John Tavares: Pipe Dream or Reality?
On July 1st, 2018, one man is set to become a whole lot richer, but will it be the Rangers who pay him? John Tavares has been a star ever since he was drafted first overall by the New York Islanders in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Tavares has been named to five all-star teams in his career, and has 621 points in 669 NHL games. Tavares is a franchise player, and would benefit any team he would join, especially, the Rangers.
Many teams will vie for Tavares, only one will sign him. Who knows if Tavares will even test free agency, but the Islanders will pay him whatever he wants as they want to keep their captain. So why hasn’t he signed yet? I firmly believe that Tavares will go to free agency. In the summer of 2016, Steven Stamkos was two days away from becoming a unrestricted free-agent, and signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, this situation is different. Steven Stamkos knew that if he signed with the Lightning, he would have a chance to win a Stanley Cup; and the Lightning are proving that now as they will be advancing to the second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Sorry Islander fans, but I do not believe that the Islanders are on the cusp of being able to contend for the Stanley Cup.
So we’ve established the fact that Tavares (probably) wants to test the Free Agent market, so why will the Rangers pursue him, and why would he want to sign with the Rangers?
- Location: Manhattan and Madison Square Garden are always enticing to Free Agents, but John Tavares already lives in New York. If Tavares was to sign with the Rangers, it would be convenient for him. He wouldn’t have to move and get re-acquainted to a new city.
- Arena: Barclays Center was never fit for a ice-rink. The quality of ice is terrible, the locker rooms are sub-par, the scoreboard is off-center and don’t even get me started on the car that occupies a quarter of the whole arena! As a result, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that a new area will be built in Belmont Park, located in Nassau County, New York. However, this arena will take three years to build, and until then, Barclays Center will have to suffice. John Tavares has openly said that he does not like the Barclays Center, and could prefer Madison Square Garden.
Why the Rangers will Pursue Tavares:
- The Rangers Need a Center (and Star): When the Rangers traded Derek Stepan last summer, they never made any moves to compensate for his loss (unless you count the signing of David Desharnais). The Rangers clearly missed his leadership, and playing ability this past season. In Stepan’s absence, Mika Zibanejad assumed first-line center responsibilities. Although Zibanejad played well, at this stage in his career, I don’t believe he is a bona-fide first-line center. As of right now, the Rangers have Mika Zibanjad-Kevin-Hayes (RFA)-Vladimir Namestnikov (RFA)-Peter Holland as their four centers. The center is the most important offensive position, and as shown by the Rangers performance this past season, they will not be able to contend with this center group. With an addition of a true first-line center, the Rangers would be a whole lot scarier offensively.
- Management and Ownership: As ranked by Forbes, the Rangers are the most expensive NHL team at 1.2 billion dollars. Rangers owner Jim Dolan is missing out on a lot of cash with the Rangers not qualifying for the playoffs, and will not let it happen again next season. “We’re committed to winning the Stanley Cup. I can’t give a timetable, but I also think we can compete for a playoff spot next year and sneak into seventh or eighth place. We’re rebuilding but it doesn’t have to take forever – Jim Dolan in Larry Brooks’ article.” Dolan has always ordered Rangers management to acquire a big name player when the opportunity arises. Dolan told the Rangers to trade for Rick Nash, sign Brad Richards to a mega contract, and even pursue Kevin Shattenkirk. New York is a huge market, and having a star on the team makes money. Dolan even said this when asked about what qualities he was looking for in a new coach: “And I know we need that one great player who can make a difference. We’ve identified some who might become available, and if they do, we want to be in position where we’re able to get them. We’re building a lot of data and analytics into our decision-making. And it’s important for the new coach to embrace that – Larry Brooks’ article.” To me, that quote just screams Tavares.
Heading into the summer, the Rangers will have $24,050,556 in estimated cap-space. Yes the Rangers need to resign some of their players, but with some moves, the Rangers can put themselves in position to sign Tavares. Does Tavares want to leave the Islanders? Does Tavares even want to sign with the Rangers? We will gain more clarity towards answers to these questions as July 1st approaches, but I think that there is a possibility that Tavares will be wearing blue next season; and I mean Ranger blue.
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Feature image credit: Bruce Bennett – Getty Images