Sports Dave Feschuk: Tavares deal turns Toronto into Centreville

07:06  02 july  2018
07:06  02 july  2018 Source:   thestar.com

Dave Feschuk: Look for John Tavares to make millions, not waves

  Dave Feschuk: Look for John Tavares to make millions, not waves If John Tavares happened to be in the market for career advice this week, this is what any sane person would tell him. They’d tell him, in a quiet moment before he and agent Pat Brisson were to begin hearing recruiting pitches from a handful of NHL teams including the Maple Leafs in Los Angeles, that under no circumstances should he even consider re-signing with the New York Islanders. They’d point out that he’s got the potential to become the NHL’s free-agent catch of the century; that there’ll never be another moment in his life quite like this, with the hockey world genuflecting at his feet.

Dave Feschuk : Tavares deal turns Toronto into Centreville . Icing a lineup with John Tavares , Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri up the middle is a Mike Babcock dream, and a remarkable turnaround after years of scrambling for help in the middle.

Dave Feschuk has been a sports columnist at the Toronto Star since 2003. John Tavares will listen to what the Leafs and a select few other clubs have to offer this week, then most likely wind up right where he started, Dave Feschuk writes.

Longtime Islanders captain John Tavares and Leafs GM Kyle Dubas were all smiles at the press conference to announce the hometown star had agreed to a seven-year deal worth $77 million.© Carlos Osorio Longtime Islanders captain John Tavares and Leafs GM Kyle Dubas were all smiles at the press conference to announce the hometown star had agreed to a seven-year deal worth $77 million.

It was only a few years ago that the whole concept of Sunday’s Canada Day press conference at the big rink on Bay Street would have seemed wholly implausible to a Maple Leafs fan.

John Tavares’s seismic arrival in the blue and white, in what could ultimately go down as the most impactful free-agent signing of hockey’s salary-cap era, meant Toronto’s NHL team could suddenly make a case for employing the best lineup of centremen in the league. Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri were already central to a team that set a franchise record for points last season. So adding Tavares, who has scored the fifth-most goals in the NHL since he arrived in 2009 — well, only a few years ago it would have been the stuff of Toronto pipe dreams, like LeBron James exiting the Eastern Conference. Now, Johnny T is in Toronto. And unless the Raptors meet James and the Lakers in next year’s NBA final, they’ll no longer be calling it LeBronto.

No, the Canucks aren’t going to sign John Tavares

  No, the Canucks aren’t going to sign John Tavares No, the Canucks aren’t going to sign John TavaresThe Canucks aren’t one of them, despite some hoping that Vancouver and their enormous cap space might be a possible suitor for the hot shot centre’s services.

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The latest Tweets from Dave Feschuk (@dfeschuk). Toronto Star sports columnist. Thanks. Twitter will use this to make your timeline better. Since Tavares came into the league, only five franchises have played less.

Read more:

Bruce Arthur: Tavares did what others wouldn’t and came home to Maple Leafs

Maple Leafs hit and miss on NHL free-agent market

Van Riemsdyk returns to Flyers, Bozak signs with Blues

Centres, specifically a centre worthy of being called a No. 1, had long been the Maple Leafs’ ever-elusive white whale. Before Toronto drafted Auston Matthews in 2016, after all, the Leafs had been searching for a quality man in the middle for most of the decade since the exit of Mats Sundin. And before the Maple Leafs were informed Saturday that Tavares wanted to join the team, the concept of adding “depth down the middle” meant picking up, say, a Tomas Plekanec or a Brian Boyle as a trade-deadline rental. Even back in March, when the Maple Leafs were en route to setting a franchise record for points in a season, head coach Mike Babcock lamented what he saw as an organizational weakness.

Damien Cox: Leafs have plenty to offer John Tavares, and money’s only part of it

  Damien Cox: Leafs have plenty to offer John Tavares, and money’s only part of it Two years ago, the Maple Leafs got down on their knees and begged Steven Stamkos to join them. They tried to lure him away from a more promising opportunity to win a Stanley Cup in Tampa Bay, and in the end, were unsuccessful in their attempts.That’s part of why their courtship of John Tavares, however long it lasts, is a different deal entirely. The expectation is that, like Stamkos and like John Carlson this past weekend, Tavares will ultimately choose to stay put. But he wants to go through the process, and Toronto apparently is intent on making a pitch along with Dallas, San Jose, Tampa Bay and Boston.

The latest Tweets from Dave Feschuk (@dfeschuk). Toronto Star sports columnist. Not on Twitter? Sign up, tune into the things you care about, and get updates as they happen.

Sign into your account Sign out. John Tavares is coming to Toronto — for a break. The retired Canadian star, who turns 40 soon, is a guest instructor for the Maple Leafs at their development camp and took a turn behind the bench Thursday for a scrimmage game.

“In the middle of the ice we’ve still got to get way deeper,” Babcock said.

So on Sunday even the never-satisfied Babcock had to tip his hat to Leafs management for a remarkable transformation.

“It’s special,” Babcock said, speaking of the centre-ice troika. How special? Combining the past two seasons just nine NHL centremen have compiled at least 40 even-strength goals. Matthews (with 61), Tavares (43), and Kadri (40) are three of them. The others are only named Connor McDavid, Eric Staal, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Tyler Seguin and Sean Monahan.

Suddenly, after too many years as centre-starved pretenders, the Maple Leafs are the ones with the murderer’s row of big shooters.

For the diehard supporters, Tavares’s arrival was a triumphant moment, and not only because a world-class local boy finally decided to come home after Drew Doughty and Steven Stamkos only teased. Prosperity is best appreciated on the heels of misery. Certainly Leaf loyalists endured plenty of the latter when the team searched for No. 1 centre depth in the post-Sundin personage of Nik Antropov and Matt Stajan and Tim Connolly and Mikhail Grabovski. Remember the summer of 2012, when Randy Carlyle had the brainwave to convert James van Riemsdyk into a No. 1 centreman? Back then they were begging for one competent stud. Now they’ve got centres, plural.

Bruce Arthur: Joining Maple Leafs would be John Tavares’ boldest move

  Bruce Arthur: Joining Maple Leafs would be John Tavares’ boldest move If you were John Tavares you would have a big decision to make, a rare decision. You are in a position to truly take control of your career, and of your life. You are blessed with a rare talent, and everyone has known since you were a kid. You were different. You were escorted into major junior a year early, though in fairness, you played a little later than Bobby Orr did. You have played for Canada.You were a No. 1 pick, a notch below the truly generational kids but still, a star. Since you entered the league in 2009 you are fourth in goals scored, behind only Alexander Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, and Sidney Crosby.

John Tavares is coming to Toronto — for a break. The retired Canadian star, who turns 40 soon, is a guest instructor for the Maple Leafs at their There are five years to go on his seven-year million deal and, while Lucic had just 10 goals last season, one after Christmas, he also has a no-move clause.

They had the cap space for 2018-19 to add Tavares into the fold -- the deal includes some creative structuring -- but with Matthews due for a new contract next summer, Toronto has problems in 2019-20 and beyond.

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On Sunday, the Leafs replaced the 36 goals that walked out the door when van Riemsdyk signed with the Philadelphia Flyers with the 37 goals Tavares scored last season. They effectively replaced Bozak — who signed in St. Louis after a solid career in Toronto in which he, too, was occasionally miscast as a No. 1 — with Tavares, only one of the great hockey prodigies the GTA has ever produced.

Now we’re beginning to see what a Kyle Dubas team is going to look like, and there’s a lot to like.

Now Babcock will have to coach the team without playing Leo Komarov 20 minutes a night, which was the coach’s occasional vice; Komarov signed with Lou Lamoriello’s Islanders on Sunday. Now Babcock will have to survive without Roman Polak getting a regular shift on right D; the veteran warhorse has signed with Dallas.

But that’s for another day. On Sunday, Leaf fans had the once-unfathomable luxury of debating which of their two alpha dogs — Tavares or Matthews — ought to be worthy of the top-line role. It’ll be up to opposing coaches to decide, really. If they see Matthews as the prime target of their top checking line, that’ll only open up space for the unit centred by Tavares. If they see Tavares as the shutdown priority, it’ll be fun to watch Matthews make hay on second-tier competition. And as for Kadri — he’ll be playing against relative chaff all season. No matter who ends up as the fourth-line centre, and Swedish import Par Lindholm is the pre-training-camp favourite to land the role, it’s hard to imagine a team rivalling Toronto’s talent down the middle.

Report: Tavares narrows decision down to 6 teams

  Report: Tavares narrows decision down to 6 teams There is a bit more clarity to the John Tavares free-agency sweepstakes. The pending unrestricted free agent has already spoken to the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs, San Jose Sharks, and Boston Bruins, and on Wednesday will speak to representatives from the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars. Outside of those six, Tavares' reps have no plans to speak to any other teams, according to Sportsnet's Chris Johnston. Related - Johnny TThe pending unrestricted free agent has already spoken to the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs, San Jose Sharks, and Boston Bruins, and on Wednesday will speak to representatives from the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars.

John Tavares flew home to Toronto on Thursday, which meant there was no second face-to-face meeting with the Islanders in Los Angeles. There’s nothing to read into that — it appears only that Tavares is ready to wrap this process up by either signing with the Islanders before Saturday at

Tracey Myers. Dan Rosen. Dave Stubbs. Mike Zeisberger. Tavares was thought to be ready to reveal his decision Friday but did not. The 27-year-old center was in Toronto Domi will wear No. 13 for Canadiens as tribute to Maple Leafs great. Trade of forward turns Sundin, father into Montreal fans.

There’ll be those who look at the downside of the deal. Considering Tavares’s $11-million cap hit will be on the books through his age-34 season, there could come a moment when he can’t possibly provide value for the money. Maybe instead of piling strength on strength in the forward ranks, Toronto should have spent its resources on improving its oft-maligned defensive corps.

Maybe, sure. But the options for improving the blue line simply didn’t exist in free agency. And perhaps the best way to improve the defence is to improve the offence.

It was hard to argue with the assets Toronto had to forfeit for Tavares’s services. The last time the Maple Leafs acquired a No. 1-worthy centre in a transaction that didn’t come courtesy of a lottery win a la Matthews, they had to give up team captain Wendel Clark coming off a 46-goal season to land Mats Sundin. All Tavares cost was cap space. And if the Maple Leafs can make good on the bookmakers’ prophesy — on Sunday the Maple Leafs were promptly installed as Stanley Cup favourites on more than one online betting site — Tavares will be remembered as the best money the franchise ever spent.

Dave Feschuk is a Toronto-based sports columnist. Follow him on Twitter: @dfeschuk

Leafs' Kadri fine with potential demotion .
Nazem Kadri has always seen himself as a No. 1 centre, but he'd have no problem being No. 3 on the Toronto Maple Leafs' depth chart this season after the addition of John Tavares. Toronto strengthened itself up the middle July 1 by signing free-agent Tavares to a seven-year, US$77-million deal. The 27-year-old Mississauga, Ont., native had 272 goals and 621 points over nine seasons with the New York Islanders.The addition of Tavares (37 goals, 47 assists last season) leaves Toronto three-deep at centre with young star Auston Matthews (34 goals, 29 assists) and Kadri (32 goals, 23 assists).

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