In case you haven’t heard, New York Islanders captain John Tavares could become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
It’s only the biggest national storyline this season. The longer Tavares remains unsigned, and the closer we get to the trade deadline, speculation about the center will only intensify. If he’s not traded and remains unsigned, things will reach a fever pitch.
And for good reason. Tavares is an elite center, a perennial All-Star among the league’s best players, regardless of position. He’ll attract plenty of interest if he’s made available at the trade deadline, and/or if he becomes a free agent.
The Sharks may be one of those teams, as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported their interest back in April. They’ll have plenty of cap space, and a need for a top center as Joe Thornton continues to age, so the Sharks should be interested.
There should be plenty of intrigue as Tavares takes the ice at SAP Center tonight. Yet the discussion surrounding Tavares’ potential free agency is, well, kind of boring.
Perhaps it’s because the season isn’t even two weeks old. Perhaps it’s because Tavares is saying all of the right things. Perhaps it’s because of the tight-lipped nature of the sport. Perhaps it’s because it’s so rare to see a star of Tavares’ stature actually hit free agency. After all, Steven Stamkos didn’t after signing an eight-year extension with Tampa Bay in 2016, and Brent Burns re-signed with San Jose eight months before he could have hit the open market.
Whatever the reason, there’s no fun in any of it.
Free agency is one area where the NHL should take one out of the NBA’s book. Comparing pucks and hoops is comparing apples and oranges, but the NBA does free agency drama so much better.
If Tavares was an NBA player, he wouldn’t be a sport-stopping free agent like LeBron James or Kevin Durant. He’s probably on the level of Paul George, and the Los Angeles Lakers have already been fined for tampering with George...with a year left on George’s contract.
So let’s hope for more front office drama, and read-between-the-lines flirting between Tavares and his rumored suitors. Let’s see more photoshopped images of Tavares in other teams’ jerseys, and premature purchases of a “Tavares 91” jersey from increasingly desperate fanbases.
It doesn’t have to end with a Jim Gray interview, but a little more intrigue surrounding John Tavares’ free agency is welcome. That is, unless you’re an Islanders fan.