Deadlines have continued to pass and soon-to-be-free-agent star John Tavares has still not provided the slightest inkling of which team he will sign with.
While the hockey world remains in the dark, this much is clear: The deadline for Tavares to sign an eight-year deal with the New York Islanders, the team he spent the first nine years of his NHL career with, passed at midnight.
The Islanders were the only team that could offer Tavares a deal that long, per the league’s CBA, but had until Jun. 30 to do so.
At 12 p.m. ET Sunday afternoon, the 27-year-old officially becomes a free agent and can sign with one of the five other reported teams that are in on him. Each of the six teams can sign Tavares to a max contract of seven years now, which takes away the Islanders’ slim advantage and levels the playing field for everyone else.
Needless to say, things look bleak for New York right now.
While Tavares’ camp and the teams involved have provided little information, it is believed that the Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs are the front-runners for the All-Star while the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars continue to be in the mix.
It was originally reported that Tavares would alert the Islanders if he wanted to sign with them as early as Friday while starting to notify other teams that fell out of the running. Yet there is no word on his future in New York and no team has admitted to being eliminated as of yet.
If anything, the lack of information indicates just how difficult a decision this is for Tavares. On one hand, he has remained incredibly loyal to the Islanders, who are finally moving in the right direction for the first time in his career after hiring Lou Lamoriello as president and Barry Trotz as head coach. He continuously stated throughout the last year that he would want to stay with the Islanders and made it known that he did not want to be traded at the deadline. Dealing Tavares would have been the ideal move had it been known that he wouldn’t return.
But for a star that has made the postseason just three times in nine years while winning just a single playoff series, the grass could look much greener elsewhere.
The Maple Leafs were Tavares’ boyhood team and have young, dynamic players like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner developing to make a serious run in the Eastern Conference over the next few years. They’ve been linked with the Ontario native since the possibility of free agency emerged.
San Jose has become a serious threat far more recently. As a franchise that has made the postseason in 18 of the last 20 years, the Sharks provide Tavares with a consistent promise of postseason hockey.
That’s something the Islanders have not been able to provide as it might just be a case of too little too late for the face of their franchise.