Now that Ilya Kovalchuk is off the table, John Tavares is the undisputed jewel in the crown of NHL free agency this summer.
The star center is scheduled to officially reach the open market on July 1, and the consensus seems to be that six teams are legitimately in the race to obtain the services of Tavares.
However, you may be able to cut that list in half.
According to Arthur Staple of The Athletic, there are two teams, in addition to the New York Islanders, who are emerging as favorites to land at age 27.
"Tavares reportedly was impressed by the meticulous releases of the six teams: The (Toronto Maple) Leafs, Islanders, (San Jose) Sharks, (Boston) Bruins, (Tampa Bay) Lightning and (Dallas) Stars" , writes Tavares. "It is believed that, if Tavares moves away from the Islands, it is the Sharks and the Leaves in numbers 1 and 2 of his list, San Jose has the same quiet environment as Long Island to go with a group of veterans, a strong porter and a situation far from the Islanders.
"The Leafs have their young stars, a coach in Mike Babcock who Tavares respects (of course, he now has it with the islanders in Barry Trotz) and the possibility of a one-year maximum offer of around $ 16 million for the next season before a possible eight-year extension to a more modest number later. "
Staples' report obviously does not bode well for the Bruins, who have already swayed and missed Kovalchuk and are in danger of losing to Rick Nash as well. Boston has no urgent need to add a superstar, but acquiring Tavares would make the B a top contender to win the Stanley Cup next season.
If Black and Gold are really escaping from the Tavares draw, maybe Patrice Bergeron should make another call to the nine-year veteran in hopes that his team will return to the race.
Thumbnail photo by Tom Szczerbowski / USA TODAY Sports