It's unclear if John Tavares intends to break up with the New York Islanders, but as of June 23, it appears he's ready to at least flirt.
Tavares has informed the Islanders he will meet with five teams early this week after the NHL's free agency negotiation period opens Sunday, according to multiple reports. It was first reported by The New York Post. Tavares, who will become an unrestricted free agent July 1 if he doesn't re-sign with New York, just played out the final season of a six-year, $33 million contract.
Tavares' agent, Pat Brisson, later confirmed to The Athletic that his client will enter that negotiating period and sit down with rival teams.
While the list of teams Taveres will hold court with has changed, the latest reports have the star center set to sit down with six teams: The Toronto Maple Leafs, the New York Islanders, the San Jose Sharks, the Dallas Stars, the Boston Bruins, and the Tampa Bay Lightning. It had also been reported Tavares could take phone calls with two or three other teams not present in Los Angeles to allow them to make their pitch, but that portion of the plan has since been quashed, leaving the six and only those six teams to make in-person pitches.
While the Kings had originally been rumored to be in on the Tavares summit, on Saturday, the Kings got a commitment from free agent forward Ilya Kovalchuk, reportedly on a three-year deal worth $6.25 million per. Los Angeles has since been omitted from the short list.
The Islanders and Tavares had been attempting to negotiate a long-term extension — New York is the only team that can offer Tavares an eight-year contract — but were unable to strike a deal prior to the NHL Draft.
New York recently hired Barry Trotz as its new head coach, and Lou Lamoriello as its new general manager. After the Islanders made the second of two first-round picks in round one of the NHL Draft Friday night, Lamoriello said he had no updates on the Tavares negotiations, but said, “He’s such ah huge part of the organization. Hopefully it works out."
The Islanders met with Tavares on Monday, along with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
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Last week, the San Jose Sharks acquired and then offloaded forward Mike Hoffman in a salary cap-creating move. Sources later confirmed to Sporting News the Sharks were attempting to position themselves to make a run at both Tavares and Kovalchuk.
The Stars have a projected $20 million in cap space, but only have 13 skaters signed from their 2017-18 team, according to Cap Friendly. Forward Tyler Seguin is also entering the final season of his contract, which has paid him $7.5 million annually. The Stars could also look to trade or buy out the final year of Jason Spezza's contract, set to eat up $7.5 million.
The Lightning are fresh off a trip to the Eastern Conference finals. They currently have about $10 million in projected cap space, but also decisions to make on roster players like J.T. Miller and, next season, Yanni Gourde and Brayden Point.
The Maple Leafs are Tavares' hometown team, he a native of Mississauga, Ont. Toronto has three major extensions on its negotiating docket, chiefly that of Auston Matthews, who is entering the final year of his entry-level contract, along with Mitch Marner. William Nylander is currently a restricted free agent, fresh off the final season of his rookie. deal
The Golden Knights are the latest team to reveal interest in Tavares. Vegas general manager George McPhee boasted about the Golden Knights' amenities as the Islanders attempt to resolve their arena crisis between Barclays Center and the planned project in Belmont.