The worse the New York Islanders play as their recent struggles continue, the more NHL teams are salivating at the chance to steal away a star player, which is a rare thing, according to the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons. The last significant star free agent that signed with another club dates back to 2006 when the Boston Bruins signed Zdeno Chara away from the Ottawa Senators. However, usually franchise free agents sign with their former team like Steven Stamkos did back in 2016.
Simmons writes that the San Jose Sharks and the St. Louis Blues are the two teams that are thought to be at the top of the list of suitors for Tavares. He adds that several teams with cap space might also be interested in attempting to lure Tavares to their team as they lack that superstar player, including the Vegas Golden Knights, New Jersey Devils and the Vancouver Canucks. Other teams like Montreal, Detroit, Carolina and even Toronto might also attempt to make a stab at acquiring the 27-year-old center.
- It doesn’t look like the New York Rangers are expected to go after Tavares, according to Larry Brooks of the New York Post. With the Rangers rebuilding their franchise, it just doesn’t seem to make sense that Tavares would sign with them. Considering Tavares is fueled by team loyalty, it seems unlikely he would sign with the Rangers who could offer only seven years, while the Islanders can offer eight years and are much closer to reaching the playoffs.
- The lack of trade deadline moves might also count against the New York Islanders in their quest to re-sign Tavares, according to Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos. While saying that he would not move Tavares, Islanders’ general manager Garth Snow also said he would not make moves for rental players. In the end, the biggest acquisition the team made was trading a third-round pick for defenseman Brandon Davidson, who had been placed on waivers only months earlier. Now after seven losses since the deadline, Kypreos questions whether Snow’s moves were the right ones. Certainly bolstering the team for a playoff run might have shown Tavares how committed the team is to winning. Instead the losing could easily drive the soon-to-be free agent away. The team is sitting in last place in the Metropolitan Division, well out of range of a playoff spot. “It almost feels like this thing is snowballing away from the Islanders and Tavares,” said Kypreos.
- Arthur Staple of The Athletic (subscription required) writes that co-owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky have some tough decisions to make in the next few weeks. The scribe writes that they chose to keep Snow last offseason because he and then-new head coach Doug Weight were close with Tavares. However, with fans calling for Snow’s head, ownership may want to make a change before Tavares hits free agency. Even if they don’t make an immediate move, Snow’s job may come down to whether Tavares stays or goes. “It’s out of my control,” Tavares said regarding Snow’s job status. “I’m here to play hockey, be the best player I can be for the Islanders. Those things are above my head. I just try to have the right attitude every day, not take this for granted, enjoy the group we have, the staff we have. Ever since I’ve been here I’ve been treated great, just tried to come out and give everything I can. We wish we’d have more success, but anything that happens, anything that has happened is out of my control.”