Entering the offseason, John Tavares’ potential free agency was by far the top story. Not too often does a player of his caliber hit the open market. In fact, it is safe to say that he is probably the best free agent since the dawn of the new cap era in the NHL, circa 2005.
Therefore, it was reasonable to think that he would never come close to leaving Long Island. Especially considering the recent front office addition of Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz behind the bench. However, Tavares did reach free agency and now he is a former Islander.
Just a few hours after the start of free agency Tavares officially signed a seven-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs worth, on average, $11 million a year. The deal will pair Tavares with another young star in Auston Matthews and will likely assume the captaincy. An honor he held with the Islander with whom he broke into the league as the top overall selection in 2009.
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Tavares’ 37 goals last year were the second highest of his career and the seventh time in his nine-year career that he has scored more than 25 goals. He has surpassed the 30-goal mark four times in his career. Tavares has 272 goals and 349 assists in 669 regular season games. In that time, Tavares has played just 24 playoff games.
That will likely change as the Leafs are a talented team that reached the playoffs last year without Tavares. That’s not to say they become a top contender overnight as with any big addition like Tavares, there has to be a subtraction. That came in the form of James van Riemsdyk heading back to Philadelphia following a campaign in Toronto where he was mentioned among the Hart Trophy candidates.
In addition, the Leafs play in a division with top teams such as the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Boston Bruins. The team that eliminated in the first round last season. Also, the addition of Tavares doesn’t address their lack of depth from their bottom six forwards and their limitations on defense.