Now that Ilya Kovalchuk is off the table, John Tavares is the undisputed crown jewel of NHL free agency this summer.

The star center is set to officially hit the open market July 1, and the consensus appears to be that six teams legitimately are in the running to obtain Tavares’ services.

However, you might be able to cut that list in half.

According to The Athletic’s Arthur Staple, there are two teams, in addition to the New York Islanders, that are emerging as the favorites to land the 27-year-old.

“Tavares reportedly was impressed by the thorough pitches from all six teams: The (Toronto Maple) Leafs, Islanders, (San Jose) Sharks, (Boston) Bruins, (Tampa Bay) Lightning and (Dallas) Stars,” Tavares writes. “It’s believed that, should Tavares walk away from the Isles, it’s the Sharks and Leafs at Nos. 1 and 2 on his list; San Jose has the same quiet surroundings as Long Island to go with a bevy of veterans, a strong goaltender and a situation far away from the Islanders.

“The Leafs have their young stars, a coach in Mike Babcock whom Tavares highly respects (of course, he has that now too with the Islanders in Barry Trotz) and the possibility of a one-year max offer of around $16 million for next season before a possible eight-year extension at a more modest number afterwards.”

Staples’ report obviously does not bode well for the Bruins, who already swung and missed on Kovalchuk and are in jeopardy of losing Rick Nash as well. Boston isn’t in dire need to add a superstar, but acquiring Tavares would make the B’s a top contender to win the Stanley Cup next season.

If the Black and Gold truly are slipping out of the Tavares sweepstakes, maybe Patrice Bergeron should make another call to the nine-year veteran in hopes of getting his team back in the race.

Thumbnail photo via Tom Szczerbowski/USA TODAY Sports