The Bruins might not be the heavy favorites to land premium free agent John Tavares. The Bruins might not have the most available cap space to offer Tavares the biggest contract of the handful of teams expected to meet with his camp in Los Angeles this week. When it’s all said and done, the Bruins might have to make a number of corresponding moves to clear cap and roster space if they pulled a bit of an upset and landed the current Islanders franchise center.
Still, all of those are worries for another day because today, the Bruins are making plans to pitch Tavares, his agent Pat Brisson and other members of the Tavares camp in LA this week, along with the Sharks, the Lightning, Maple Leafs, Stars and, of course, the Islanders, who are hoping to hang onto him. If they're in the mix, then they’ve got a shot at landing a player who could help push the Bruins into very legit Stanley Cup contenders next season and give them Patrice Bergeron and Tavares as their top two centers down the middle.
That’s legit star power and would give the Bruins exactly what they’re looking for on their second line after their scoring depth up front was exposed in the second round against Tampa Bay. At the end of last weekend’s draft in Dallas, Don Sweeney didn’t want to get into any premature discussions ahead of setting up a meeting with Tavares and his representation. But Sweeney did also admit that the Black and Gold had very clearly “had a discussion on [the John Tavares] front” and were interested in being among the suitors.
So, now they’ll get their wish in trying to woo Tavares away from Long Island/Brooklyn. Tavares, 27, had 37 goals and 84 points last season while playing in all 82 games for the Islanders. He has averaged 30 goals and 69 points per season the nine years in New York after being the No. 1 overall pick in 2009. This wouldn’t be trading for/signing a Rick Nash or an Ilya Kovalchuk, both well into the back nine of their careers. An upgrade from Bergeron/Krejci to Tavares/Bergeron would be the kind of masterstroke that eventually leads to Stanley Cups.
This would be arguably the biggest free-agent signing in Bruins history (certainly Zdeno Chara back in 2006 is in that conversation as well) and a move that vaults them to the top of NHL power rankings across the league. So, Sweeney, Cam Neely and the Bruins would do well to offer up whatever they have to in order to make it a reality, and bring Bergeron with them in the traveling contingent in LA to meet Tavares. Bergeron and Tavares, after all, are former linemates on Team Canada and had pretty immediate chemistry when slotted together in international play.
Now, as for the costs to land Tavares...
The Islanders have reportedly already given him a baseline offer of something in the neighborhood of eight years, $88 million. That remains the most likely resolution. So, the Bruins will need to probably go into the $12 million-per-season range on the maximum seven-year contract they can offer and make him the richest player on their roster.
At,27, there are a handful of prime years left for Tavares heading into his next deal, so that’s a contract the Bruins should have no problem offering.
Thie Black and Gold just so happen to have $12 million in cap space, but they’d need to shed some salary in order to take care of some of their other roster needs. A Tavares signing would then require the Bruins to move either David Krejci ($7.25 million cap hit) or David Backes ($6 million cap hit) to clear the needed space. That would come with its own set of challenges. The Bruins aren’t going to get great value for Krejci and Backes, aging veterans in their 30’s with massive contracts, so it would be something more in the way of a salary-cap dump than hockey trade were it to happen.
It would certainly be possible if the Bruins are picking up some of the salary or moving a prospect along with the cap space they’re trying to clear, and it would be a no-brainer to do this once Tavares in a Spoked-B sweater became a reality. The cascading moves, and challenges, that would be necessary for Don Sweeney as byproducts of a Tavares signing would be a story for another day, however.
Today, it’s about once again applauding Sweeney and the B’s for pushing their way into the mix for the best player available on the free agent market, and taking their best cut when it’s Boston’s chance to make their pitch. Maybe they pull the upset for Tavares, maybe they once again come up empty and maybe B’s management comes up with something unique from the other suitors that will make them stand out.
Whatever the case, the Bruins have been invited to the Tavares Sweepstakes out in California this week and everything else Black and Gold takes a back seat until they take their best shot at a franchise-elevating type move.