Take this news with a grain of salt Sharks fans, but it looks like John Tavares wants to hear what General Manager Doug Wilson has to offer. The New York Islanders center is headed to Los Angeles to meet with as many as five teams before free agency opens on July 1.
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
Arthur Staple of The Athletic says Tavares will meet with teams on Monday and Tuesday at his agent, Pat Brisson’s L.A. office. The Sharks are expected to be in the mix along with the Dallas Stars, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vegas Golden Knights, and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Wilson positioned the Sharks just for this scenario earlier this month. He traded Mikkel Boedker on June 19 and started the process to buy out Paul Martin just before the draft. It leaves the Sharks with about $20 million in cap space, plenty of room to match any offer the Islanders have made to the superstar center.
But don’t get too excited. Many sources believe Tavares is just testing the waters, much like the Lightning’s Steven Stamkos did in 2016 before he re-signed with the Lightning.
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
While Tavares is still a possibility for the Sharks, Kovalchuk is not.
The Russian winger signed with the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday. It’s a three-year deal that will carry a cap hit of $6.25 million a year according to Emily Kaplan of ESPN. Many sources say Kovalchuk picked the Kings over the Sharks, Golden Knights and Boston Bruins because of the length of the deal. Everyone else offered a two-year deal, while the Kings went to three, similar to the deal the Toronto Maple Leafs offered Patrick Marleau last summer.
Wilson’s Backup Plan
With Kovalchuk off the market, you can be sure wooing Tavares is Wilson’s top priority, but he’s not closing the door on all other options. The one thing we know about Wilson is he loves to have a lot of possibilities working at once.
Wilson and Bergevin were also spotted chatting away after the GM meetings this week here in Dallas, too— Kevin Kurz (@KKurzNHL) June 23, 2018
Kevin Kurz of The Athletic reports Wilson was talking to Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin on Saturday. The rumor was center Max Pacioretty was headed to San Jose, but both camps have denied these claims and no trade ever emerged at the draft.
If Tavares fails to sign with San Jose, I imagine those conversations could be opened up again.