Free agent centre John Tavares is expected to meet with five teams including the Toronto Maple Leafs, as the NHL interview period begins.
When it comes to NHL free agency nothing is a guarantee anymore, which is why the recent edition featuring John Tavares could be the most exciting. Or, it could end up like Steven Stamkos, which would mean the Toronto Maple Leafs fall short once again.
It all starts on Sunday when teams are allowed to interview with NHL free agents, which is meant to help get things rolling on free agency day. In Tavares’ case, a report from Saturday suggests that five teams could be meeting with him, not including the New York Islanders.
The Leafs are expected to be one of the teams invited to make a pitch for the elite centre and according to Arthur Staple of the Athletic, they’ll have some stiff competition.
The common theme among those teams is that they’re considered to be contenders, with only the Dallas Stars missing the playoffs this past season.
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Another common element is that each team has a strong supporting cast for Tavares and are ready to compete for a Stanley Cup this season.
Out of the five teams, Toronto and San José seem like the early favourites to land the Mississauga native, if he chooses to leave the Islanders.
Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston explains that out of all the teams, the Leafs can offer Tavares everything he’s looking for, but again, there are too many unknowns in this situation.
The San José Sharks will have an enticing pitch for Tavares as they have the cap space to get something done, and of course the Vegas Golden Knights are the biggest wild card that there is.
While the Sharks and Golden Knights have the lifestyle that some players would enjoy, the Leafs know they have a program that’s not only built to win now but down the road too.
It also helps that the team doesn’t have any big contracts to sign this offseason other than William Nylander. Even then, GM Kyle Dubas likes the flexibility the team has to work with.
"“We’re confident right now with our cap situation that we can do really whatever we want to do at this point,” said Dubas to the media. “Nothing is going to stop us or hold us back, and that’s how we’ll proceed here through the entire summer.”"
Not to forget that the wealth of talent they have with the Toronto Marlies and in their prospect pool, will make it easier to fill out holes in the roster.
Another bonus is the way the salary cap has been increasing over the past few seasons and with the expected expansion to Seattle, could get easier for the Leafs to manage all those contracts.
Defence is still an area the Leafs will want to try and improve, but the pickings in free agency are slim. The team will likely take a similar approach to last offseason and try to bring in veteran help and maybe look for a trade partner.
Even with all that, the potential to make a pitch to Tavares is one the Leafs simply can’t ignore even if there is no guarantee, as they’ve learned in the past.