As the second day of the NHL Entry Draft moves along, we finally get an update on John Tavares and his upcoming free agency. Tavares is allowed to start meeting with other teams around the league as early as Sunday, and he apparently will take advantage of the opportunity just as Steven Stamkos did two summers ago. Stamkos ended up re-signing with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the only team he’d ever known, something New York Islanders fans will hope repeats this summer after Tavares gets a chance to see what else is out there.
Larry Brooks of the New York Post and David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period both have heard that Tavares will meet with five teams this week, though the New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues are apparently not among them. Aaron Portzline of The Athletic also reports that the Columbus Blue Jackets will not meet with Tavares. Who those teams are is not clear at this point, though there has been plenty of speculation about clubs like the San Jose Sharks, Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Tavares, 27, would arguably be the best free agent to hit the market during the salary cap era, and could potentially become the league’s highest-paid player. That distinction currently belongs to Connor McDavid, but his eight-year $100MM contract could be eclipsed should a bidding war start on Tavares. That rules out many teams around the league, but still even those with a small amount of cap space may be interested in meeting and seeing how they could work things out. The Los Angeles Kings for instance were looking at basically every offensive player available, but with the signing of Ilya Kovalchuk today likely don’t have the room to fit in a player like Tavares.
Arthur Staple of The Athletic, who is one of the closest people in media to the situation in New York, believes that Toronto, San Jose and Dallas will “almost certainly” be among the teams afforded a meeting. He mentions Tampa Bay and Vegas—a team Pagnotta also mentions—as well, though no one will really know until Tavares reveals the teams himself, or someone stakes out the meeting spot. Staple adds though that despite taking the meetings “just about everyone” still expects Tavares to re-sign in New York.