According to reports by Arthur Staple and Elliotte Friedman, the Lightning might be one of the teams to pitch New York Islanders forward John Tavares on signing a free agent contract. The Isles are still considered the favorite to sign him but it sounds like the Lightning might have a chance to shoot their shot before Tavares makes his final decision. The news broke at the draft as some of the free agent dominoes started to fall.
With Ilya Kovalchuk heading to the Los Angeles Kings, it appears the floodgates have now opened for the big names on the market this NHL off-season. Kovalchuk has returned to the NHL after five seasons with SKA St. Petersburgh of the KHL. At 35-years-old, Kovalchuk was still able to command a three-year contract worth $6.25 million per year.
Kovalchuk can't technically sign the deal until July 1. They've agreed to terms. But even within that, I'm told the Kings and Kovalchuk's agent J.P. Barry still have work left on some final details within the structure of the deal. There will be signing bonus money in the deal— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) June 23, 2018
Next, Eric Engels of Sportsnet has reported that Max Pacioretty talks have heated up dramatically with the news of Kovalchuk being off the market. With one year left on his contract with the Montreal Canadiens, and GM Marc Bergevin never appearing to like his captain, the premier scorer could reset the value of players who are perennial 30-goal scorers.
News of a trade also could mean Bergevin is looking for a center in return because he’s lost out on John Tavares. That’s where we find the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Pat Brisson, agent for John Tavares, confirms that his client will use the UFA speaking period to chat with 5 teams— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) June 23, 2018
As mentioned in here from last night, Tavares' list of visitors on Monday/Tuesday will almost certainly include TOR, SJ and DAL. TBL may be in there too. LAK, after signing Kovalchuk, likely out. Perhaps VGK gets in there. https://t.co/pIe8CyCKwz— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) June 23, 2018
Yup, you heard that right, the Tampa Bay Lightning are a team that are in the running to get the premier centerman! Competing with the Toronto Maple Leafs, San Jose Sharks, Dallas Stars, and potentially the Los Angeles Kings and Las Vegas Golden Knights. I’m a little more skeptical of the Kings because they just invested over six million dollars in Ilya Kovalchuk, so making room for possibly $11 million plus could be hard.
We should not forget that all six of these teams are most likely bridesmaids to the New York Islanders, who are still the massive front-runners for retaining JT’s services.
Even with Tavares taking these meetings, just about everyone around the league feels he's going back to #Isles.— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) June 23, 2018
Tavares has been linked to the Lightning since Elliotte Friedman’s 30 Thoughts article back in July of 2017. Talks died down for a few months, but it appears to have ramped up again with the news that Steve Yzerman has a seat at the table.
Current argument in the @RawCharge slack sparked by 30 thoughts today. Would you be willing to lose Kucherov to sign Tavares long term?— Grant McCagg's Colleague (@loserpoints) July 13, 2017
In terms of being able to afford the contract, the near future would likely mean J.T. Miller and Braydon Coburn would have to be moved as well as potentially Ryan Callahan’s $5.8 million and/or Tyler Johnson’s $5 depending on what the Lightning plan to do next summer. The year following would probably force the Lightning to spend far less than the $25 million or so they currently have invested in the defense. It shouldn’t be too hard to make that a reality when $15.4 million come off next summer with Ryan McDonagh, Anton Stralman, Braydon Coburn, and Dan Girardi all coming off their current deals.
You can find Geofitz4’s deep dive into the possibility of #TavaresToTampa here. He does a really good job looking at all the aspects of not only if the Lightning can afford it, but why Tavares should sign here.