islanders are still very much in the thick of things, Tavares could still hit the free agency wooing period without a contract extension.

Transcription via Chris Nichols at FRS Sports:

“If I had to guess – and right now it’s only a guess – I would say that Tavares is more likely than not to get to the free agent talking period the week before, and that’s not closing the door by any stretch of the imagination on the New York Islanders.

...

“And as we’ve talked about before, I’m sure that there are probably locations that John Tavares has targeted that at face value might not make sense because of cap considerations or depth at center or what have you, but you get to the shopping period and you can talk to those teams and find out if there’s anything they might do to manipulate things to allow for that possibility, if he’s interested in going to some of them, teams that are right on the verge of contending or winning a Stanley Cup.

“So I think it’s pretty much a blank slate and the NHL is John Tavares’ oyster right now.”

Later, McKenzie was on an Insider Trading panel in which Darren Dreger reiterated that Lou Lamoriello and Pat Brisson are in “near daily” communication. Dreger and host James Duthie also tied Tavares to rumors about Ilya Kovalchuk perhaps returning from the KHL to re-join his former Devils GM Lou Lamoriello in Brooklyn... but only if Tavares was already back in the fold.

Things are getting very complicated. And they’ll probably continue to do so for the next 30 days, give or take.


May 31, 2018 Not content with sitting on the sidelines while every other team queues up for a shot at Tavares, a Bruins fan asks Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek if Boston could bid for his services this summer. Friedman says that’s probably unlikely (starting around 36:40) but that teams are wondering right now if they’ll get, “a seat at the table” when Tavares can listen to suitors. Friedman also says Chicago could be looking at taking a run at Tavares as a way for them to get back into the playoffs after a year out.

Meanwhile, Darren Dreger brought up on Vancouver’s TSN 1040 the possibility of Vegas looking at all that copious cap space they’ll have (and a run to the Cup final) as a way to entice Tavares and other All Stars to Nevada.

I keep hearing more and more, if John Tavares truly enters the market, why wouldn’t Vegas be on John Tavares’ short list?” Dreger said. “It makes so much sense and look, it doesn’t matter to me what the Ottawa Senators say and have said since the trade deadline, I know that Vegas and the Senators were in deep on an Erik Karlsson trade negotiation, pretty much right up to the wire. Unless there’s too much negativity or bad blood from that experience, why wouldn’t the Vegas Golden Knights re-visit that possibility.

Could the Islanders sign free agent winger Ilya Kovalchuk as a way to entice Tavares to stay? Matt Larkin of The Hockey News doesn’t think so (and for what it’s worth, I agree), although the connection between the former Devils star and the man who signed him, Lou Lamoriello, leaves the door open for a reunion.

As for Tavares’s current actual teammates, they can’t say for sure what’s going to happen, but hiring the hair-averse Lamoriello surely won’t hurt.

Via Arthur Staple in The Athletic:

“I can’t speak to what’s going on in John’s head, but like I’ve said for the last year and a half, Johnny enjoys being here, he enjoys being an Islander,” Clutterbuck said. “He wants to win and this move probably makes him feel like something different is being done to get that accomplished. It makes it a tougher decision for him to leave, I think, because Lou has a track record of getting things done and John admires that and I’m sure he would want to have Lou in his corner. I don’t know which way he’s leaning, but hopefully for our sake, it makes him want to stay.”

Finally, TSN’s Frank Seravalli reports, in an article about this summer’s three horse free agency race, that Lamoriello and Tavares’s agent Pat Brisson have become frequent phone friends, even as it appears the player will listen to teams starting at the end of June.

Lou Lamoriello’s arrival on Long Island, coupled with his clandestine meeting with Tavares before the announcement of his hiring as New York’s president of hockey operations, has renewed speculation about J.T.’s interest in staying with the Islanders.

It’s clear that locking up Tavares is Lamoriello’s first, second and third priority. Lamoriello and Tavares’ agent, Pat Brisson of CAA Sports, have been in near daily contact since Lamoriello took over on May 22.

That’s great and all, but in posting that tidbit right here at Lighthouse Hockey, Dominik gets right to the heart of why Tavares reaching the suitor period is scary for Islanders fans.

It’s an eventuality Lou will try to keep from happening, because once June 24 arrives, things can go awry and all Frans Nielsen can break loose.

Yeah, no. We’re still not over it.


May 28, 2018. Hm. Where to begin? Let’s start right were we left off last entry in San Jose, where our friends at Fear the Fin think the signing of Evander Kane makes the Sharks even more inclined to add John Tavares in a win-now move.

Kane’s signing ensures that San Jose will stay competitive for the foreseeable future, and if it does help lure in Tavares, it would absolutely be worth it for the on-ice jolt it would provide to the franchise.

At The Athletic, writer Ian Tulloch spends a few thousand words telling us that John Tavares is a very good NHL player who would make the Toronto Maple Leafs (of course) an even better team than they are now. This is what my subscription pays for, so I blame myself for this.

What about the Islanders? Well, Larry “Brooksie, Baby” Brooks tells us that the meeting between Lou Lamoriello and Tavares before the former was even named the team’s President of Hockey Operations was the brainchild of Islanders ownership, something I’m pretty sure we already knew but alrighty then.

It is believed that neither Islanders’ then-president and apparently still-GM Garth Snow nor the Maple Leafs’ president Brendan Shanahan was aware of the agreement. In fact, we’re further told that Snow and coach Doug Weight were kept out of the loop regarding ownership’s talks with Lamoriello while the two men were scouting at the World Championships in Denmark.

That should make for some fun meetings...

The relevant question remains, will Lamoriello’s hiring even help the team retain Tavares? Former Islander Ray Ferraro says not necessarily, with arena stability being the No. 1 item the Islanders need to square away.

Read an LHH translation of the Pulp Hockey Podcast discussion by our own Dominik right over here.

But from the “Wait What?” file, we have the Toronto Sun’s resident pimple Steve Simmons, of all people, saying the Tavares “sweepstakes” might not even happen because there’s a good chance he simply re-signs before July 1st. WTF?

The Tavares camp is not doing the regular free agent thing yet right now – telling everyone and anyone they will be available in just over a month from now. The word being used is “if” as in “if we’re available.”

If they have a process to deal with offers and work with the Islanders, they are certainly not sharing that information. And new Islanders boss Lou Lamoriello changes the landscape in two ways, bringing credibility to the gas fire that has been this franchise and bringing a professional silence to any kind of negotiation that will take place.

This is the only time I have ever read Simmons and hoped he was correct. I am as confused and disgusted as all of you are.


May 25, 2018 Lou Lamoriello brings a lot of gravitas with him to the Islander offices, and Elliotte Friedman thinks that his addition has possibly turned the tide in how John Tavares sees the team.

From this week’s 31 Thoughts (which was also echoed on this week’s podcast):

6. The New York Islanders have begun their full-court press of John Tavares. As we now know, Lou Lamoriello met with Tavares last Wednesday in New York City. It says to me that the Islanders were worried Tavares was going to leave and needed a new approach to get back in the game. No guarantees, but he is definitely listening. Getting anything out of Lamoriello is like trying to rob an impenetrable safe, but word is that the team will take a run at Ilya Kovalchuk and has let it be known it will upgrade in goal.

(Side Note: Do not complain to Lou Lamoriello about irritating emails. See Thought No. 29.)

Friedman continued that line of thinking in an appearance on NHL Network. Transcription by Chris Nichols at FRS Sports.

“I think one of the reasons the New York Islanders went to this is because – and this is my opinion – they believed that John Tavares was leaning toward leaving. And so they said, ‘Okay, we’ve got to make a change and we’ve got to try something new.’

“And I think they’re back in the game. I’m not guaranteeing anything, but I think they’re back in the game. And I do believe the press is on from the Islanders to try and get this closed. I don’t know if it will happen, but I think they’re making a real serious effort. I think they’re pushing hard.

“Somewhere around all of this lurks the potential signing of an Ilya Kovalchuk. I believe they’ve told Tavares that they will upgrade at the goaltending position. But I think all of that is part of their plan to re-sign him. Again, I don’t know if it’s going to work, but I think they’re going to go out and they are going to make a very serious push that’s already underway to try to get him to re-sign.”

Whether the Islanders were in or out of “the game” at all, we have no idea. We do know from the previous 64,000 words of this encyclopedia that the Islanders have been extraordinarily hands-off in dealing with Tavares’s contract throughout the last two years. He said he wanted to wait and see and, boy, did they let him. Outside of talks between co-owner Scott Malkin and agent Pat Brisson, no actual negotiations have taken place (that we know of) over this entire time. With Lamoriello on board, things are going to amp up after a long time of sitting idle. Let’s hope the strategy doesn’t backfire (or hasn’t already).

Speaking of strategy, some are questioning if GM Doug Wilson’s decision to sign Evander Kane to a seven-year, $7 million deal takes them out of the running to sign Tavares this summer. According to Wilson, via TSN, it does not.

While not speaking on Tavares directly, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said he believes the team will have the money to make more moves this off-season.

“We still have ample cap space,” Wilson said. “We still have some players, our own players that I have some negotiations to do with. We’ll still have cap space after that.”

Okay, then. As you were.


May 23, 2018 With the official announcement that Lou Lamoriello is now the Islanders president of hockey operations, the first two questions on most people’s minds were A. How does this affect Garth Snow? and B. How does this affect John Tavares?

We can’t answer either question right now. In his introductory conference call, Lamoriello was his usual tight-lipped self, saying he has “no preconceived notions” about any of the current front office staff and will be evaluating the set-up soon, while also (very politically) not confirming or denying that he’s already talked with Tavares, even though we already know he talked to Tavares.

On the conference call, Lamoriello had (obviously) some good things to say about the man who is currently the captain of his team:

“Everyone in the National Hockey League knows about John Tavares. He’s one of the elite players, a gentleman both on and off the ice. He’s a quality individual as well as a quality player. I don’t know any better way of describing him.”

Let’s work our way around the boards on this topic. In his look at the Islanders’ new dawn, Arthur Staple reports that even the team’s current management didn’t know the Lou-John meeting had taken place, which is a little weird.

Snow and Weight, according to a league source, were unaware that Lamoriello was meeting with Tavares while they were both attending the World Championships. They may certainly have been aware that Lamoriello and Malkin were discussing a role and both those longtime players and executives were also well aware that when Lamoriello takes a job, he’s not taking a back seat to anyone. So Tuesday’s announcement did not come as a shock, given all the chatter beforehand.

At Newsday, Andrew Gross says a source told him that the meeting went well, according to Tavares himself:

A league source told Newsday on Tuesday that the Islanders’ franchise player, captain and, most critically, impending unrestricted free agent on July 1, viewed Lamoriello being brought aboard as the president of hockey operations with full autonomy over decisions as a positive step toward Tavares’ stated goal of playing for a winner.

...

The league source added there was a “convergence there” between Lamoriello’s objective and Tavares’ desire.

Over on the Canadian airwaves, Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger guessed as to what was said and how Tavares might be viewing the Islanders today as opposed to when the season ended (Both transcriptions via Chris Nichols at FRS Sports).

McKenzie on TSN 1040 in Vancouver:

“I think there’s part of him that’s absolutely predisposed to want to stay with the Islanders. But he needs to see more from the Islanders in terms of what reasons there would be to stay because the year didn’t go the way it should have. They were trending in the wrong direction. So what moves and what changes and what things are going to happen here in the relative short term that would make him feel comfortable to re-up for multiple years and still give himself a chance to contend for the Stanley Cup.

Dreger on TSN 1050 in Toronto:

“It’s different today. I agree with that,” said Dreger. “And for me 25 percent without Lou Lamoriello is high. If it’s not Lou Lamoriello, maybe it’s someone else. Someone to oversee the hockey operations department. Lou was front of mind because we’ve been speculating on the likelihood of him joining the Islanders for quite some time now.

“I think this pushes the possibility, the percentage of Tavares staying with the Islanders, to at least 50-50 – to at least 50-50. Because there’d be a healthy amount of respect from John Tavares to Lou Lamoriello.

Then there were the opinion pieces. Mark Herrmann sees the Lamoriello hire as a key reason Tavares will stay:

Hiring Lamoriello was a great message Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky sent to the fans, essentially saying that they are tired, too. They want a plan, they want direction. Personally, I would be surprised if John Tavares does not stay for the new administration. But if he leaves, so be it. The president will figure something out.

While Damien Cox says hiring the 75-year-old Lamoriello is a sign the Islanders are ready to grow up:

Whether that old-fashioned hockey approach appeals to Tavares, well, we’ll find out July 1, unless the Islanders can find a way to get his name on a contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Until now, all Tavares has known as an Islander is an organization that has missed the playoffs six of the nine seasons he’s been there and shuffled from Uniondale to Brooklyn and is still looking for a new home.

Down Goes Brown probably picked a bad day to run his John Tavares sweepstakes power rankings, but the upheaval in the front office probably didn’t change his final conclusion all that much (Yes, I’m spoiling the ending. Still, it’s a fun read, even if you’re suffering from Tavares fatigue like I am)

1. New York Islanders: The simplest answer is usually the right one, and while it wouldn’t pack much drama, the Islanders are still the safe choice here. They still own a six-week head start on the rest of the league, and the fact remains no true superstar has made it to July 1 in a decade. The bet here is that he ultimately decides to stick with the only team he’s ever known.

So, everything’s good, right? We’re done here? HA!

Easily the funniest report from yesterday came from Elliotte Friedman, who said that some teams are hella pissed that Tavares and Lamoriello were allowed to speak with one another in an “introductory meeting” before his hiring was made official.

Don’t drink while you read this because you may soak your device with a Danny Thomas-style spit take. Transcription via Nichols:

“...some other GMs who reached out like, ‘Are you freaking kidding me?’ They are mad. Especially some of the other teams that really wanted to chase Tavares. They are so angry. They’re like, ‘There’s no other guy in the world who would get away with this.’ “

“But some people just laugh and they know, we’ve always known there’s a set of rules for Lou Lamoriello, and there’s a set of rules for everybody else,” chuckled Friedman. “I asked the league, I said is there a problem here, and I was told no. But I’ll tell you, some of those other teams are just going nuts.

Hmmm. Let’s see. I wonder who might be that mad about this that they would tell one of the most listened-to reporters in all of hockey?

Could it be... MARC BERGEVIN of the MONTREAL CANADIENS, who have been beating the bushes telling every man, woman, child, animal and plant across Canada that they plan on signing Tavares this summer? Obviously, I don’t know for sure.

But, come on! There’s no way it’s not him. I know it, you know, and Darren Dreger knows it, as he basically told TSN radio 690 in Montreal on Tuesday:

“It seems likely that the Habs dream is over and I don’t know that it had ever started outside of inside the market,”

Dreger also said that Lamoriello’s presence bumps the chances of Tavares staying back up to 50/50.

How about in San Jose? The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz, who’s functioned as a sort of al-Shark-zeera for the team for years, started the day writing about how the Sharks could and should handle Tavares’s free agency...

If Tavares reaches free agency, the Sharks and general manager Doug Wilson are in a position to contend for his services, and will be widely expected to do so. If they can land him, it would be a franchise-altering move that would put them in a position to immediately compete for a Stanley Cup, while injecting some much-needed enthusiasm into the community and fan base.

...and ended it discussing a reported seven-year, $7 million per season deal the team might have in place with winger Evander Kane, a move that doesn’t necessarily take them out of the running for Tavares, but one that also doesn’t exactly signal a team looking to bring in a another guy for an additional (possible) $10 million a year.

While Kane’s reported contract is significant, the Sharks should still enter the free agent courting period next month with the ability to add. John Tavares, if he doesn’t re-sign with the Islanders, could still be a possibility, for example. There are also decisions to be made on other pending unrestricted free agents like Thornton and, to a much lesser extent, Eric Fehr.

And that was just day one. On the conference call, Lamoriello used one of his patented lines about using all the time you have, but he also admitted having a short window to get things in order before the draft at the end of June. Tavares can be a free agent starting on July 1st, but can speak with other teams a week before that.

So as much as Lou wants to move at his own pace, there are several pots already on the stove that need tending. And the main course is almost ready.


May 21 and 22nd, 2018 I allow myself one “Well, that escalated quickly” in each volume of this encyclopedia. I’m using that card right now and saying, “Well, that escalated quickly.”

This morning, it was business as usual around the Islanders. In his annual Off-Season Game Plan series, TSN’s Scott Cullen examined an Islanders team potentially without John Tavares next season and the outlook was... not great.

Then this afternoon, Arthur Staple first reported in The Athletic that Lou Lamoriello is mere days away from fully taking over the Islanders hockey operations. That news isn’t surprising given how much smoke there’s been around that story recently.

What was surprising was the revelation that Lamoriello has already spoken to Tavares, before he’s even announced as either leaving the Maple Leafs or having whatever job he’ll eventually have with the Islanders.

The meeting with Tavares last week was a clear sign that Islanders co-owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky are still heavily invested in keeping their star and captain. Putting Lamoriello, a three-time Stanley Cup winner during his historic tenure with the Devils, at the top of the front office adds a level of credibility that can only help the team’s chances of retaining Tavares, who has been craving that sort of respectability for the organization.

This is all highly unusual. So unusual that intrepid Elliotte Friedman checked in with the NHL to see if any tampering charges were forthcoming and the answer, apparently, was “nah.”

In the Sportsnet video above, Nick Kypreos chimed in to say he heard that the discussion between Tavares and Lamoriello was a good one, but that he’s still unsure if it helps the Islanders’ chances in their “uphill battle” to re-sign their captain beyond 50/50. It might depend on what changes the team makes before July 1st.

Here’s Uncle Bob:

The news spread like wildfire across social media for a while, with opinions ranging from jubilation to suspicion to confusion to disappointment to laughter. So, basically the usual on Hockey Twitter.

In a follow-up report at the New York Post, Brett Cyrgalis says the Islanders will at least know who will run their draft, which will also impact how the Tavares negotiations go. That “who” will be Lou.

The first order of business for Lamoriello will be to try to sign captain John Tavares, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1. Lamoriello reportedly met with Tavares recently, and that is surely a good thing for those who hope Tavares decides to stay. Tavares, who will turn 28 in September, seemed destined to at least reach the June 25-30 free-agent courting period. But if Tavares liked what Lamoriello had to say, he might be inclined to sign sooner.

Either way, at least the organization now knows who is going to be in charge at the draft on June 22. With two picks in each of the first two rounds and a handful of needs on the current roster, the draft is a crucial time for the Islanders if they want to revamp and stay competitive in the Metropolitan Division.

Cyrgalis’ Post colleague Larry B. “Brooksie” Brooks says that Lamoriello will infuse the Islanders with a trait they haven’t had in a while: assertiveness.

Other than instituting an era of accountability to the franchise that for way too long has been permitted to operate under an umbrella of rationalizations and excuse-mongering, this is what you can expect from the incoming regime: An end to hoarding draft picks and draft selections while continually moving the goal posts and adjusting expectations to a future that was always pushed just out of reach by Snow.

In New Jersey, Lamoriello never hesitated dealing packages of prospects and picks for upper-echelon veterans to fill holes on the Cup-contending Devils. He has a history as a go-for-it chief executive, which just may be the most important piece of his résumé in attempting to convince impending free agent John Tavares that the time is finally now on the Island.

Once the dust settled (for now), LHH’s own Dom looked at how Lamoriello handled another high profile free agency situation when his Devils needed to re-sign winger Ilya Kovalchuk or lose him to the KHL, and how that pertains to today.

Wait, this isn’t about the cap though — just like ::smirk:: Kovalchuk’s camp said it was never about the money. This is about how Lamoriello approaches a big signing like this. Because some of the descriptions of Kovalchuk’s decision-making process sound eerily similar to what we infer of Tavares today.

And so here we are: May 22nd, 2018, Lou Lamoriello is named President of Hockey Operations of the New York Islanders.


May 20, 2018 Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post says that Islanders fan anxiety will increase to an “all out tizzy” the longer he goes without a contract extension. That tells me that Cyrgalis has never seen this encyclopedia which, to me, reads like a man documenting his own sports-induced mental breakdown in real time. Of course, that could be because that man is me, so I might be biased.

The article itself is more of a reminder than news, although we do find out that Tavares’s wedding will take place this August. I would check out where the venue is, but I’m afraid it might lead to more speculation. Let’s hope it’s happening in Bermuda or something.

Meanwhile a Flyers fan asks Dave Isaac of the Courier Post if his team will take a run at “Jonathan Tavares” this offseason. I don’t know who this “Jonathan Tavares” is that keeps popping up from time to time, but Isaac says JOHN TAVARES is unlikely to come to Philadelphia.

@MNaylor15: Any chance of the Flyers going after Jonathan Tavares this off season? #FlyersMailbag

Nope. I can’t see it.

Tavares, if he decides to leave the New York Islanders in free agency, will demand a king’s ransom. The Flyers have the space, but they also have prospects at center coming between Morgan Frost, Mike Vecchione, Mikhail Vorobyev and perhaps German Rubtsov. Tavares is a special talent and a gamechanger, but the Flyers have a lot of other options in the middle of the ice so I can’t see them paying top dollar there.


May 17, 2018 Two of the most listened-to hockey podcasts in the land both discussed John Tavares today, although neither offered any concrete information about his future. Or did they?

After discussing the (apparently very real) possibility of the Islanders adding Lou Lamoriello to their front office, Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman also answered a 31 Thoughts listener’s question about whether Tavares would take a shorter term deal to join a contender (segment starts around the 1 hour, seven minute mark).

Friedman thinks that someone doing that in the future is possible, but it likely won’t be Tavares. Friedman also praises Tavares and his agent Pat Brisson for keeping an extremely low profile throughout all of this and leaving their options wide open. Friedman wonders if Tavares won’t be doing some early comparison shopping himself to see what teams fit what he wants regardless of whether they ask about him or not.

Which is all great for Tavares. So what if it’s giving me a nervous breakdown?

Over on a day early BobCast, Bob McKenzie self-broached those same two topics (starting around the 17:35 mark), as well as how Lamoriello would fit into the Islanders’ power structure (“Don’t get hung up on titles. Lou is the boss.”). McKenzie calls the chatter surrounding Tavares “deathly quiet,” but expects some clarity soon.

He thinks Tavares most likely goes to free agency, and will look at whichever teams give him the best chance to win in the next few years. But McKenzie also thinks that Tavares could (and should) look at the entire NHL and not just the teams with the cap space or interest right now to sign him, which is normally what we’ve been doing for a while now.

Would one of the team’s in the final four - Winnipeg, Vegas, Washington and Tampa Bay - be to his liking? How about Nashville, or another team no one’s mentioned yet? The NHL could be Tavares’s oyster and he’d be selling himself short if he didn’t look at absolutely every possibility.

It’s pretty concerning that both podcasts, each featuring notable, trusted insiders, are both floating the idea of Tavares casting a net as wide as the entire NHL. Coincidence? Maybe. Trying to answer fan questions in the face of little to no insider information to impart (or what McKenzie says is “spitballing”)? Possibly.

But, what if this is the insider information? Maybe scanning the entire NHL for possible landing sports - instead of waiting for the spots to open up for him - is what Tavares and Brisson are doing as we speak? That would make the Islanders’ already slim chances to retaining their captain shrink to possible sub-atomic levels.

Both McKenzie and Friedman don’t discount the idea of Tavares returning to the Islanders. But as we get closer to July 1, the pressure on the team is building to even greater strength than it already had. The Lamoriello talk is just a side show to the main stage.

Earlier today, McKenzie’s TSN colleague Darren Dreger was on Montreal radio, discussing Gord Miller’s comments from the day before (see how this whole thing works? it’s a self-eating Ouroboros in a tuque and flannel shirt). While Dreger doesn’t see Buffalo as a possible destination, he did list the Predators among the usual teams (San Jose, St. Louis) that could be a player for his services.

In possibly the most shocking twist of the day, Dreger actually talked about...[checks notes] the New York Islanders’ slim chances of re-signing Tavares.

Transcription via Chris Nichols at FRS Sports:

“I feel, and this is just my sense – educated to some degree, based on conversations that I’ve had over the past number of months – if John Tavares was going to sign with the New York Islanders, why wouldn’t he have signed by now. Was he expecting change at some level – management, coaching, any of that – probably not.

“There are some out there who think that the arena deal, although things have been agreed to, it’s going to get held up in some way, shape or form. So is it going to be Year Three, Year Four, Year Five of the extension before John Tavares ultimately has his new home?

“And although Garth Snow has been active, and he’s been productive I think in the pieces that he’s brought to the Islanders, it hasn’t made a difference in the outcome of this organization. So I think that more or less the ship has sailed. Wouldn’t be jaw-dropped shocked if Tavares, by default, decided to stay, but I’m thinking that some of the teams I’ve already mentioned – and I’m sure there are others on his list as well – at this stage seem a little bit more intriguing to him.”

Not a rosy outlook, to say the least. But don’t worry, Dreger still sees the Montreal Canadiens as a team Tavares would like to join. Also, I’m pretty sure “jaw-dropped” isn’t a word.

But you know what? Dreger is an outsider. Let’s ask some actual Islanders what they think of the situation. How about the guys currently playing at the IIHF World Championships in Denmark?

That’s exactly what writer Aaron Vickers did for this story for NHL.com, chatting with two of the team’s top forwards and trying to find out what they know.

“I had dinner with him a couple weeks ago and was just joking a little bit about him and what he wanted to do,” [Mathew] Barzal said at the 2018 IIHF World Championship, where the 20-year-old center is playing for Canada. “He didn’t give me anything. He’s a pretty quiet dude when it comes to that stuff.”

C’mon, bro. Give us something.

“He’s such a good guy and he’s been through a lot with the Islanders, had some tough seasons there. I don’t think there’s any reason why he shouldn’t be allowed to take his time.

”[We] actually got really close. His leadership and how hard he works really helped me as a young guy, seeing that work ethic and instilling it in me, honestly.”

Ugh. Okay, how about Tavares’s linemate Anders Lee?

“I don’t think by any means anyone’s lost faith in what’s happened,” said New York forward Anders Lee, who is playing for the United States. “It’s just one of those things where he’s in a position where he can do this, and I don’t think anyone can really fault him for it. It creates a little bit of anxiety and nervousness from our side of things, because he is such a great player and a pivotal part of our franchise. It’ll be interesting.”

Is Anders Lee as nervous as I am about this? I hope not. That doesn’t make me feel better.

Both guys are clear that they and their teammates want Tavares back. But neither can say for sure what their friend is going to do.

Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun had a somewhat insightful line about this:

When Matthew Barzal says he doesn’t know if John Tavares is going to re-sign with the Islanders or test free agency, that can only mean one thing — Tavares probably hasn’t decided himself. Teammates tell each other that stuff

At some point, somebody’s going to have to say something. God help us all when they do.


May 16, 2018 Gord Miller joined TSN 690’s Melnyk in the Morning to air his feelings about John Tavares, and floated enough rumors to clog up the Erie Canal.

I won’t transcribe it, but you can listen to the whole thing here. The Tavares discussion starts at around seven minutes. in summary, Miller believes that:

  • Having the first overall pick (and, presumably, dibs on stud prospect Rasmus Dahlin) makes them signing Tavares a real possibility. The Sabres also have Jack Eichel, rich owners and a history with Tavares’s lacrosse legend Uncle John in their back pocket, too.
  • People around the league are saying that Tavares wants to play in Nashville with his buddy P.K. Subban, but the Predators would need to jump through hoops to fit him under the salary cap.
  • The Maple Leafs will want to pitch Tavares, but will need cap space soon for a cadre of their own players. Plus, would he want to go there to be Auston Matthews’s second line center?
  • The Canadiens are still a major contender for Tavares, but have been moved down the list because of Buffalo?

Once again, the Islanders are not mentioned as a possible destination for Tavares because they are the Islanders and they deserve absolutely nothing. They have no good players, no prospects of note, no arena, no history, no fans, no national exposure, no owners and no hope of winning a Stanley Cup anytime this century.

So, in other words, it was just a typical day on Canadian sports talk radio.


May 14, 2018 Here’s a new one: which teams should Tavares avoid signing with this summer? Thank you, FanSided. I appreciate the creativity.

I’ll give you one guess which team is No. 1.

(But seriously, we’re still doing slideshows? In 2018?)


May 13, 2018 On this Mother’s Day, I am sad to report that Steve Simmons is back on his bullshit, already writing wet dreams about new Leafs GM Kyle Dubas reeling in Toronto boy John Tavares this summer.

How do you sell Tavares on it? You don’t overplay it the way the Leafs messed up presentation-wise with Steven Stamkos. You talk to him reasonably. Imagine being a local kid and part of the first Stanley Cup champion in half a century? That has to be the sell. Imagine what that would be like? Being famous forever.

We haven’t seen a gauzy, reductionist take like this in some time. It would be quaint if it wasn’t so hacky and dull. But that’s Simmons in a nutshell.


May 11, 2018 It appears as though signing John Tavares is the key to the Montreal Canadiens offseason. The reason it appears that way might have something to do with these two oddly similar stories posted today about how signing John Tavares is the key to the Montreal Canadiens offseason.

Via Arpon Basu at The Athletic:

The Canadiens will go hard after John Tavares if – it should really be when at this point – he hits unrestricted free agency. He would instantly change the team’s fortunes and fill a hole that has existed for decades. No one disputes that, and if the Canadiens succeed in luring Tavares then everything below can be thrown in the trash.

“Should be when at this point.” Awesome. Great job, Islanders.

And via Brendan Kelly of the Montreal Gazette:

And guess who Brisson represents, among many other superstars? That’s right. A chap named John Tavares. If he’s not signed by the New York Islanders, the 27-year-old centre will become one of the hottest free agents to hit the NHL market in ages, and I have it from good sources Bergevin has suggested to the big boss he has an inside track on the ultra-talented player from suburban Toronto.

Kelly says, “Tavares loves Montreal,” thereby divulging that he either A. Is a close confident of the Islanders captain and one of the few people to give us a glimpse into the guarded Tavares’s innermost thoughts; B. has bugged Tavares’s house and is spying on him or; C. is playing to his reading audience.

In fairness, both stories spend most of their space talking about what else Montreal could do, should it miss out on Tavares. But the Habs overtook the Leafs as the most desperate Canadian market looking to Tavares to save them a long time ago. It’s been a cottage industry up there for more than a year, even as Tavares himself has said neither jack nor shit about anything the entire time.

It’s almost as if a person inside the Canadiens organization - perhaps a smooth-talking, well-dressed general manager type looking to cover his ass among a restless fanbase - is making it clear that all of his team’s eggs are in this one basket. But that’s me guessing.

Lots of teams will be looking to get on the Tavares line this summer. Bad teams think he’ll make them good, good teams think they’ll make him better, leaving only the best teams to probably will stay away. Right?

...aw, c’mon Friedge! Gimme a break with this:

3. Nothing involving Lamoriello gets announced until he decides it does, but a move to the Islanders is the rumour that just won’t die. I do believe there have been talks and that it is a serious possibility. Assuming he does take over, that probably means a new pitch to keep John Tavares. The captain’s done a very good job of staying under the radar, keeping a lid on his future. Someone we do not expect is going to come out of nowhere to take a run at him. It’s purely a guess, but Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is the kind of guy I could see staying up at night figuring out how to do it.

...sigh. Line starts over there, fellas...


May 10, 2018 What’s going on with the Islanders these days? Good question. Arthur Staple wrote about it in The Athletic today and, honestly, no one really knows. They could be talking to Lou Lamoriello about a possible front office job and they could be keeping all their coaches and Tavares could be golfing or in a movie theater watching Avengers: Infinity War or taking chainsaw carving classes. Who knows?

— John Tavares remains in observation mode, not having begun his offseason training. There’s no indication he has a strong viewpoint one way or another on the potential addition of Lamoriello but adding someone who brings credibility to the operation certainly couldn’t hurt the way Tavares sees his current team.

All signs still point to Tavares heading to the five-day contact window with other clubs from June 25-30, so the Islanders will in all likelihood head to the draft floor with no idea whether their captain intends to stay or leave.

Well, that’s just swell. Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through an offseason, son. On the 31 Thoughts podcast, Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek also talked about Lamoriello and Tavares, but again, no one really knows anything.

And while that’s maddening for Islanders fans (take it from me), it’s great for folks from up north looking for something to talk about.

Sportsnet’s Yeller-in-Chief Steve Dangle wins the Tavares Take of the Day award, hashing out all the reasons why the Maple Leafs should and shouldn’t sign the Islanders captain. The post is long and thorough and full of numbers and money and line-ups and even includes hypothetical locker room strife between guys that may never be teammates.

WHOSE TEAM IS IT ANYWAY?

Matthews is the Leafs’ best forward. At the rate he’s going, he might just end his career known as the best Leaf of all time. Many think he could be Toronto’s next captain as early as next season.

And the Leafs are going to sign the captain of the Islanders to a big-money deal in his prime?

Who would become the captain? Who would be the locker room’s leader? Players are people and people have egos. Would this send the wrong message?

The article also includes a video with this picture:

Dangle Tavares Twin

I have chosen not to watch it because I’ve wasted enough time on this project and life is too short to watch a man argue with himself about whether or not his favo(u)rite team should sign a very good player. I can assume the answer is, “they should” because “the Islanders suck.”

Believe me, I’ve heard that song before.


May 9, 2018 Go off, King (and straight into a tampering charge. Please).

Via the New York Post:

Henrik Lundqvist has spent much of the spring watching the Stanley Cup playoffs from his couch, using his second time on the outside of the postseason as motivation.

He doesn’t plan to make this a habit and is hoping the Rangers’ front office has a big offseason planned. And if part of that plan is making a run at John Tavares, the Islanders’ stud free-agent center, the goaltender would be all for it.

“He’s a great player, there’s no question about it. Of course, if he would like to play for us, that would be big,” Lundqvist, attending BTIG Charity Day in Manhattan on Tuesday, said of the 27-year-old Tavares. “I have a lot of respect for him as a player. He’s done a great job so many years.”


May 8, 2018 The Toronto Maple Leafs season ended a while ago and their offseason will be a fascinating one to to watch (and even if it wasn’t, the parameters of hockey media demand that it would need to be watched anyway).

At The Athletic, editor James Mirtle looked at what the Leafs could do this summer and determined that Tavares and fellow possible UFA John Carlsson shouldn’t be in their plans (unless they could because Leafs).

Well, for one, the Leafs can only spend that money for one season, until their cap flexibility diminishes dramatically in 2019-20 with new contracts to Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner (which could be nearly $20-million if they both go long term). Tavares and Carlson have so much leverage as free agents that it makes zero sense for them to sign for one season, regardless of what the number is.

(Although you do wonder what they would say, theoretically, about a one-year deal for, say, $15-million or something.)

One team that can and probably will have Tavares in their plans are the San Jose Sharks, whose season ended with a shutout loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 6 of the second round. The Tavares-to-the-Sharks takes will be swimming free in the coming weeks, but we have two already worth noting.

At the Mercury News, Paul Gackle lays out an entire ironclad offseason plan for the Sharks centering around bringing in Tavares and bringing back possible UFAs Joe Thornton and Evander Kane for a run at the Stanley Cup:

But knowing Thornton, his top priority is probably to capture the Stanley Cup, the only thing missing from his resumé, and his best opportunity to do that might still be in San Jose. If the Sharks land Tavares, re-sign Kane and skate Thornton in a depth role, they’ll instantly be among the favorites to win the Cup next season. Even with two of them, they should be in position to contend.

Elliotte Friedman dove into the topic on Vancouver’s Sportsnet 650 radio, talking Sharks, Thornton, Kane and where everything is with Tavares right now. The answer was long-ish and either positive or negative depending on how you want to read it.

Transcription via Chris Nichols at FRS Sports:

“You know, I think the Islanders will still get another chance,” predicted Friedman. “I don’t think they’re out – yet. But I think they have to realize that they’re in a race now, a big race.

[lists a bunch of teams who may pitch Tavares]

I think there’s a lot of teams there. The one thing I think Tavares and his camp have done, they’ve done a really good job of limiting the idea of where – if it’s not New York – what his preference really is.

“I hear a lot of guessing. I hear a lot of people saying, ‘I think it would be this,’ and San Jose is on a lot of those lists, but I don’t know if anybody really knows for sure.”

“No one really knows for sure” could be a succinct summation of all 69,000 words within these three encyclopedia volumes. And yet here we are, hoping to know something soon and wishing it’s what we want to hear.


May 4, 2018 Friday was a day of gut feelings around the ol’ John Tavares hot stove, with two insiders and one former Islander offering their instinctive feelings on what the center is going to do this summer.

On Sportsnet radio, Elliotte Friedman kept this thoughts basic and didn’t offer too much in the way of newsworthy ideas, putting the focus on Tavares to make the decision.

Transcription via Chris Nichols at FRS Sports:

The point was made to Friedman that at this juncture, it’s a Tavares decision and there’s very little that Snow can do.

“That’s a Tavares decision; but if he says, ‘Look Garth, build a situation I’m happy to stay in,’ are you bringing someone else in? I don’t know. That’s my question.”

Friedman was asked for his gut feeling on whether or not Tavares would stay.

“I’ve always believed that he wanted to stay,” said the Insider. “I’ve got to think now we’re getting to the point where he’s going to listen to offers.”

Meanwhile over on his every-other-Friday BobCast, Friedman’s friend Bob McKenzie answered some listener mail with his take on the situation. Uncle Bob was very careful to couch his answer as a gut feeling and not a report, so please don’t go running to his Twitter account with picks and torches. That said, Bob’s gut doesn’t have good things to say to Islanders fans (or Montreal Canadiens fans).

Transcription again by Nichols:

“My gut says he’s not going back to the New York Islanders. I’m not reporting that. I don’t want to radio myself here. But I’m suggesting all signs are indicating to me that John Tavares is much more likely to go to market than he is to say, ‘Give me your best offer New York Islanders and I’m going to stay.’ So we’ll see on that. And I said, it’s been very quiet.

“Now, if he goes to market – and again, I don’t want to radio myself, or podcast myself so to speak – but I’m thinking that Montreal not likely at the head of the class that would be in the running for John Tavares. Not to say that they wouldn’t want to be. I’m sure they would be. I’m sure the big offseason strategy for the Montreal Canadiens is to go at John Tavares, if he’s in free agency, really, really hard.

“I’m just not convinced that John Tavares would have Montreal at the top of his list. Now, how do I know that? I don’t. I’m just voicing an opinion that I think there’ll be lots of teams in the National Hockey League who are interested in Tavares: San Jose, St. Louis, Montreal – the list goes on and on I’m sure. And he’ll have a lot of choices to make.

I will always defer to McKenzie’s place as the first and most trusted hockey insider in the business. I’ve been reading his work for so long, I can’t even remember when I started and he’s always the man I go to first for any NHL news.

That said, I’d like to get a second gut opinion. Perhaps his offseason alter ego - Bobby Margarita - can offer his gut feelings after a few rounds of frozen alcoholic beverages.

Finally, we have P.A. Parenteau, two-time erstwhile Islanders winger, announcing his retirement on 98.5 FM in Montreal. When asked about his former captain’s intentions, Parenteau gave the listeners what they wanted to hear, but admitted it was just a little wishful thinking.

Translation via A Winning Habit:

I took a little challenge with my father a few weeks ago and I told him it would be Montreal for my destination. But I do not have a scoop there! (Translated).

If there’s money on the line between P.A. and his dad (whom I’ll call P.O.P. Parenteau), I hope P.A. ends up paying up (assuming P.O.P. Parenteau said Tavares is staying with the Islanders).

And now my stomach hurts.


May 3, 2018 This is a sad day for the Islanders franchise, so we’ll keep this entry brief. Bill Torrey, the team’s legendary first and best general manager, who built the organization from expansion to champion, has died at the age of 83. The hockey world mourns his monumental loss, which obviously will hit the Islanders and Florida Panthers, where Torrey served as president, pretty hard.

This morning, the Athletic’s Craig Custance ran a (timely) list of the top 20 unrestricted free agents and Tavares was clearly the No. 1 entry. The article begins with a look at how Tavares kept to his stock answers all season (something we’re very familiar with here), never wavered from his loyalty to the Islanders and gave no indications about what he was thinking. This was both incredibly unsurprising and incredibly frustrating for Islanders fans.

On the morning of his final game of the season, possibly his final game with the Islanders, it was no different. He calmly answered questions. Said it felt no differently than any other game, aside from the disappointment that his team wasn’t going to still be playing. Then he gave clues to his approach. He’d take some time off, forget about hockey and then get down to making one of the biggest decisions of his life.

“That’s his approach to life in general,” one Islanders teammate told The Athletic. “He’s very calculated and puts a lot of thought into what he’s doing, preparing and making sure he’s the best at what he does each and every day.”

As for the actual entry, Custance lists the Sharks, Blues and Blackhawks as potential front-runners and one dark horse. One thing we know is that the waiting list won’t be a short one.

Tavares hasn’t ruled out staying in New York, and one area to watch is to see what the Islanders do on the management front. If they bring in an experienced executive with a track record of success, that will factor into the decision-making. But there’s also no shortage of teams outside of New York that intrigue Tavares, and as free agency gets closer, so too does the likelihood he at least has conversations with those teams.


April 30, 2018 Elliotte Friedman was on Buffalo radio this morning, and when asked about where John Tavares was at right now, his answer was a hopeful one if you’re an Islanders fan and a look into what drives the man himself.

Via Chris Nichols of FRS Sports:

“I think that loyalty does mean something to him,” indicated Friedman. “He’s a very loyal guy. I think the Islanders, they would really like to get some clarity from him, one way or the other. But I think it’s honest and legit with him in the sense that I think he’s really torn. I do think he wants to stay there. He’s built something there. He is a very loyal guy.

“His dad is very similar. He’s a quiet, hard-working guy who doesn’t make a lot of noise, just goes about his business and does the job. That’s the way Tavares is.

“I think one of the reasons that his play kind of slumped at the end of the year was because he saw that they weren’t going to make the playoffs, and I think it really weighed on him with the reality of the situation.

“I think in some people’s cases, loyalty doesn’t matter – you go for the highest bidder. And you know what, I don’t have a real problem with that either. But I think in his case, there is a lot of loyalty there.”

Of course, Friedman also expects the Sabres to ask for an invitation to Tavares’ free agency open house, but the stuff about his loyalty is about the only thing the Islanders may have to hang their hats on. They’ve missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, currently have not made a single management change, have an eternally volatile arena situation, and generally have a reputation for rampant, uninterrupted failure.

They have a few good players - one 40 goal scorer, a second All Star, the presumed Rookie of the Year and a few other notables, but the players they’ve let go seem to be easier to remember.

As such, pretty much every team in the NHL can lay claim to having just the right situation to lure the Islanders captain. And fans of those teams are constantly hard at work writing articles making those cases. The Islanders never figure much into these posts because... they’re the Islanders. No one will ever have it worse than them, so the competition doesn’t exist.

This encyclopedia has always had appendices at the bottom collecting blog posts from passionate private folks trying to concoct ways for their teams to acquire Tavares. But lots of them were busy this weekend, because just in the last few days we’ve heard from:

Calgary, via Flames Nation:

Expect the Calgary Flames to make a strong push for John Tavares this summer. With every passing day, it seems less likely Tavares will be back with the New York Islanders next season, which would make him the most coveted potential free agent in years.

Carolina, via The Hockey Writers:

The Islanders have two first round picks already, so why not get a third and send Tavares to the Hurricanes for the second overall pick and whatever else they require?

Arizona, via Puck Prose. And yes, I’m fairly certain this isn’t a parody post.

After a lackluster 2017-18 season by the Islanders, Tavares is surely looking for a change of scenery. And what better scenery than sunny Phoenix, Arizona?

New Jersey, via our SBN brethren All About the Jersey:

The Devils could absolutely use Tavares. And I think they really do need a player like him.

(holy smokes, that’s a novella)

And of course, we could never forget Toronto, who’s been on this ride since the beginning. This one comes from Fan-Sided’s Editor in Leaf:

But in Toronto he’d be a legend. A hometown hero whose acquisition would guarantee multiple Stanley Cups.

At the Montreal Gazette, the Tavares calls come from professionals two at a time:

One from Rob Vanstone (via the Regina Leader-Post):

John Tavares, a looming free agent, should decide to leave the New York Islanders — if he ever wants to return to the post-season, that is.

And one from the venerable Pat Hickey:

It’s almost certain Tavares will escape from the dysfunctional situation in New York and the word is that the Canadiens are prepared to open the vault for Tavares. But there will be more attractive offers for Tavares, who is looking for a chance to play hockey in May and June.

All of these people want the same thing: to convince their readers and one of the NHL’s best players that their team has what’s best for him.

It would have been nice to see his current team doing the same, instead of simply betting on his loyalty to carry the day.


April 27, 2018 On the 31 Thoughts podcast, Elliotte Friedman found yet another layer of the Tavares mystery cake that had not (to my knowledge) had a bite taken out of it yet.

Did you know Auston Matthews and John Tavares share an agent? It’s true! They’re both repped by Pat Brisson, who has more than a dozen clients besides those two guys. But they’re the only pair who have one guy who’s an impending unrestricted free agent and one guy who plays in Toronto. So it’s a match!

You can listen here. Tavares part starts around 9:30. Transcription via Chris Nichols of FRS Sports (formerly FanRag Sports. New name is way better):

“I have a nagging theory. And I know people are going to go bonkers with this, so I’m just going to say it’s my theory, okay. I don’t know that this is going to happen. Do you think they would go – Auston Matthews and John Tavares are represented by the same guy – would they ever go and say, ‘How can we get both of them.’

“… I don’t know. But the thing is CAA might not – and I understand the agents, both of those guys might not want to take discounts. They might just want to say no. But if they do, maybe you work it out that way.

“But I’m trying to think what Toronto is doing with their roster. They’ve got room to do stuff there now.”

Having listened to the actual segment, Friedman doesn’t come off as lascivious as it reads here. I don’t want to lose my cool on him like it did on Pierre LeBrun when he just happened to float his “sign and trade” plan a month ago.

There’s a reason these guys made these ideas public, although in either case, I’m not sure it was Tavares’s camp specifically. It’s incredibly irritating to read these “I’m not saying, I’m just saying” tidbits from reporters that are usually very trustworthy, and I’m not sure if it’s irritating because I believe them or because I don’t. Maybe I’m just losing my mind.

But we press on! And add one more team to the list of potential Tavares Suters... er, suitors: The Minnesota Wild. Sure they don’t have a GM right now, having fired Chuck Fletcher this week, but that might not stop somebody out in St. Paul from making a phone call.

Former Newsday paperboy Michael Russo of The Athletic doesn’t see a match, though.

Layne J.: Thoughts on John Tavares and him potentially entering the market as a free agent. Any room for him? Would he even come here if we had the $?

Russo: Man, that’d be a game-changer, wouldn’t it? The Wild currently have $67.5 million committed to payroll next season, about $65.1 million if they buy out Tyler Ennis. This doesn’t include re-signing Zucker or Matt Dumba. The salary cap ceiling is expected to rise to $78-$82 million. So, let’s say conservatively Tavares costs $8-$9 million. It wouldn’t work if Zucker and/or Dumba was around. To create space, the Wild could make significant trades at or around the draft (Coyle, Niederreiter, Brodin?). BUT, remember, if the new GM is doing this to sign Tavares or another high-priced free agent, he couldn’t take a lot of money back in those trades. He’d have to trade them for picks and prospects. If the Wild then swung and missed for Tavares, theoretically trading those players for no or minimal roster players back would be doing exactly what Leipold doesn’t want to do — rebuilding. So, as of THIS moment, I just can’t wrap my head around Tavares being an actual possibility.

After their playoff run ended in five games, the New Jersey Devils need to start planning for next season, but The Hockey Writers doesn’t see them being a serious player for Tavares, either.

The most obvious name in free agency to provide help down the middle would be John Tavares. He’s one of the best centers in the league, and there’s no doubt he would help give them a great one-two punch with Hischier. The Devils have the cap space to afford him but don’t expect them to get into a bidding war and overpay if he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

The Philadelphia Flyers will have cap space for the first time since... basically the salary cap was instituted. Sam Charchidi of the Philly Inquirer feels the Flyers might show some restraint for once and keep their free agent buys on the cheaper side.

And, so, a lineup that has Tavares, Sean Couturier, and Nolan Patrick would match up well with Pittsburgh’s — and would obviously be much more formidable than if Val Filppula was re-signed or Scott Laughton was promoted to the third center spot.

My guess is that Hextall kicks the tires on Tavares, decides he’s too expensive, and signs a mid-level free-agent center — say, Paul Stastny (16 goals, 52 points), who would help the penalty kill, or Riley Nash (15 goals, 41 points) — to buy time for Frost to fill out and develop.

Closer to home, could former Devils and current Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello take a front office job with the Islanders as his contract runs out on Toronto? Probably not. Right now, everyone in Leafs land has their hands full trying to sort out an important summer for the up-and-coming club.

Chris Johnston at Sportsnet sums it all up:

With James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Leo Komarov due to come off the books – Lamoriello is prepared to let each of those UFA’s walk, someone else in the GM’s chair might not – Toronto is going to look like a different team next season. It could end up with more than $24 million in commitments disappearing when you factor in Tomas Plekanec, Roman Polak and Dominic Moore’s expiring deals, not to mention the buried salary of Martin Marincin, LTIR’d salary of Joffrey Lupul, and buyout charges for Tim Gleason and Jared Cowen.

That’s more than enough to take a healthy run at John Tavares on July 1. Or maybe defenceman John Carlson, a right-handed, top-four option who could address an obvious need.

All of this is just speculation. In the immediate actual future is the NHL draft lottery, which takes place tomorrow night. The Islanders have two small chances to move up to first overall thanks to their own first round picks and the Calgary Flames’ pick from the Travis Hamonic trade. Arthur Staple has a look at how winning the lottery could change the team’s fortunes and those of its captain:

Tavares might see the Isles in a whole new light. Tavares is looking for reasons to believe he can win a Cup with the Isles. Safe to say the addition of a young stud on D might do just the trick. No one knows what the captain is thinking right now and it certainly appears that he will be heading at least to the late-June window to speak with other teams, if not July 1.

The Islanders with Dahlin certainly make a stronger case for him to stay than the Isles without Dahlin. And having a cost-controlled elite player on defense frees up cap space to sign Tavares at $11-million per or more and have some left over to make other moves.

“Looking for reasons to believe” could describe a lot of us. Maybe we all get one on Saturday night.


April 24, 2018 Ladies and gentleman, please welcome the Colorado Avalanche and Philadelphia Flyers to the John Tavares vortex.

Colorado made a surprising run to the playoffs this season thanks in large part to MVP candidate Nathan MacKinnon, and the Denver Post is already looking forward to starting next year with both he and Tavares in burgundy and blue.

First there was Monday’s mailbag column with columnist Mark Kiszla, who spoke on behalf of MacKinnon and the Avs organization:

Will Sakic go after a big name free agent like Tavares from the Islanders? Still young enough to fit into the core.

Kiz: And we end with the best question of the day. Kudos. Props. And all that jazz. Well-played. Well-played indeed. John Tavares is the most important name of the Avalanche’s offseason. Get him and the Avs are for real. He might not join Nathan MacKinnon in Colorado. But I can guarantee you this: MacKinnon really, really wants Tavares in Colorado.

Then on Tuesday, Kiszla and writer Mike Chambers, who fancies himself a pugnacious type, collaborated on a whole column about Tavares’s chances of heading to the Rocky Mountains.

Chambers: Sakic told us Monday that staying the course could still mean they add a piece or two — or even perhaps a huge piece, such as Tavares — in free agency or trades. I specifically asked Sakic if he would get involved in the Tavares sweepstakes. He didn’t directly answer the question, but he never said no.

Colorado GM Joe Sakic probably didn’t directly answer the question because he didn’t want to be accused of tampering with a guy who’s still technically another team’s property. But that doesn’t stop Kiszla and Chambers from talking up all the Avs young stars.

What about the Islanders, you say? Who cares? They’re never mentioned. Sounds about right for a couple of Western Conference watchers.

I’m mostly kidding about adding the Flyers to the mix, but I mention them only because they came up in this Dave Isaac mailbag in regards to the amount of cap space Philly will have next season.

Will they have enough to sign John Tavares? Maybe, but I think he ultimately stays with the Islanders. It seems more likely that Hextall goes after a guy like Riley Nash to be a third-line center for a year or two at a much cheaper cost.

Late in the day, The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun popped onto TSN radio in Montreal with host Mitch Melnyk to drop some non-news about Tavares, but also some very non-committed ideas about where this thing might go.

Transcription via Chris Nichols at FanRag Sports:

“… Just FYI, I spoke with Pat Brisson last night. He happened to be in Toronto for the Bruins-Leafs game, and I dipped into it just to catch a bit of that series before I go back west. Tomorrow I’m going to Nashville to cover Winnipeg-Nashville. Pat Brisson said there was nothing new – status quo on the John Tavares front. So still needs more time to figure out their game plan here and how they’re going to go about things – and that still includes the Islanders, by the way.

Lebrun talks, once again, about the chances of any or all of the Sharks, Golden Knights, Canadiens and Maple Leafs being in on Tavares, but notes that the reason a player would take his time with a decision like this is to see exactly where every team is by the time you have to choose - which is a terrifying feeling for an Islanders fan. But so be it.

He and Melnyk finished up by throwing yet another team onto the list, the newly GM-less Minnesota Wild.

Part of Tuesday’s radio hit with LeBrun included a discussion on the firing of Chuck Fletcher, and how the Minnesota Wild could use a franchise center.

690 host Mitch Melnnick then mentioned Tavares.

“Why wouldn’t they get in on him with a new GM?” wondered LeBrun.

As for what the actual John Tavares is doing right now; in a short but wide-ranging chat with the IslesBuzz podcast, Arthur Staple says he’s probably on a beach somewhere far away from hockey (around the 24:40 mark) while the team deals with its many issues.

Sounds like a smart idea...


April 22, 2018 The Islanders had a quiet week but John Tavares is still on the minds of many across the NHL.

We’ll start with MSG Network’s Shannon Hogan, who penned a bittersweet year end awards post about some of the good things that happened during a disappointing season. Shannon’s usually a pretty positive presence on Islanders broadcasts, but even she has her doubts about the captain’s future right now. Still, she ends on a constructive note. Sort of...

Almost every time I talk with fans they ask me about John Tavares. “Do you think he will stay? Come on, you can tell me.” I’m sorry to say, but I honestly don’t know. At the start of the season, my gut told me he would remain with the team and sign an extension. But in the final month of the season, I wasn’t feeling as confident the captain would remain.

I still think the Isles have a great chance at keeping him, but ultimately John is going to do what’s best for him and his family. He’s been kind and gracious in my four years working with the Islanders. He works so hard and wants nothing more than to win a Stanley Cup. I hope to have many, many more interviews with #91 in an Islanders jersey. But if not, I wish him well. It would be a huge loss for the Islanders, but they do have another star in the making … Mat Barzal.

Out in Calgary, the focus is on Bill Peters, who looks to take over the Flames bench after resigning from the Hurricanes this week. But while talking to Elliotte Friedman on Friday, the hosts on Sportsnet 960 had to ask about Tavares anyway. And the news was no news.

Transcription via Chris Nichols at FanRag Sports:

“I haven’t heard much,” noted Friedman. “It’s a good question. It’s worth asking. But in terms of any finality or anything like that, nothing yet.

“I do think one of the things the Islanders have to decide as they’re doing a full review – I mean, I don’t know if Garth Snow is in any trouble or anything like that, but if Tavares suddenly wakes up tomorrow and says, ‘I’m coming back,’ I can’t imagine any of these guys are in trouble, if they do what they set out to do.”

Across the country in Montreal, things are... weird all of a sudden. The Gazette’s Brendan Kelly bucks the trend and says the Canadiens seemingly putting all of their eggs in Tavares’s basket probably isn’t going to help them become competitive again. Try telling that to 10,000 breathless Habs writers, dude...

The Canadiens’ real plan is to cross their fingers and hope they win the NHL draft lottery, which takes place on Saturday, April 28. But they only have a 9.5-per-cent chance of nabbing the first pick and dibs on Swedish defence phenom Rasmus Dahlin. The other blue-sky dream is to convince New York Islanders centre John Tavares — who is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 — to come to Montreal, which is, to put it politely, highly unlikely.

Sportsnet’s Eric Engels wonders if Tavares would even want to come to la belle province and fix the Habs problem at center when other teams can offer as much money and better teammates. Or if he won’t just stay with the Islanders, for that matter. Geez, I almost forgot about them for a minute.

Star goaltender Carey Price and No. 1 defenceman Shea Weber, Tavares’s Olympic teammates, will have to take on an active role in persuading him that he can win in short order with the Canadiens. Owner Geoff Molson and Bergevin will have to go the distance to show him what kind of life he can have in the city and what kind of legacy he can build with the most storied franchise in the NHL. And you have to think coach Claude Julien will have to show him a blueprint of how he’ll be employed.

But all of that—and a boatload of money—might not be enough to lure Tavares away from the only NHL team he’s ever played for. It might not be enticing enough to keep him from going to another team, like the San Jose Sharks for instance.

Meanwhile back in Toronto, Steve “Sorry but Not Sorry” Simmons wants to remind to you that, yes, the Leafs do exist and will still be a player for Tavares, just in case you were wondering whether or not the NHL’s most obnoxious franchise will continue to swing it’s big Maple Leaf around once again.

The Leafs will take a run at centre John Tavares in free agency, maybe not with the same kind of aggression they took a run at Steven Stamkos two years back. Leafs were so over the top in their presentation to Stamkos he made his decision about returning to Tampa Bay immediately after the Leafs laid it on thick for him...

wOoOoW. that’s insider info you can’t buy folks...


April 19, 2018 Well, well, well. Look who’s No. 1 on the St. Louis Post Dispatch’s Offseason Storylines for Blues Fans to Follow slideshow. Why, it’s Islanders captain John Tavares. How crazy is that?

GORDO: New York Islanders star John Tavares is heading toward unrestricted free agency. As the one true No. 1 center in the marketplace, he has become an obsession of Blues fans. While Tavares loves Long Island and is glad the franchise is getting a new arena, he must also fret about the epic incompetence of the Islanders front office.

Good one, Gordo. The incompetence of the Islanders front office can definitely be described as “epic.” “Eternal” probably works, too, but we’ll go with this.

It’s also crazy how often Tavares comes up in this Arpon Basu story at The Athletic that’s about Max Pacioretty and his future with the Montreal Canadiens.

The one wildcard in this scenario is that Pacioretty is represented by Brisson, who is an old friend of Bergevin’s and also happens to represent a certain New York Islanders centre who could become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, one who would look pretty good lining up between Pacioretty and, say, Brendan Gallagher. Just a thought.

Basu is a wonderful writer and I truly enjoy his Habs coverage. But the sooner he and his colleagues stop drooling over Tavares, the better for everyone. I’m not sure this is healthy.


April 17, 2018 Wait. The Islanders have other unrestricted free agents? Yup. A whole bunch. But even those guys understand that there is one big kahuna among them.

At The Athletic, Arthur Staple breaks down each player’s prospects for a contract next season, many of which won’t be with the Islanders. But Tavares is still front and center. Tavares says he wants to stay, can that actually happen?

What it will take: A number with a lot of zeroes after it. There’s chatter around the league that the magic number to sign Tavares on July 1 is $88 million, which comes out to roughly $12.6-million per on a seven-year deal. Expand that out a year for the Islanders and you’ve got a nice, round $100 million or so.

That’s the starting point, of course. If Tavares gives the Islanders an indication he wants to stay, then that number may change, depending on where the Isles sit after making any draft-table deals. But it won’t change much, especially for the Islanders, since they have already ceded leverage to their star in this negotiation.

One of the teams Staple mentions as a possible suitor for Tavares, when the window opens for him to take pitches, is the San Jose Sharks. Elliotte Friedman also referenced the Sharks (who have been thrown around as a potential landing spot) in terms of them making room for both Tavares and current Shark and fellow pending UFA Evander Kane.

Via Chris Nichols at FanRag Sports.

They’ve got a ton of cap room. But I think San Jose is one of those teams that wants to pitch Tavares. And I think a lot of teams, if they decide he’s the guy they want and they think they have a legitimate chance at him, they probably wait to see what happens. Although San Jose is one of the few teams that has the room that they could do both.”

In general, the vibe around the Islanders isn’t great right now, with the bad taste of last week’s press conference still in a lot of people’s mouths. While Tavares is off recovering from the season, all we can do is wonder what he’s thinking.

On an appearance on the Isles Buzz podcast, Andrew Gross of Newsday says that with every passing day, the chance of Tavares staying seems to get lower and lower.

I said a few weeks back that put it around 50/50. I really think the probably of him returning has decreased almost on a daily basis as we get closer to July 1st.

Gross says that he hears Tavares will go to July 1st and see what other teams have to offer him and that the possibility very much exists that he could be swayed to one of them. That’s not to say he’s gone for sure, but it’s hard to argue that the outlook isn’t exactly rosy.

The offseason is still in its early stages, so maybe things change. Thing is, we won’t know until they do. How’s that for deep?


April 15, 2018 A few loose odds and ends from the wild week that was. Mike and I had Arthur Staple on the Islanders Anxiety podcast to get his take on that crazy presser and what it might mean for Tavares. Art talked about how the owners’ decision to let Tavares play out the year without an extension could end up being a fatal mistake and how indecision has played a big part in why the Islanders are where they are as a franchise right now.

The entire discussion is an insightful one (thanks to Art and Mike, not me) and this might be one of the best summations of the situation that we’ve had in some time:

I just think it’s turned into this weird game of chicken in which nobody wants to take responsibility for this decision. And here we are.

On the 31 Thoughts podcast, Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman called the Islanders a “frozen” franchise (around the 40:00 minute mark) thanks to the Tavares thing and other factors. Marek feels Tavares is closer to leaving, but Friedman, always trying to understand both sides of an issue, won’t say because he hasn’t heard directly from the player. Friedman feels the front office is in a holding pattern that will affect Tavares for sure and that, again, decisions that weren’t made earlier are now coming up and making things more complicated.

For a more expanded summation of the situation, Andrew Gross broke the current elements down into an easily digestible article in Newsday. Nothing revelatory, but it beats reading 60,000 plus words in three volumes of this encyclopedia.

The case for Tavares staying

Tavares has been impressively tight-lipped about this process but he’s been waiting to see whether the Islanders finally will have some franchise stability. The team announced this season it’s planning on moving to a new arena at Belmont Park, built with hockey in mind, for the 2021-22 season. Tavares, in his own even-keel, monotone speaking manner, has expressed excitement over being a teammate of dynamic rookie center Mathew Barzal and anticipation over what he and Barzal can accomplish together. Plus, Tavares has a strong relationship with both Snow and coach Doug Weight, and seems to be comfortable as a Long Island resident.

Gross says that Tavares joining the Rangers isn’t happening, which means that maybe some folks need to hold off on saying the two are “directly linked.”

Meanwhile, over at The Hockey News, Matt Larkin assures an anxious St. Louis fan that Tavares could be the No. 1 Center his team has been craving since... Doug Weight.

Do the Blues have a legit shot at John Tavares? Who else might they look at to fill their DESPERATE need for a top-six forward? Thanks!

Hey Aaron. From a pure hockey/market standpoint, yes, I think the Blues could be a fit. Tavares will want an organization with championship upside and, I believe, a market that will help him retain a certain degree of anonymity. He isn’t a shrinking violet, but he’s no P.K. Subban, either. I thus don’t buy any crackpot theory about Tavares signing in Montreal, Toronto or any Canadian city. Too much spotlight. I believe the New Jersey Devils are his best fit if he doesn’t stay with the Isles – but the Blues check off plenty of boxes, too.

The Blues’ Stanley Cup drought reached 50 years this season, which has happens to be the franchise’s entire existence. That makes the Islanders’ 35-year drought seem small time by comparison. But the New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro took stock of the many lengthy droughts of some NYC area teams and sees a connection between Tavares and the franchise’s hopes for a light at the end of the tunnel.

Islanders

Last championship season: 1982-83. Active drought: 35 years. Last, best shot to end drought: 1993. Next best shot: Is the Twelfth of Never too mean?

Outlook: There is really only one question that matters: Can the Isles re-sign John Tavares? If so there will always be hope, because there will always be that foundational building block. If not, the Islanders will quickly become the most unwelcome group to move into Nassau County since the Buttafuoco family bought their house in Massapequa.

Wow. A Long Island Lolita reference? Maybe not topical, but certainly not inaccurate. Like that case, I’m pretty sure people are sick of hearing about the Islanders arena issues and their delay in re-signing their captain.


April 10, 2018 Monday’s bizarre press conference was... not well-received by the Islanders media and fanbase. The amount of criticism directed towards the team is usually less than that aimed at other New York teams, but this presser has brought the wolves out, with the team taking it on the chin hard from almost everyone.

Arthur Staple’s Athletic piece from yesterday captured the mood of the event and many of the possible ramifications, but Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post succinctly nails what it means for Tavares. Cyrgalis seems to feel the same way I do, that it appears that both Garth Snow and Doug Weight are safe for the foreseeable future. Here’s the kicker:

Tavares added he has known both Snow and Weight a long time, and “I have a lot of trust in them going forward and how they’re going to approach things.”

But is that level of trust one that makes Tavares think the same old situation is finally going to produce different results? Because that would be a large leap of faith, indeed.

Making matters even worse was that the Islanders, somehow, unbelievably, doubled down on their tone-deaf lip service on Tuesday, kicking up even more hornets and looking like even bigger dopes than they did the day before. It’s been a long 24 hours between updates, man.

Staple was on TSN Radio Vancouver to talk about just what the hell is going out here and, of course Tavares came up there, too. Staple believes Tavares will listen to offers and could consider all of the upheaval and uncertainty that has plagued the team during his tenure in his final decision. Although the captain has a lot of loyalty towards Snow and Weight, once he hears what other teams can offer him - not just monetarily, but in terms of winning and off-ice life style - it’s hard to see the Islanders matching up. That’s... not encouraging. But not wrong, either.

That kind of talk naturally brings out the folks from up north to hatch their various Tavares traps. The Leafs Nation has concocted a very elaborate and thorough way for Toronto to fit him under their salary cap for one season, basically ignoring everything that Tavares has been saying he wants out of free agency for the last two seasons. But who cares about that when the Leafs can get a little better, eh?

Meanwhile in Montreal, the Canadiens’ season-ending presser went over about as well as the Islanders one did, and Habs fans want answers from owner Geoff Molson and GM Marc Bergevin. The common Jeopardy answer to all of their questions is, “Who is John Tavares?” and Arpon Basu at The Athletic sees how the league’s oldest team could have the pull to land the Islanders star.

while the Canadiens were trying to explain a deeply disappointing season Monday, the New York Islanders were doing the same thing. John Tavares was asked again what he will do this offseason, and he remained as evasive as he has throughout the season. It was difficult not to get the impression that Tavares will at least see what’s out there, and the Canadiens will undoubtedly make their best pitch. They have the cap space, they have Price and Weber, two players Tavares respects enormously, and they have the allure of Tavares being the one to set straight a historic franchise that has lost its way, similar to what Mike Babcock might have felt when accepting the Toronto Maple Leafs coaching job.

Wait. Aren’t the Islanders also, “a historic franchise that has lost its way?” Basu acknowledges they are and that Tavares might not want to leave one for another. That probably won’t stop him and his colleagues from writing about it and wishing for it, though.


April 9, 2018 Yup! That’s right. We’re onto the John Tavares Free Agency Encyclopedia Volume 3, dedicated only to the offseason immediately preceding the free agency of John Tavares. I hate that we’re here, but after over 60,000 combined words between Volumes 1 and 2, I felt a shorter, more focused third act would benefit both readers and chroniclers alike. Think of it like John Tavares: Battle For Ragnarok and the Last Crusade with a Vengeance 2 Tavares 3 Furious.

So where do we begin? At the end, or more specifically, the end of the Islanders season and the exit interviews done with players and coaches. The meetings were split over two days, and on the first, Tavares’s situation was brought up to a few of his teammates as they evaluated their seasons.

Via Andrew Gross of Newsday comes news of Johnny Boychuk putting in work for the cause:

“It started a long time ago,” defenseman Johnny Boychuk said of his personal campaign to keep Tavares an Islander. “I’ve been wearing his JT shirts around the locker room, hopefully doing my part.”

Day 2 was not only the day Tavares was scheduled to speak, but also co-owner Jon Ledecky, GM Garth Snow and coach Doug Weight. We’ll talk more about them in a minute. Before the festivities even began, Bob McKenzie did a radio hit talking about Tavares and some possible suitors for his services.

Via Chris Nichols at FanRag Sports:

“And obviously they can’t say it, but if John Tavares goes to market they’re going to want to be front and center. But St. Louis might want to be front and center. San Jose might want to be front and center. The New York Rangers might want to be front and center.

“And whether the Montreal Canadiens… A) Does John Tavares go to market? My guess is he probably will, but I don’t know that at all. That’s just an opinion, just a feeling. And if he does, is it realistic to think that he could end up in Montreal? Maybe it is. Maybe it’s not.

McKenzie also mentioned the New York Rangers as a possibility, simply because they’re the Rangers and that’s what they do. With Tavares, Erik Karlsson and Ilya Kovalchuk still out there as potential big time acquisitions, you can’t argue with that logic.

Once the players started filing out of their interviews on Monday, Tavares was once again a frequent topic:

Geez, Cal. Way to keep your bearded chin up.

Casey Cizikas says (at about the 2 minute mark) that as much as he wants Tavares to stay, sometimes guys just want to win and you just support each other no matter what.” Uh... that sounds like it came out wrong.

Even the kid - who’s the odds-on-favorite to win the Calder Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year - was asked about it and how, if Tavares leaves, the Islanders will be the Mat Barzal Show.

Barzal, who centered the Islanders’ second line, might inherit the responsibility of being the No. 1 center next season if John Tavares leaves via free agency.

“He drives this organization,” Barzal said. “He drives this team, just how dedicated he is to hockey and being better every single day. That’s what I took the most, his compete level in practice. I was waiting for the day where he didn’t come and give it everything. But there was not one day he wasn’t the hardest worker. As a young guy, it gives me a reason to work hard every day.”

Eventually, it was Tavares’s turn to speak and what he said was... basically the same thing he’s been saying for months, reiterating his desire to stay with the team and his appreciation for the first nine years of his career.

Via Brian Compton of NHL.com:

“This is obviously where I hope to be. I’ve always stated that,” said Tavares, the No. 1 pick by the Islanders in the 2009 NHL Draft. “But obviously, I have some time to think about my situation and go from there.

”I’ve loved it here. The people have really embraced me, the team, the organization. It’s been first-class since I’ve gotten here. There’s obviously some great talent and some great things ahead. Definitely a lot of positives. I’ll obviously have to take some time and figure out what I want to do and go from there.”

Tavares was asked about his feelings on Snow and Weight before they took center stage themselves and never waived from his legendary loyalty:

“I think they know how bad I want to win, and I think I know how bad they want to win,” Tavares said. “I don’t think they’re here not trying to win. They do the best they can on a daily basis and give it everything they have and try to get the most of our group and have success and have an opportunity on a yearly basis to play for the Stanley Cup. I don’t think that’s any question, their commitment to having a winning team.

”I’ve known them for a long time. There’s a lot of trust there between them with me. I have a lot of trust in them going forward in how they’re going to approach things. Obviously, those things are kind of out of my control. For me, I just may to take some time to think about really everything that goes into making a decision like this and go from there. I have a lot of trust in those guys.”

Awwww... thanks, dude.

When asked about their captain’s status, Snow was unsurprisingly positive about not only John Tavares the man and the player, but also about the prospects of getting him re-signed.

Via Brian Heyman of Newsday:

Snow said re-signing Tavares is “our Plan A and Plan B” for the offseason. Tavares said, “I don’t think you just say it’s only going to be about hockey. I think you look at all the factors. But all the factors here are great.”

Weight, on the other hand, had a really cryptic thing to say about the captain who scored 84 points for his club this season. Weight is often critical after wins (and strangely positive after losses), but this is an odd time to take Tavares to task over leadership issues.

Turns out that was just the tip of the crazy iceberg. Monday’s media conference was a bizarre, confusing kabuki play in which Ledecky read a prepared statement apologizing for missing the playoffs and saying they would evaluate hockey operations going forward, but took no questions and stood in the back of the room while Snow and Weight, who are both apparently keeping their jobs, fielded inquiries.

To make a very long story short, this was in no way, shape or form what Islanders fans wanted to hear. Especially not after the season they just had and with the fate of their All Star captain still very much up in the air. I kinda went off a little bit on it.

It was a crazy day for a franchise that’s had more than its fair share. At The Athletic, Arthur Staple broke down all of the questions and concerns that have now been raised, including how Tavares negotiations might be affected.

Tavares was asked if he feels pressure to give a quick decision to the Islanders so they can either get to work on an extension and have their offseason course charted or trade his rights, possibly in a sign-and-trade, to get at least some assets back.

“I think I’ve earned the right to take my time,” Tavares said. “Whether it’s a week, two weeks, a month, two months, I don’t really know. A lot of those scenarios or hypotheticals I haven’t even thought about.”

The other part of ownership possibly basing their personnel decisions on whether Tavares stays or goes: If Tavares walks out the door on July 1, Snow and Weight will already have the 2018-19 (and beyond) Islanders pretty well set. The June 22-23 NHL Draft will be where the Isles have two lottery picks to either use or wheel for immediate help. Tavares’ contract would take up a huge chunk of the salary cap, but much of the other roster work will be done.

If Tavares walks and Ledecky and Scott Malkin decide then that Weight and Snow should follow him, the team would be put in an incredibly disadvantageous position, much like the Colorado Avalanche were when Patrick Roy stepped down as coach a few weeks before the 2016-17 season started. The Avs finished as one of the NHL’s worst teams that year.

phew! Got all that? And the Islanders offseason is just two days old. Only three more months of this...


Appendix A: SB Nation Blogs Attempting to Acquire John Tavares

  1. St. Louis Game Time, March 24, 2017: Future Moves for the St. Louis Blues
  2. SB Nation NHL, June 13, 2017: Here are some way-too-early predictions for the 2017-18 NHL season
  3. The Cannon, June 14, 2017: Let’s make a deal: Should Columbus trade for John Tavares?
  4. Raw Charge, June 19, 2017: What would it take for Tampa Bay Lightning to afford John Tavares?
  5. Defending Big D, January 18, 2018: Ludicrous Thought for a Bye Week: What if the Stars Went After John Tavares on July 1st?
  6. Winging It In Motown, August 5, 2017: Should the Red Wings Have their Eyes on John Tavares?; May 2, 2008: The Price of Tavares
  7. All About The Jersey, April 30, 2018: The New Jersey Devils Should Pursue John Tavares in Free Agency
  8. Pensburgh, May 12, 2018: NHL Free Agency: Can the Penguins land John Tavares?
  9. Fear The Fin: What does Evander Kane’s new contract mean for the Sharks’ future?
  10. Broad Street Hockey, June 11, 2018: OK, sure, let’s talk about John Tavares
  11. Matchsticks and Gasoline, June 11, 2018: Should the #Flames push hard to land John Tavares this summer? (Twitter discussion)
  12. Knights on Ice, June 11, 2018: Monday Mailbag: Could the Golden Knights be in play for John Tavares?
  13. St. Louis Game Time, June 12, 2018: Five questions the St. Louis Blues must answer this summer
  14. St. Louis Game Time, June 14, 2018: Impossible or not, the Blues need to make a strong push for John Tavares
  15. Canes Country, June 14, 2018: Potential Hurricanes Free Agency Targets: Forwards
  16. Blueshirt Banter, June 17, 2018: Let’s talk about John Tavares
  17. Knights on Ice, June 18, 2018: Free Agent Wishlist: Golden Knights have cap space to make a splash
  18. Broad Street Hockey, June 19, 2018: Please, John Tavares: come to Philadelphia
  19. Knights on Ice, June 25, 2018: NHL Free Agency 2018: John Tavares is the missing piece to the Golden Knights’ championship puzzle

Appendix B: Non-SB Nation Blogs on Tavares