Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The John Tavares Sweepstakes power rankings

The John Tavares watch is heating up, as we count down the days until the Islanders’ star reaches unrestricted free agency. That still leaves plenty of time for the Islanders to re-sign him, and the latest development suggests that Lou Lamoriello will be the one leading that charge. That seems like good news for Islanders fans, who hadn’t been given much reason to believe that Garth Snow could get a deal done.

But even with Lamoriello in the driver’s seat, there’s no guarantee that Tavares doesn’t at least test the market. Recently, his teammates have been sounding nervous over their captain’s future, and every day that goes by without an extension brings Tavares closer to what could be the biggest bidding war in recent NHL history.

We’re not quite there yet. But we’re close enough that it’s probably time to start figuring out where everyone stands. So today, let’s count down the John Tavares power rankings, as we figure out who slots in where in the various categories worth wondering about.

The “Which team needs him most?” Ranking

We may as well start here. Tavares is the sort of player that just about every team should be in on. But some need him more than others.

Not ranked: Vegas Golden Knights: Yeah, that’s about enough, George McPhee. Maybe try playing with the sliders moved past the “very easy” level.

5. Toronto Maple Leafs: The roster may not need Tavares as much as some others (or as much as they need help on the blue line). But after getting their shot at Steven Stamkos in 2016 and failing to reel him in, whiffing on another local boy in Tavares would at the very least be a dent to Toronto egos.

4. San Jose Sharks: They’re a good team that’s not far from contending. But the Joe Thornton era is ending, if it’s not over already, and the core is getting older. Landing Tavares would chart a new course for the team, while missing out would lead to questions about what exactly comes next.

3. Carolina Hurricanes: Let’s be honest, a lot of us are watching the Tom Dundon era unfold in Carolina and scratching our heads. Convincing Tavares to buy in and choose the Hurricanes would end a lot of those questions very quickly.

2. Montreal Canadiens: After a miserable season, they could use three things: some reason for optimism, some confidence in a struggling front office, and a first-line centre. Tavares takes care of all three in one shot.

1. New York Islanders: The obvious choice. Losing a franchise player is devastating. Seeing him choose to walk away after you’ve had all year to sell him on the long-term vision would be far worse, and raise all sorts of red flags about where the organization is headed.

The “What’s worst for the Islanders?” Ranking

If you’re an Islanders fan, it goes without saying that seeing Tavares leave would feel like a disaster. But some destinations would be extra painful, so let’s work our way down to the worst-case scenario.

Not ranked: Anyone from the Western Conference: Out of sight, out of mind? Not quite, but if Tavares has to go then Islanders fans would probably prefer him to land as far away as possible.

5. Montreal Canadiens: Only because Islanders fans have had to listen to Montreal fans and media drone on and on for the last two years about landing Tavares. Having them actually be proven right would be unbearable. After all, what’s worse than a smug Canadiens fan?

4. Toronto Maple Leafs: Oh, right.

3. New Jersey Devils: They haven’t come up often in Tavares rumours, which is strange given their cap space and an improving young roster. Seeing their franchise player stay in the division, not to mention the tri-state area, would be brutal.

2. Carolina Hurricanes: Another division rival. And to make matters worse, the Hurricanes landing Tavares would be an example of new ownership coming in and immediately shaking things up with big changes and aggressive moves. Meanwhile, new Islanders ownership patiently stuck with Garth Snow through Tavares’s final season, maybe until it was too late.

1. New York Rangers: With the Rangers rebuilding, they seem like a long shot to be in hard on Tavares. But this is a team that’s rarely been able to pass up the lure of a big-name free agent, and seeing Tavares move across town would be devastating for Islander fans.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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