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Why John Tavares Will Change The NHL Landscape This July

John E. Sokolowski USA Today

The Islanders’ Captain Will Further Reshape The NHL With His Next Contract.

The New York Islanders have had an impressive start to the season. A 7-4-1 record and 15 points have them fourth in a tough Metropolitan division, and if the season ended today, they’d own the first wild-card spot. Head Coach Doug Weight has done an outstanding job following the dismissal of Jack Capuano, and turned a last-place team in the Eastern Conference to within a point of making the playoffs. Weight’s current record with the Isles is 31-16-5 over 52 games. The Islanders removed the interim tag from Weight’s title after his success last season. If he continues at his current rate, securing 64.4% of all possible points during his tenure, he would see just under 106 points over 82 games, a total which would have placed the Isles fourth in the Eastern Conference last season.

In addition to the hiring of Weight, the team acquired Jordan Eberle, a winger with five seasons of 20 or more goals. Off the ice, they have continued their search for a full-time home away from Brooklyn. Barclays Arena has housed the team since the 2015-16 season, but will end its relationship with the Islanders after the 2018-19 season. While Barclays says they would rather host events with higher revenue possibilities, the venue was never made to host hockey, and issues of constructed views have been prevalent since the team started playing in Brooklyn.

Brad Penner/USA Today Sports Images

Long-term success is the goal of the franchise, and while a stable coach and new home are important, everyone in the organization knows that their most important move is to lock up franchise cornerstone John Tavares.

Tavares was selected by New York first overall in 2009, named captain in 2013, and led the franchise to its first playoff series win in 23 years in 2016. Tavares has had everything from an All-Star appearance, votes for the Hart Trophy (MVP), and Selke votes (best two-way player). Tavares has been a workhorse, and is poised to cash in when his contract expires at the end of this season.  

This season Tavares has the second most goals and is tied for the fourth most points in the NHL. He is on pace for a career-best 102 points, his most since he logged 86 in the 2014-15 season.

Since 2009, Taveras leads the Isles in games played, goals, assists, points, even strength goals, power play goals, game-winning goals, shots, points, and goals per game. He has either scored or assisted on over 30% of the team’s total goals. He has been the number one center, and best player overall for this team since he was drafted, and is entering his prime years, as he just turned 27.

Top 5 Islanders since 2009
ScorScorScor GoalGoalGoal Per
1John Tavares60024730755417174401899120280.92
2Josh Bailey58410219529778201292596030.51
3Frans Nielsen516107204311702310102390610.60
4Kyle Okposo455119206325942518116684980.71
5Travis Hamonic444261201461962812100600.33
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 11/3/2017.

How much will Tavares make?

Using the tools on Cap Friendly, we can start to paint a picture of what Tavares’ next contract should look like based on players who have recently hit unrestricted free agency for the first time in their careers. Looking at recent long-term contracts signed, there are a few players who’s stats stack up to the Islanders center. Age, games played (GP), points (P), and points per game (PPG) are at the time of signing. All average annual value (AAV) amounts are in millions of dollars.

Steven StamkosTBL88.5 M26569562.99
Jamie BennDAL89.5 M26508448.88
Anze KopitarLAK810 M28730653.89
Jonathan ToewsCHI810.5 M26484440.91

We can use PPG as a qualifier for Tavares, and while he finishes second among these four, Steven Stamkos is at the highest PPG rate and the lowest yearly salary. While there is more to a player than scoring, the lower value can be attributed to the lack of state tax in Florida, something that will also come into play with Tavares. 

Unfortunately for the center, each of these stars has something else to add to their resume, according to hockey-reference. Stamkos has a Rocket Richard trophy for most goals in a season; Jamie Benn has an Art Ross trophy for the most points in a season; Anze Kopitar has two Stanley Cups and a Selke trophy for being voted as the best two-way player; and Toews has three cups, A Conn Smythe trophy for being the playoff MVP, and a Selke as well. That’s heavy competition for Tavares, who has come close, finishing third in goals in 2012-13 and second in points in 2014-15. While the lack of hardware for Tavares hurts his case to be in the 8-10 million range, there is another side to the story.

Players are now signing big deals off their entry-level contracts, making the waters even murkier for NHL GMs to identify what range a player should be in. According to Cap Friendly, Jack Eichel signed an eight-year contract extension before the start of his third NHL at a whopping $10 million per year. Leon Draisaitl signed at $8.5 million per year for eight years as well, at just 21 years old. Connor McDavid dwarfed any other NHL player, signing on for $12.5 million a year after reportedly leaving another $2.5 million a year on the table. These recent signings will tilt the market favorably for a player like John Tavares.

Perry Nelson-USA TODAY

Where Will Tavares Sign?

In the NHL, we commonly see players of Tavares’ caliber sign a long-term deal with their respective team when they hit unrestricted free agency for the first time. However, we haven’t seen an extension signed yet between the captain and his current team, and there continue to be rumors swirling. Here’s why he would leave and where he could go.

Why He Would Move On

The Islanders want to keep Tavares, but there are many factors holding him up from committing long-term to the franchise. Isles beat writer Arthur Staple mentions in his article from the offseason that there are three main factors. The first is the aforementioned Barclays Center. In addition to the holdup in securing a deal for the site that a stadium could be built, Staple notes another issue for the all-star center:

“Same goes for the staredown with Barclays Center over the lease deal, which certainly won’t make Tavares and his teammates happy if they have to stay in Brooklyn with a hostile landlord that won’t fix the slushy ice — ice that Cal Clutterbuck, Tavares’ teammate and close friend, said was responsible for Tavares’ torn hamstring late last season.”

The front office is the next issue, as Staple noted that Tavares’ agent Pat Brisson was on the short list to replace current GM Garth Snow, and because Snow is still leading the team, Tavares is left to speculate on the front office’s direction in the near future. 

The last factor is the Connor McDavid contract extension. While the deal wasn’t done at the time of the article, the final figure of $12.5 million a year provides leverage to a player of the Isles captain’s caliber. 

Where Would He Go?

Thanks to Cap Friendly, we have a clear picture of other franchise’s cap situations that could be destinations for the all-star. There have been links to the Toronto Maple Leafs, as Tavares grew up just outside the city in Mississauga, Ontario. If he wants to play for his hometown team, he could take a little less to make it work. 

Toronto has over $26 million in cap space, but key pieces such as James van Riemsdyk, Leo Komarov, and Tyler Bozak will be unrestricted free agents, and young players Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitchell Marner will be due huge paydays come the end of their ELCs. A Toronto team with a top duo of Matthews and Tavares could be dangerous in the Eastern Conference.

Getty Images- Mike Stobe

Due to the high tax in Toronto, Tavares would likely want a number closer to the $10 or $11 million dollar range. He would be looking at a similar contract to Anze Kopitar’s in Los Angeles, another city with a high-income tax percentage.

If he wanted to play for a contender and get his money, he could go to a team like the Tampa Bay Lightning. He’d net more per year if he signed an identical contract to Steven Stamkos than if he signed for $10.5 million in Toronto and only slightly less than if he re-upped at $10 million a year in New York with the Isles. 

TeamNet at 8.5 AAVNet at 10 AAVNet at 11 AAV 
New York Islanders$4.45 Million$5.22 Million$5.74 Million
Toronto Maple Leafs$3.98 Million$4.68 Million$5.15 Million
Tampa Bay Lighting$5.17 Million$6.08 Million$6.69 Million

The Lightning would have some cap issues, and would likely have to move a piece like Alex Killorn or buy out Ryan Callahan‘s last year to make room for both Nikita Kucherov‘s extension as well as Tavares. Either way, a team with Stamkos, Kucherov, and Tavares could put the NHL on notice.

If Tavares continues his pace this season and puts up over 100 points, he may force a team, whether it be the Islanders or another franchise, to give him a salary in the double digits. Without an arena deal and no clear direction from the front office, this season could very well be the swan song for John Tavares in an Islanders jersey. Not only will his skill help another team and change the competitive balance, but his contract will be another piece to the puzzle for GMs, as he will be the first number one center to be paid after McDavid.

Edited by Jeremy Losak.

Besides John Tavares in the 2009 draft class, how many other number one overall picks currently lead their draft class in points?
Created 11/3/17
  1. 5
  2. 4
  3. 2
  4. 0

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