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Rumor Roundup: Will Islanders recent woes push Tavares toward free agency?

John Tavares has said he wants to re-sign with the Islanders, but ongoing problems with the team in Brooklyn might make it possible for a team like the Leafs to make a push toward signing him.

New York Islanders center John Tavares is two years away from eligibility for unrestricted free agency. While he's stated his intent to remain with the Islanders that hasn't stopped some Toronto pundits from suggesting the Mississauga-born Isles captain could join the Maple Leafs in 2018.

The Toronto Star's Damien Cox points out the Islanders inability to build into a Stanley Cup contender, ongoing problems with their former and current arenas, their recent poor record at the draft table, and a seeming unwillingness to re-sign several key free agents. He speculates those factor could convince the 26-year-old Tavares to rethink his plans about staying in Brooklyn. 

While acknowledging the Leafs struck out last summer attempting to woo Steven Stamkos from the Tampa Bay Lightning, Cox believes the Maple Leafs could prove more attractive than the Islanders in two years time. They have budding stars in Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner. Several burdensome contracts, including those of Joffrey Lupul and Stephane Robidas, will be off the Leafs' books by 2018, freeing up cap room to pursue a big-ticket addition.

Still, these factors are no guarantee the Leafs can land Tavares. He might not be keen to face the demands of playing in hockey's most demanding market. The Leafs could be better in two years time, but no closer to Stanley Cup contention. If he tests the free-agent market, there's no certainty they can outbid rival suitors for his services. It could cost over $10-million annually on a seven-year deal to land him.

It's also possible the Leafs might not need Tavares by that point. Should Matthews, Nylander and Marner blossom as expected, Toronto could have three young superstar forwards on their hands. Matthews should be fully entrenched as the Leafs first-line center. Tavares would be relegated to second-line duty, a role he's unlikely to accept.

The cost of re-signing Matthews, Nylander and Marner could also prevent the Leafs from pursuing Tavares. Considering what it cost the Calgary Flames to re-sign Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan this summer, the Leafs could be forced to pony up over $20 million to retain their talented trio. Toss in a hefty contract for Tavares, and they would have over $30 million invested in just four forwards. Hardly a wise investment for a club that could still need talented blueline depth and more secondary scoring come 2018.

A hometown superstar joining the Leafs is a pretty dream. But as we learned earlier this year with Stamkos, it's one that probably won't come true.


Entering this week, the standoff between restricted free agent defenseman Jacob Trouba and the Winnipeg Jets continues. Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos reports the Jets would still love to re-sign him, perhaps to a six-year deal worth $5-million per season. He also suggests rival clubs could become more interested in Trouba if he's under a long-term deal and returns to action by Dec. 1.

Kypreos' colleague Elliotte Friedman observes Trouba's agent Kurt Overhardt went through a similar situation with client Kyle Turris five year ago. He points out the Arizona Coyotes eventually re-signed Turris on Nov. 22, 2011, then dealt him to the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 17.

Meanwhile, Trouba remains linked with several clubs in the rumor mill. The Boston Herald's Steve Conroy feels the 23-year-old rearguard could be a good addition to the Bruins for the right price. Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reports the Detroit Red Wings and Anaheim Ducks were among two teams attempting to pry the blueliner away from the Jets.

Conroy doesn't want the Bruins to part with promising D-man Brandon Carlo and is reluctant to have them give up Torey Krug. He suggests an offer of left winger Ryan Spooner and blueline prospect Jakub Zboril. However, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff reportedly seeks a left-handed defenseman of comparable age, skill and development as Trouba. Conroy's trade suggestion likely won't interest Cheveldayoff.

Wings GM Ken Holland's made no secret of his club's need to bolster his blueline depth. The Ducks, however, are loaded with talented young defensemen and in need of scoring depth at left wing. Having recently re-signed blueliner Hampus Lindholm, it makes no sense for them to pursue Trouba.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website,, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

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