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Breaking down the John Tavares contract debate

John Tavares Contract

As the trade deadline on February 26th approaches, many teams have already begun sending players to new teams, but the Islanders have shown no interest in trading superstar forward John Tavares. Tavares’ contract is set to expire after this season, and he will be looking to land a deal that possibly pays out more money than Connor McDavid’s eight-year 100-million dollar contract. Either way you look at it, John Tavares just might be the biggest gamble in the sport right now. Tavares has shown he can play, but is he worth the money? And what happens if New York doesn’t trade him and he leaves? This offseason Tavares will change the trajectory of a team for either the better or, the worse, and no one knows which one it will be. The John Tavares contract debate will be the biggest storyline of the offseason for the NHL.

What Is Tavares Thinking?

Tavares has made it clear that he will look at factors before making a decision, and rightfully so. It is his life after all, but fans want to know at least a little bit about what he might want to do. Tavares and his team have done an excellent job of keeping things quiet.

However, Tavares has had a lot of positive things to say about the Islanders. One of those things being the building of their new arena in Belmont Park. In a quote by Tavares touched on how the arena he is playing in factors into his decision.

“Like anybody would be, everything that goes into this decision, I’ll think about,” he said. “Obviously where you’re going to play is an important part of that. I don’t think anything’s been finalized or come out officially, so when the time’s right, that news of what’s going to happen will come out and will just be part of my thought process at some point. We’ll see what happens, I guess.”

One thing that may be a considerable factor for John Tavares is the loyalty the Islanders are showing to him. When asked about trading John Tavares by the Athletic General Manager of the Islanders Garth Snow simply told them “I’m not trading John Tavares.”

The loyalty New York is showing to Tavares could potentially end up being the main deciding factor for him. Tavares responded to Snow’s comments with this quote.

“It’s nice to hear that, but I had a good sense of that already. For me, I’m just trying to do my best to help this team. Everything else is out of my control. The goal is to get to the playoffs and compete for the Stanley Cup.”

Earning The Money

John Tavares likely won’t be on the move at the trade deadline, but that doesn’t mean he is staying in New York. Although, both sides are sounding like it is a possibility.

John Tavares Contract
(Photo: Getty Images)

But another thing both sides need to factor in is the contract that Tavares will command. Tavares has earned every penny he will get this offseason. Tavares is on pace for a career-high 88 points this season and this year is not a one-time thing. The 27-year old forward has scored 60+ five straight years now and has had two seasons where he eclipsed the 80 point mark.

Along with that, Tavares is the captain of the third best offense goals per game, but that is where the contract factors in. Can the Islanders pay Tavares and fix their defense at the same time?

The Islanders are the only team in the NHL to be scoring more than three goals per game while at the same time allowing more than three goals per game. It is an issue that needs to be addressed and probably will cost a lot of money.

Crunching The Numbers

New York will have 31.8 million dollars in cap space this offseason, and if they sign Tavares, he is likely to eat 12-15 million of that. So at worst that will leave them with around 16.8 million in cap space.

Along with Tavares, the Islanders notable free agents are forward Josh Bailey, defenseman Calvin De Haan, Defenseman Thomas Hickey and goaltender Jaroslav Halak.

Bailey is having a career year and will be looking to cash out on it. Bailey’s contract will most likely command around a five to six million dollar cap hit. If Tavares stays, it is likely Bailey will be on the way out.

As for De Haan and Hickey, the Islanders have the upper-hand with how poorly the Islanders defense has been and because De Haan is coming off an injury. They potentially could return both of those players at favorable contracts costing around a combined five-million dollars.

Halak likely is on the way out as his goaltending performance this season has been average at best. The Islanders could also waive goaltender Thomas Greiss who is set to make just over three-million dollars this upcoming season.

So after signing all their notable free-agents and assuming they let Halak go and keep Greiss, New York would have to sign a decent defenseman or two, and a goaltender that can get the job done with about 11 to 12 million dollars in cap space.

This is doable, especially with the number of veteran free-agents that are setting up to find new teams this offseason. General Manager Garth Snow would have to be extremely efficient with his money, but with a group this close to contending it should make it easier for him.

What If He Leaves?

If a John Tavares contract doesn’t happen in New York this offseason, it is not the end of the world for them. The Islanders would then be able to afford Josh Bailey and would save roughly five to seven million dollars to spend on other free agents.

Their offense would take a considerable hit obviously, but they would also be able to patch up their holes on the defensive side much quicker; however, the goal for the Islanders is to avoid this doomsday scenario. Resigning Tavares is their number one goal.

What I Think

I think John Tavares will stay in New York. I also think he will be generous to the Islanders and sign for a million or two less than everyone projects. Both sides have shown loyalty to one another, and it is cool to see because it doesn’t happen often.

I think it would be the smart and safe move on both sides for Tavares to stay in New York. They are not that far off from being able to compete for a Stanley Cup. The Islanders just need two or three more defensive pieces to be an elite team. If Tavares signs for less money, the Islanders could be a legit threat in the Eastern Conference by next year.

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