The addition of Lou Lamoriello to the New York Islanders has quickly changed the free agency landscape. Suddenly, teams that have been drooling over the chance to sign star center John Tavares are beginning to question whether it’s just a dream.
Tavares, who is by far the top-rated unrestricted free agent in this summer’s free agent class, is coming off one of his strongest seasons in his career as he posted 37 goals and 84 points in a full 82-game season despite the team’s struggles throughout the season, which resulted in not making the playoffs for a second straight year. His best season came in 2014-15 when he had 38 goals and 86 points, so the 27-year-old is at the top of his game.
Regardless, he has refrained from signing or even mentioning signing an extension during the season and has said he would like to test the free agent market. Between the team’s troubles of finding a permanent home (their new arena is still years away) and the team’s inability to provide a stable winning environment, many people believe that Tavares, known to be a very loyal player, was ready to move on.
The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons writes that several teams, however, are already getting the impression that Tavares might re-sign with Lamoriello and the Islanders before free agency even starts on July 1. The Tavares camp isn’t acting like they will be free agents, according to Simmons, with the phrase “if” as in “if we’re available.” To make matters worse for these teams, Lamoriello is known for two key facts — credibility and silence. Lamoriello has a history of winning, which Tavares would appreciate and he also doesn’t tip his hand, so no one really knows what he is doing behind the scenes.
It should be noted that rarely does a franchise free agent ever change hands. Steven Stamkos did not leave Tampa Bay after many believed he was. The Sedin twins never left Vancouver. Regardless, the addition of Lamoriello into the free agent mix will only make things more interesting on July 1.