#TavaresWatch is entering the home stretch

Updates on the John Tavares and James van Riemsdyk sweepstakes under 48 hours away from the opening of unrestricted free agency.

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McKenzie: JVR, Stastny hung up by Tavares decision (TSN1050)
Bob McKenzie updates the John Tavares sweepstakes in his last radio hit of the season.

The latest on the John Tavares sweepstakes as of Friday evening:

I got nothing, and I don’t think anyone does, other than all the same speculation we’ve heard. San Jose and Toronto seem to be the two teams other than the Islanders, but we don’t know that for sure. What I think we know is just the length to which San Jose will go to get this done. I think it’s basically blank cheque time for JT if he wants to go to San Jose. We could be talking McDavid or bigger money to go, if he wants to, on a seven-year deal. They’re selling lifestyle. From all indications, the owner there is pretty much a recluse and doesn’t spend a lot of time in the public eye. He came out to the meeting with JT and laid it on thick. So did Doug Wilson. But I’m sure Kyle Dubas and Brendan Shanahan did all the same stuff. There were reports that when Tavares flew back to Toronto, Shanahan was on the same flight a seat or two away from him. You can play games until you’re blue in the face. Only JT knows for sure. I don’t think he’s made a final decision, and if he has, to our knowledge, he hasn’t told any of the teams that they’re out. We’re just kind of hanging and seeing what is going to happen over the next 24-48 hours.

The latest on JVR and whether Rick Nash taking himself off the market increases his value:

Rick Nash was free in terms of a free agent and he is no longer available. Pacioretty comes with a price – an acquisition cost. Jeff Skinner comes with an acquisition cost. James van Riemsdyk doesn’t. JVR looks good on a first power play, looks good as a potential 30-goal guy with the right players to get him the puck. He’s hung up a little bit by Tavares right now because Boston and San Jose are among the teams that are interested in JVR but only if they get shut out on Tavares. That’s kind of why they’re in a holding pattern. To some degree, Paul Stastny is in somewhat of a holding pattern, too. There are teams that want him and are prepared to do something, but he wants to see what impact Tavares going has and where his best opportunities lie and figure it out from there.

Elliotte Friedman talks Tavares, free agency on CHED (Global News)
Friedman joined Oilers NOW with Bob Stauffer to discuss the latest in the Tavares sweepstakes.

On the status of the Tavares sweepstakes as of Friday evening:

I thought we might have a better idea tonight. I’m less confident in that tonight. I did think that some teams were probably going to get let know today. When you think back to Stamkos, I know it’s not the same agency – Stamkos is Newport and Tavares is CAA – but they let teams know, “You’re out,” and, “We’re going back.” I think that’s kind of what is going to happen here. The last I checked, nobody had really heard anything yet. He flew back to Toronto yesterday, where he lives. I think he wanted to take some time to think about it. The one thing that has a bit of a deadline here is if he wants to re-sign with the Islanders and get the eighth year, he has to do it by [Saturday] night. That is the one thing that has to happen here.

I don’t get a sense that people had necessarily been told they are out. I can’t say that with any certainty.

On how nervous the Islanders are right now about Tavares leaving:

I think the Islanders were a little bit nervous that it got even to this stage. If you remember two years ago with Stamkos, he went through the process and it was on the Wednesday that he said, “You know what? It’s over. I’m going back.” This has lasted, already, two days longer than Stamkos’ did.

I think the thing that makes you nervous if you’re the Islanders is that there are some good salesmen there. There are some people who really believe in what they’re doing. I think San Jose felt really good that their pitch was good. I think Toronto felt very confident that their pitch was good. I think, for a lot of people, it’s not easy to have Steve Yzerman walk in and say no to him.

I think all of these teams – the one thing is – are sitting here and going, “Are we going to get a chance to talk? If we do, we better be ready.” Ron Hextall was in Philadelphia today and he had a media availability in the middle of the scrimmage, and he was saying he would’ve loved to have gotten a seat at that table. There were a lot of people polishing their pitches if they got a chance. I have no doubt there were a lot of good sales jobs put on there.

The one thing I heard – I heard Lamoriello was confident, but he always projects an air of confidence so I wasn’t surprised to hear that.

On how he handicaps the sweepstakes as of Friday night:

I’ve always said it’s 50/50. I’ve always believed it’s his first choice. Has that changed in the last few days? I have no idea, but I always believed it was his first choice.

This is the way I look at it: Of all those teams that are pitching him, besides the Islanders, who is the best team? That’s where I start. To me, I would look at Tampa Bay and say they’re the best team. They have no state tax. I look at them and say, if it’s about winning, then they’re the ones that make the most sense. No state tax. That makes a lot of sense.

The problem is you’re wondering, “What is Tampa going to have to move to get him into the lineup?” San Jose can just plug him in. Toronto, to some degree, has to plug him in. But Tampa Bay has to subtract. That was the one thing I always wondered: What would Tampa Bay have to do to get Tavares into that lineup?

I always thought Tampa Bay was very legit because they’re the best team. I thought San Jose was a really good team with a better chance, because of all of their cap room, of not having to subtract. I always felt that Toronto would come in with something creative. Would they go big for one year and then say sign for eight more after, plus also the opportunity to win in his hometown?

The other thing is, to me the one that stood out for being different, was Dallas. Because again – no state tax. A team that is better than it looks. The one thing I always wondered about Dallas: Would they also have to make a corresponding move off the roster to fit Tavares?

I always wonder if he would want to go somewhere where a team would have to subtract to afford him.

On the interest in James van Riemsdyk around the league:

One of the things I’ve heard about van Riemsdyk is that, the longer this has gone on with Tavares, it’s also limited who he could visit. For example, I think Boston, if they don’t get Tavares, are going to get a winger. They were in on Rick Nash. Rick Nash is taking his time. I think they want to get a winger, but they’ve got to wait until they hear about Tavares. I think San Jose was interested in van Riemsdyk, but same deal. He’s got to wait until he hears about Tavares.

I think there are some other teams there. I think Arizona is there and very interested. I’ve heard Philadelphia was interested. I think for him to really leverage this market, he has to wait and see where Tavares is going to go. I do think, in his case, that is affecting everything else.

How Tavares would change the landscape for the Maple Leafs (The Athletic)
As Jonas Siegel writes, it would give the Leafs an unrivalled trio down the middle that makes them impossible to match up against, real contenders for the highest scoring team in the league, and equips Mike Babcock with can’t-miss matchups throughout his top nine up front. Not to mention the power play units.

Sandin soaking it all in at Leafs development camp (TSN)
“It’s an exciting time that’s come now,” said Sandin. “Coming to Toronto is a cool experience, seeing all the guys and the management and just to see how everything works. It’s a little different from playing in the OHL. It’s one step closer to the best league in the world.”

Why John Tavares has no incentive to return to the Islanders (Yahoo!)
There’s the comfort of what you know and the eight years of term, but not much else is inspiring JT to stay put, argues Kyle Cantlon at Yahoo! Sports.

How we got to John Tavares’ most anticipated decision day (Sportsnet)
A video retrospective on how we got to the point where John Tavares is 36 hours away from potentially becoming the biggest UFA signing since Brad Richards.

MLHS Podcast – John Tavares Watch, 2018 Draft Takeaways

Anthony Petrielli, Declan Kerin and Alec Brownscombe weigh up the 2018 draft and the Tavares sweepstakes in episode 1 of the MLHS podcast.

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