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John Tavares Free Agency: Islanders captain will talk to five teams

That’s, like, one-sixth of the league.

Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Islanders
But enough about me, let’s hear you talk about me.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

John Tavares will use next week’s free agency “discussion” period to speak with as many as five teams before deciding whether to re-sign with the New York Islanders, the team he has been associated with since being drafted first overall in 2009. Expected teams include the Los Angeles Kings, who just reached terms with Ilya Kovalchuk, and Toronto Maple Leafs, who are supposed to be a destination because Taranna.

This had been the expectation as the free agency flirtation window neared, but it was confirmed by multiple parties on Saturday, the second day of the 2018 NHL draft.

It also doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going elsewhere.

Reaching this window has sounded like a priority — and potential negotiating tactic — for much of the past year, even as the Islanders reached a deal on a new arena in Belmont, an arrangement to play many games at Nassau Coliseum (Tavares’ reportedly preferred venue), and then even overhauled management and coaching by replacing Garth Snow and Doug Weight with Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz.

The oft-cited example here is Tavares’ friend Steven Stamkos, who reached this window a couple of years ago and heard from the “hometown” Toronto Maple Leafs, among others, before re-signing with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tavares has earned this, it makes personal sense for someone who holds all the cards, and — beyond anything else — can frankly be an interesting experience as he sees what other teams blueprints look like.

Hell, maybe he even grabs some competitive intelligence out of it and takes it back to Lou.

Technically, by rule the discussion window is not supposed to include talk of salary or term; yet somehow every player/agent who engages in it seems to have contract terms worked out at 12:01 on July 1.

So if Tavares will know exactly what he’s going to get, wherever he signs, the moment July 1 arrives (or sooner, if he re-ups with the Islanders).

The discussion window begins Sunday. Tavares cannot sign with any team other than the Islanders — the only team that can offer him eight instead of seven years — until July 1.

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.