John Tavares decided to leave behind a legacy he started nine years ago with the New York Islanders, to pursue a new journey with the team he cheered for as a kid. While I feel bad for the Islanders fans who have to suffer through this loss, I cannot help but love this homecoming for Tavares.
Before getting into all the positive aspects of signing Tavares, I do have some concerns about the signing. Tavares signed a seven-year deal worth 11 million dollars per season. While this is not a huge hit on cap space, the Leafs have multiple young stars who will be looking for lucrative long-term deals in the near future. Three players come to mind in this situation, William Nylander, Mitch Marner, and Auston Matthews, or as I like to call them, the holy trinity.
William Nylander is a restricted free agent right now, who still needs to be signed. Nylander is young and incredibly talented, which should put him in a position to get a pretty big payday. The Leafs losing him would be a huge blow for the future, because he will continue to just get better and even more productive. Last season he had 20 goals, 41 assists, and played in all 82 games. Although I have seen rumors about Nylander being traded, I hope that they wouldn't do that because not only would I be very sad, but it is not in the best interest of the Leafs moving forward.
Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews will both become restricted free agents for the 2019-2020 season. You would be brain dead to think that losing these two wouldn't be the worst thing to happen to this team. Both players, like Nylander, are young and talented. Auston Matthews is the face of the franchise and deserves a big payday. Matthews scored 34 goals and had 29 assists in only 62 games this past season. Any team would be lucky to have Matthews and if he doesn't get the pay he deserves I can see him taking his talents somewhere else. Mitch Marner on the other hand, might sign for less than he deserves to continue playing with his childhood team. Just like Nylander, Marner played in all 82 regular season games for the Leafs.
In those games, he racked up 22 goals and 47 assists. Marner leads the team in points, ending the regular season with 69 points, which is impressive considering he struggled offensively at the start of the season. Mitch brings an advanced hockey IQ and incredible playmaking skills to the Leafs. Mitch is an absolute catch and has offensive skills that any team would want to add to their roster, I think that Mitch would give the Leafs a hometown discount which could help them out immensely in being able to sign all three young stars.
I think Tavares not only signed with the Leafs because that was the team he grew up rooting for but because of the talented roster that has already been established. The Leafs have strong young guys who many would love to play alongside, which is why it is so important for Nylander, Matthews, and Marner to all stay with the Leafs.
All I know is that losing any of these three players would result in a huge loss of talent. But the Leafs have $13,679,167 left in cap space and I trust Kyle Dubas, general manager of the Leafs, to get all three players signed and grow the Leafs into a true Stanley Cup contender.
Now that all the negative thoughts I have regarding this signing are out in the air, I want to talk about why this signing might very well be the second best thing to happen to the Leafs (the first was drafting Auston Matthews first overall in 2016).
John Tavares is only 27 years old, which means he has just reached his prime. In the 2017-2018 season Tavares scored 37 goals, the most thus far in his career. He also had 47 assists and played in all 82 games. Tavares has 272 career goals and 349 career assists, which proves he will be an offensive powerhouse for the Leafs.
Head coach Mike Babcock plans on playing Tavares with Mitch Marner, which will be a high scoring second line. The offensive powers of both players will be maximized by playing together. Rotowire.com analyzed Marner and Tavares playing together and said, "Marner played at a 92-point pace last season once he was promoted to the second line alongside Nazem Kadri. Tavares is a shoot-first pivot, so Marner's elite vision and playmaking skills will be a perfect match." Sounds like it might be a record season for both players.
This season is going to be unbelievably fun to watch as a Leafs fan. I am so excited to welcome Tavares to the Maple Leafs and I am so happy that he is a Leaf.
Go Leafs Go!
P.S. Kyle Dubas, do the right thing and make Morgan Rielly captain.