The long and pain staking wait is finally over. After many weeks of anxiety and speculation throughout the National Hockey League, both fans and team executives have finally been put out of their misery.
Furthermore, after having watched plenty of signings take place to kick off Trade Frenzy on Canada Day, John Tavares made up his mind and therefore joined in on the fun, signing with his hometown after nine years with the Islanders on Long Island.
Just minutes before 1pm ET, Arthur Staple of The Athletic New York reported that the Islanders were out of the running for their captain of years while just moments later he would add on that Tavares had informed the team that he would not be re-signing with the club that had drafted him.
This was only a start. Just a matter of moments later, David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period reported that the 27-year-old native of Mississauga, Ontario had agreed to terms with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
This was followed by a club announcement from the Maple Leafs Public Relations Department to confirm the agreement between the two sides while noting that the annual average value of the deal would be $11M per season.
Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.ca was next to clue in, reporting that Tavares had agreed to terms a seven-year contract while re-iterating the known salary included as part of the contract. Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic Toronto was next to join in on the fun, reporting that Tavares would earn a total of $77M over the lifetime of his new deal.
James Mirtle of The Athletic Toronto reports that a press conference is set to be held later Sunday afternoon at Scotiabank Arena to officially address the local media with regards to their latest signing.
LeBrun then jumped in again making mention of the fact that Auston Matthews is absolutely ecstatic about the Tavares news. In continuation, he would go on to say that Matthews reached out to Tavares during the process encouraging him to join the Leafs.
According to Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports, Tavares did have better offers on the table from the other 5 teams involved in his decision making process, however, he decided to play for the team he was cheering for when he was a kid.
As per a report from Chris Johnston of Sportsnet.ca, Tavares is getting more than $70M in signing bonuses on his $77M contract with the Leafs.
Tavares and his agent have spent the last week meeting with representatives from the Boston Bruins, San Jose Sharks, New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning, Dallas Stars as well as Toronto in Los Angeles to speak on a preliminary basis about what his future could like elsewhere given his pending UFA status, however, in the end it all came down to comfort closer to home rather than returning to Brooklyn where Garth Snow is still within the organization.
In hopes that the centreman would return to the Barclays Centre, the Islanders added on Lou Lamoriello after three years with the Maple Leafs organization to take over as general manager of hockey operations. This was not the only staffing change however. Just two weeks after Doug Weight was relieved of his duties alongside Snow, the team jumped at the chance to snag Barry Trotz and wasted no time before hiring him upon his resignation from the Washington Capitals.
Tavares took to Twitter a short time after the snake was let out of the bag to thank the Islanders and their fans for their support during his years of service while he also expressed his excitement to start a new chapter in Toronto. In a statement from the , he said, “I’m thrilled to be starting a new chapter of my career and life in Toronto with the Maple Leafs. I feel very fortunate to come join a team with a great young core and play where I grew up learning and loving the game. I can’t wait to get started!”
As of midnight, Tavares had not signed a new deal with New York which meant taking an eight-year deal from another organization was out of the equation. Furthermore, Friedman had reported after the fact that Tavares could only sign a deal elsewhere with a maximum capacity stay of seven years to go alongside a value worth upward of $70 million US.
The Islanders have released a statement since learning of the news that has caused heartbreak in Brooklyn and to that extent, Lamoriello said, “The New York Islanders would like to thank John Tavares for everything he has done for the franchise throughout the past nine seasons. John has achieved great individual success on the ice, as well as devoting a tremendous amount of his time and energy to the community. We wish him and his family all the best.”
Taking a look at his statistics for the 2017-18 season, Tavares, 27, appeared in a total of 82 games played where he recorded 37 goals to go alongside 47 assists, making for 84 points to go alongside 26 penalty minutes.
Tavares was originally drafted by the New York Islanders in the first round (1st overall) back in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and almost immediately took to the scene, joining the club later that season where he put on a show to further prove what he was capable of.
This of course ignited a fire not only in the clubhouse but on the ice as well as the Canadian was later named the 14th captain in team history in September of 2013 as his services only continued to provide the extra kick that will now most likely be found from either Matthew Barzal if not, Jordan Eberle, both of whom will be given a chance to step up their game to a greater level of play if the offseason proves useless, therefore, a similar formation come Opening Night in October.
As noted by the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, it is believed the Maple Leafs created a promotional video to present to Tavares that included a few of the players. It is also worth noting that Toronto has been considered a front runner for the veteran’s services for a few days now since the Maple Leafs brass left their meeting, feeling rather confident in their pursuit.
Speaking of which, CBC also makes mention of the fact that each organization was allowed two hours at the Beverly Hills, Calif.-based office of Creative Artists Agency Sports to address Tavares, his agent Pat Brisson as well as his fiancé Aryne Fuller.
Toronto has become a hot spot for players like Tavares for a few years now since guys like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner appeared on the scene in 2016. Bringing the two up from Toronto’s minor league affiliates has proved to have changed the way in which the franchise performs on a nightly basis.
If you take a look at this signing through the eyes of Kyle Dubas, for starters, Tavares’ arrival marks the first big player move for 31-year-old hockey executive in his six-week tenure thus far as the 17th general manager in Maple Leafs history.
Something else to keep in mind would be his mind blowing success this past season in the American Hockey League where he received a ring with the Toronto Marlies who he helped guide along the way to their win of the Calder Cup.
As noted by Mike Zeisberger of NHL.com, Dubas, alongside Lamoriello, set the groundwork to make Toronto a desirable place for free agents to come. Dubas served under Lamoriello and learned so much from the 75-year-old executive who is now on the outside looking in from the sweepstakes that have taken the hockey world by storm.
As noted by Paul Hendrick of Leafs Nation Network, Toronto will ice 3 of the game’s elite centres not seen in these parts arguably since the club had Keon, Kelly and Pulford playing the middle in the 60’s.
Jeff Veillette of Faceoff Circle mentions that with Tavares now locked in and for the foreseeable future, the Leafs now have $13.7 million in cap space. Of course it’s worth pointing out that William Nylander, Frederik Gauthier, Andreas Johnsson, Martin Marincin, and Justin Holl remain as RFAs while Nathan Horton’s LTIR is not used as part of the total.
Tavares’ salary breakdown looks as displayed below with courtesy of Pierre LeBrun who adds on that there is a full no-move, full no-trade clause included in the deal:
Year 1, $650k salary, $15.25M sb
Year 2, $910k salary, $14.99M sb
Year 3, $910k salary, $11.09M sb
Year 4, $910k salary, $8.44M sb
Years 5-7, $910k salary, $7.04M sb in each of those years
For his career at the NHL level, Tavares has registered a total of 272 goals to go alongside 349 assists, making for 621 points in 669 career NHL games, which ranks him fifth all-time in points with the Islanders franchise and seventh in goals.
At this time, Tavares is coming off a six-year, $33 million deal he signed prior to the 2012-13 season that carried a cap hit of $5.5 million per season. Coming into Toronto, it is more than likely that Tavares could be joining what could be one of the deepest, if not most talented, group of centres in the NHL with Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri by his sides while serving under the management of head coach Mike Babcock.
A press conference will be held at Scotiabank Arena at 4pmET/1 p.m. PT to officially announce the signing of John Tavares and you can watch it live on Sportsnet One and Sportsnet.ca which will be followed by an hour of Hockey Central coverage to put the busy day of signings in review.