John Tavares soon will make his most important decision as an NHL player: choosing where he’ll spend the prime of his career.
The 27-year-old New York Islanders captain is expected to become an unrestricted free agent Sunday, and as one of the league’s 10 or 12 best players, he’s likely to command a seven-year contract possibly worth between $11 million and $13 million per season.
Several teams reportedly will meet with Tavares this week to give their free-agent pitch, including the Boston Bruins. The Bruins have about $12 million in salary cap space, per CapFriendly, and they be forced to make a few moves to clear cap room if Tavares plans on coming to Boston. But those moves should be made if it means signing a franchise cornerstone player.
Here’s why the B’s are a great fit for Tavares right now and down the road.
The Bruins can surround him with loads of high-end scoring talent.
The Bruins scored the sixth-most goals in the NHL and had the league’s fourth-best power play last season. Eleven B’s players scored 10-plus goals, and adding a player like Tavares — who’s never scored fewer than 24 goals in a season and has tallied the fifth-most goals in the league since 2010 — would make Boston’s offense arguably the best in the league.
Tavares’ potential wingers include Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, David Pastrnak, Ryan Donato and others. That’s a lot of exciting young talent who play with speed and a physical edge. He’d also join a power play that includes Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, who is coming off a career-high 85 points in just 65 games.
Imagine the following top six:
Marchand–Bergeron– Anders Bjork/Donato
The Bruins are built to win now, and in the future.
Boston’s veteran core of Bergeron, Marchand, David Krejci, goaltender Tuukka Rask and defenseman Zdeno Chara is among the best in the league. All of them have won a Stanley Cup (Rask as a backup) and boast tons of playoff experience.
The Bruins’ stable of young players also is among the best in the sport. Charlie McAvoy is one of the game’s most talented young defensemen and already a top-pairing player. Torey Krug is coming off a career-high 59 points and is only 27 years old. DeBrusk and Heinen both tallied more than 40 points as rookies in 2017-18, and the former was very good in the 2018 playoffs.
Donato scored five goals with four assists in his 12 regular-season games and projects to be a top-six forward for a long time. Pastrnak is one of the best young wingers in the world. His elite skill and speed have helped him tally 150 points (69 goals, 81 assists) in 157 games over the last two seasons.
The Bruins have a veteran core still in its prime that’s capable of leading a deep playoff run, and this group is supported by a promising collection of young players who have proven their NHL worthiness and still haven’t come close to reaching their potential. And we haven’t even talked about Boston’s 2017 first-round pick, Urho Vaakanainen, who is drawing strong reviews entering September’s training camp.
Adding Tavares likely would make the Bruins the favorites to win the Eastern Conference next season, and possibly the Stanley Cup, as well.
Tavares won’t need to shut down the opponent’s best player.
Tavares is a very good defensive forward. He’s played against tough competition with the Islanders and is capable of holding his own in the defensive zone against the league’s elite forwards. But he won’t have to be the No. 1 shutdown forward on the B’s because that role is expertly filled by Patrice Bergeron, the league’s best defensive forward (sorry, Anze Kopitar). Bergeron and Marchand do the heavy lifting against the opponent’s top lines every night (especially on the penalty kill), which would give Tavares a bit of a break and allow him to focus more on his elite offensive talent. Tavares still would play against top competition as a member of the B’s, but he wouldn’t have to be the main guy for difficult defensive assignments.
The Bruins’ tradition, fanbase and ownership are strong.
Tavares has played in a lot of Islanders home games where attendance was lacking. That won’t be the case in Boston, where TD Garden is consistently sold out and filled with the most passionate fans in the league. The Bruins’ rich history, which includes six Stanley Cup titles, many Hall of Famers and Original Six status, also could be appealing to Tavares. Lastly, Bruins ownership, led by the Jacobs family, has given the front office the resources needed to be successful, whether it’s paying for talent or building a beautiful new practice facility in Warrior Ice Arena, among other things.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports
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