The parade of suitors attempting to woo Islanders impending unrestricted free agent John Tavares began on Monday in Los Angeles.
Members of his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs’ management arrived first at the CAA office of Tavares’ agent, Pat Brisson, in the afternoon. The San Jose Sharks have a meeting scheduled for Tuesday. By Wednesday, the Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins will also make their pitch. Other teams may still press to be scheduled.
And, of course, the Islanders and president Lou Lamoriello, who arrived in Los Angeles on Saturday directly from the NHL Draft in Dallas, will continue to negotiate as many around the NHL still expect Tavares to remain with the team that drafted him first overall in 2009. The Islanders had a formal meeting with Tavares on Monday night.
But Lamoriello began speaking with Tavares and Brisson even before being officially hired by the Islanders on May 22 and new Islanders coach Barry Trotz, also in Los Angeles, said he had a “great conversation” with Tavares regarding the organization’s culture change and vision for the future.
Sunday marked the beginning of the free agent negotiating period and the free agent market opens on July 1, though the Islanders can re-sign Tavares before then.
Only the Islanders can offer Tavares, completing a six-year, $33-million deal, an eight-year contract, with the rest of the NHL limited to a maximum of seven seasons. The bidding is expected to start at $11 million per season and the intense competition for Tavares, who could become the highest-profile unrestricted free agent in NHL history, may push that figure closer to $12 million.
So, what can each of the known suitors offer Tavares?
The Islanders, of course, offer familiarity and the likelihood of the most lucrative deal. Per CapFriendly.com, the Islanders, at $32.8 million, have the most salary cap space of the 31 teams after the salary cap for 2018-19 was set at $79.5 million. Lamoriello and Trotz can sell Tavares on the promise of rapid improvements since the Islanders’ second straight season out of the playoffs ended.
Tavares is from Mississauga, Ont. and there’s always been speculation he’d be intrigued in playing for the Maple Leafs, who have $24.7 million in cap space.
The Lightning, with $10.6 million in cap space, reached the Eastern Conference final and feature Tavares’ childhood teammate and longtime friend, Steven Stamkos, who grew up in Markham, Ont.
Plus, Florida is a state without state income tax.
So is Texas and the Stars have $19.8 million in cap space. But like the Islanders, who have won just one playoff series since 1993 and made the playoffs just three times with Tavares, the Stars have missed the playoffs the past two seasons and qualified just three times since 2008.
The Sharks, with $18.9 million in cap space, have missed the playoffs just once since 2003 and reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2016.
The Bruins, with $12 million in cap space, have a solid mix of veteran and young talent.
Notes & Quotes: The Islanders extended qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Brock Nelson ($3.5 million) and Ross Johnston ($735,000) and defensemen Ryan Pulock ($874,125), Devon Toews ($874,125) and Kyle Burroughs ($715,000) before Monday’s deadline. Forwards Shane Prince, Toews, Burroughs and Johnston are all arbitration eligible. Forwards Alan Quine and Kyle Schempp and defenseman Brandon Davidson were not extended qualifying offers and will be unrestricted free agents . . . The first on-ice sessions of the Islanders prospect development camp will be Tuesday morning and there are still tickets available for Thursday’s scrimmage at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow at 6 p.m. The camp will conclude on Saturday with a second scrimmage not open to the public. Included on the 53-player roster are this year’s first-round picks Oliver Wahlstrom and Noah Dobson as well as former first-rounders Josh Ho-Sang, Michael Dal Colle and Kieffer Bellows.