John Tavares Canada Day, hockey fans!
Below we tracked all the news and rumours, analysis and reaction from the busiest transaction day of the hockey year.
Free agency, and its ensuing floodgates, opened with a bang. Giddy all the way up.
Check our NHL SIGNING TRACKER for a list of confirmed contracts and scroll down the blog for a recap of how the action unfolded.
Top 10 UFAs still on the market
As we wrap up our blog at 6 p.m. ET, a few interesting names are still on the board.
1. James Neal
After consecutive (losing) trips to the Stanley Cup final, the sniper is gunning for a six-year deal. A handful of teams are still in the running, and earlier today it was reported that a return to Vegas may still be an option.
2. Calvin de Haan
Plenty of teams are still in the bidding for the former Islanders defenceman. As a left shot under 30, a good comparable might be John Moore, who inked a five-year deal with Boston Sunday at a $2.75-million cap hit.
3. Joe Thornton
The future Hall of Famer is believed to only have eyes for the Sharks, and with San Jose missing out on John Tavares, there is certainly enough cap space for Jumbo.
4. Patrick Maroon
The Blues and Flames are two the six clubs reportedly interested in signing the big winger. St. Louis’s agreement with David Perron might take it out of the running.
5. Robin Lehner
Arguably the best UFA goaltender available, Lehner has yet to find his spot on the carousel. The Islanders are the most obvious group in need of help in net.
6. Dan Hamhuis
The 35-year-old stay-at-home D-man could bring experience and reliability. Hamhuis’s 24 points in 2017-18 were his most in five years.
7. Valtteri Filppula
The Flyers have moved on, and the Red Wings showed interest at one point.
8. Luca Sbisa
George McPhee said he did offer the defenceman an extension but that Sbisa has decided to move on.
9. Toby Enstrom
The former Jet wishes to keep his NHL career alive but will have options overseas if nothing pans out in North America.
10. Anthony Duclair
A bit of a gamble after failing to stick in Arizona or Chicago, Duclair is rumoured to have gained some interest in Tampa and Montreal.
Senators extend contract offer to Karlsson
Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion says at his free agency press conference that the club made Erik Karlsson (UFA 2019) an contract extension offer, as promised.
Details of the offer were not given, and Karlsson trade rumours (most notably to Vegas) persist.
With Drew Doughty, Ryan McDonagh, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Nicklas Hjalmarsson all signing extensions with their current clubs today, Karlsson will be the undisputed top target of 2019’s UFA defence class until someone locks him up.
San Jose’s Logan Couture is the only 2019 UFA forward locked up today.
Dallas’s Tyler Seguin and Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler are huge names among next year’s group, and neither appears in any rush to sign today.
How Babcock envisions the Maple Leafs top six
The head coach reserves the right to change his mind, of course, as training camp is still months away.
Very interesting to note that Zach Hyman may be coming off Auston Matthews’ line in favour of Patrick Marleau.
We can’t help but wonder if this was a topic of discussion when Babcock paid Matthews a house visit in Arizona earlier this off-season.
‘My heart was tearing apart’
“My gut was tearing apart. My heart was tearing apart,” John Tavares said, describing how difficult it was to wrestle with his decision between the Maple Leafs and the Islanders. “Where I’m from and the place that made me the man I am.”
After pacing back and forth, Tavares said he made up his mind Saturday night and finished the paperwork Sunday morning.
“This opportunity was just so rare,” he said. “It just felt right.”
Tavares got a touch choked up when he was asked about his message to Long Island and his old team’s fans during his press conference.
“I don’t think I can put into words how much my time there meant to me,” Tavares said. “I know it’s been a bittersweet day, but I really believe they’ve got a bright future ahead of them.”
Maple Leafs captaincy still vacant
John Tavares says the topic of becoming captain of the Maple Leafs was never discussed during his meetings with the team.
GM Kyle Dubas said the Leafs will not rush to give anyone the “C” and instead wait through training camp, examine the group dynamic and see if a deserving captain emerges.
Maple Leafs make smaller signings official
Adam Cracknell ($650,000), Josh Jooris ($650,000), and Martin Marincin ($800,000) — who shone in the AHL Marlies’ run to the Calder Cup — all received one-way deals from Toronto today.
Jordan Subban‘s NHL dream lives on. Left unqualified as an RFA, the Toronto native signed a two-way deal with the Leafs as a UFA. Subban could make $650,000 at the NHL level but will have to battle his way onto the roster.
R. Nash to Columbus
The Blue Jackets were hell-bent on signing a UFA forward named R. Nash. So once Rick decided to remove himself from the bidding wars for the summer and focus on his health, the Blue Jackets signed Riley Nash (formerly of Boston) for three years at $2.4 million per season. A decent third-line pivot.
The centre market has been picked over today, leaving former Blue Jacket Mark Letestu and former Flyer Valtteri Filppula as the best options still on the board. Joe Thornton also needs a contract, but the belief is he’s only interested in remaining in San Jose.
Tavares to speak at 4 p.m. ET
Watch the Maple Leafs’ introductory press conference for John Tavares here. Note that Tavares’ sweater hangs in the dressing room in a stall beside future winger Mitch Marner.
Report: San Jose offered Tavares the greatest cap hit
Clearly, Tavares’s decision wasn’t purely a financial one. According to The Fourth Period‘s David Pagnotta, the Sharks were willing to spend more than $13 million per season in order to land the centreman.
Over a seven-year term, that would match the $91 million the Islanders reportedly offered on an eight-year pitch.
Sabres GM says O’Reilly trade price will go up
Speaking to reporters in Buffalo, Sabres GM Jason Botterill says that once centre Ryan O’Reilly collects his $7.5 million signing bonus later today, he’ll want more value in a trade.
The Montreal Canadiens are one club reportedly interested in swapping for O’Reilly, whose base salary is only $1 million annually. O’Reilly’s annual signing bonus drops to $5 million after this summer.
“It certainly, to me, changes the dynamic of the asking price,” Botterill said.
Oilers add speedy forward
Edmonton’s marginal gamble on winger Tobias Rieder on a one-year, $2-million deal is worthwhile.
Although Rieder was not tendered a qualifying offer by the L.A. Kings, the 25-year-old is believed to have more to give than a disappointing 2017-18 would suggest.
Rieder has two 30-plus-point seasons and was originally an Edmonton draft pick back in 2011.
Tavares runner-up Sharks issue statement
San Jose GM Doug Wilson, who cleared a swath of cap space to land Tavares and came up short, was gracious in defeat Sunday.
Wilson wrote the following:
“I want to thank John Tavares and Pat Brisson for their interest in the San Jose Sharks and professionalism throughout this negotiation process. While we are naturally disappointed in the final decision, it’s extremely heartening to know that the top players in this league consistently view San Jose as a place they want to play. This is echoed by our own world-class players, such as Logan Couture, Brent Burns, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Evander Kane, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Martin Jones, who have continually chosen to bypass a chance at unrestricted free agency in recent years because they want to play in San Jose.
“This success can be directly attributed to owner Hasso Plattner, whose passionate support and financial commitment to bring a winner to San Jose is second to none in all of professional sports.
“Looking forward, we remain in an excellent position to add to our group should the right situation present itself and as I stated a few weeks ago, we’re very excited about our team as it stands heading into next season.”
Matthews helped recruit Tavares
As Chris Johnston reports, Auston Matthews was one of the Maple Leafs who encouraged Tavares to chose Toronto and is thrilled by the opportunity — even if it means Tavares gets the “C”.
The Maple Leafs will introduce Tavares at 4 p.m. this afternoon at Scotiabank Arena.
From the desk of John Tavares, Maple Leaf:
Tavares writes letter to Islanders fans
John Tavares of the Toronto Maple Leafs tweeted the following message to fans of his former team as he sets off to live his “childhood dream”:
John Tavares is a Maple Leaf
The most coveted unrestricted free agent of the salary-cap era chose to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs Sunday, inking a seven-year deal with his hometown team that carries an average annual value of $11 million.
The $77 million Tavares will earn in Toronto is significantly less than the reported $91 million offered by the Islanders Saturday to keep him in Brooklyn.
“I’m thrilled to be starting a new chapter of my career and life in Toronto with the
@MapleLeafs,” Tavares wrote on Twitter.
“I feel very fortunate to come join a team with a great young core and play where I grew up learning and loving the game. I can’t wait to get started!”
Not a bad start for the Kyle Dubas era.
More than $70 million of Tavares’ $77-million deal is signing bonuses.
Toronto’s centre depth of Tavares, Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri should thrust the Leafs into Cup-contention territory.
The Leafs also watched UFAs James van Riemsdyk (Philadelphia), Tyler Bozak (St. Louis), and Roman Polak (Dallas) find jobs elsewhere Sunday and signed depth forward Josh Jooris.
Tavares turns down Islanders
New York Islanders insider Arthur Staple reports that John Tavares indeed informed Lou Lamoriello Sunday that he will not be signing with the only NHL team he’s ever known.
This is an unmitigated disaster for an Islanders franchise that refused to trade Tavares in hopes the franchise face would sign an extension.
The owners cleaned house and brought in GM Lou Lamoriello and head coach Barry Trotz — both Stanley Cup winners — in hopes they could help keep Tavares in the fold. The Isles up their original offer Saturday to a reported eight-year, $91-million whopper.
Tavares had always maintained publicly that he wanted to stay in Long Island, but he heard enough during his two-hour interview sessions with Toronto, San Jose, Boston, Dallas and Tampa Bay last week to change his mind.
Get your popcorn ready, kids.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are believed to be the front-runner for the UFA’s services.
Arizona grabs, uh, Grabner
The Coyotes, who tried hard to land James van Riemsdyk, were able to secure one of the top UFA wingers on the board.
Arizona signed speedy Michael Grabner — he of back-to-back 27-goal campaigns — to a three-year deal worth $3.35 million annually. A nice raise for one of the best bargains in the NHL.
Maple Leafs land UFA forward whose first name is four letters long and begins with a J!
No, not that one… yet. Toronto has signed depth forward Josh Jooris to a one-year, $650,000 contract.
The 27-year-old is joining his sixth NHL team in three years. Jooris has 55 points in 213 career games at the NHL level.
Lightning break bank to extend McDonagh
Just as they did when Victor Hedman became available for an extension a couple summers ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning have wasted no time locking up defenceman Ryan McDonagh.
McDonagh’s seven-year extension, which kicks in for the 2019-20 season, will carry a $6.75-million cap hit. You have to think this makes an Erik Karlsson acquisition or John Tavares signing less likely.
Interesting to note that McDonagh’s contract is not lockout-proof. It’s all salary, no signing bonuses.
Blackhawks land three free agents
In addition to backup goalie Cam Ward (one year, $3 million), Chicago has also locked up veteran winger Chris Kunitz (one year) and defenceman Brandon Manning (two years).
NHL releases RFA offer sheet compensation chart
Here is the 2018 restricted free agent compensation breakdown for offer sheets. Ottawa’s Mark Stone headlines this year’s crop of RFAs.
Longest-tenured Maple Leaf leaves town
The idea that other teams would wait for the Tavares domino to fall before signing other UFA centremen was false. Paul Stastny and Derek Ryan are spoken for.
And now Tyler Bozak, the longest-serving Maple Leaf, will be joining the St. Louis Blues on a three-year deal worth $5 million per season, according to Chris Johnston.
That is wonderful compensation for a player who slotted in on the third line in Toronto and saw his ice time steadily decrease. Bozak is an excellent face-off man with a knack for the shootout, and he cashes in by being an established NHL pivot in a UFA crop thin up the middle.
Bozak gets a nice raise from the $4.2 million cap hit carried on his previous deal.
Maroon leaning toward Flames
Patrick Maroon, who was rented by Edmonton to New Jersey at the trade deadline, is reportedly leaning toward reentering the Battle of Alberta — as a member of the other side.
The Flames, who’ve already agreed to terms with centre Derek Ryan, are trying to shore up their wing depth.
Karlsson trade talks pick up again
With Drew Doughty set to become the NHL’s highest-paid defenceman ($11-million cap hit), all eyes are on Erik Karlsson (UFA 2019), who is eligible to sign an extension with the Ottawa Senators today.
Let’s be real: That’s not happening.
Instead, those trade rumours that had Karlsson potentially joining the Vegas Golden Knights have popped up again. Ottawa would prefer to tie the expensive and injury-prone Bobby Ryan ($7.25 million through 2022) to such a deal and are likely targeting RFA defencemen Colin Miller and Shea Theodore.
Vegas GM George McPhee is busy. In addition to re-signing Ryan Reaves and negotiating with James Neal, he has top scorer William Karlsson’s restricted free agency to sort out.
The Tampa Bay Lightning haven’t been ruled out of tavareswatch but are believed to still be interested in Karlsson as well.
Brian Burke reports that Pierre Dorion is not focused on a Karlsson trade today and instead is making free agents his priority on Canada Day.
Other prominent names on the trade market today: Max Pacioretty, Jeff Skinner, Ryan O’Reilly and Craig Anderson.
Burke says Marc Bergevin told him that he will listen on Pacioretty but that the Montreal captain has not requested a trade.
Maple Leafs hang for-sale sign on Martin
The Toronto Maple Leafs have sent a memo to the other 30 clubs that depth winger Matt Martin is available for trade. A UFA signing by former GM Lou Lamoriello, Martin was a healthy scratch in the playoffs and struggled to crack a lineup deep at the wings. While his $2.5-million cap hit is steep, the actual dollars remaining on his deal are more reasonable.
tavareswatch continues… and that’s bad news for Isles fans
Midnight passed without a John Tavares signing, meaning he is officially an unrestricted free agent and no longer eligible for an eight-year extension with the New York Islanders.
Brian Lawton reports that the Isles upped their offer to eight years at $11.375 million per (or, a jerseyrific $91 million in total) and still couldn’t get it done.
Chris Johnston has all the details here. The key sentence:
“His hometown Toronto Maple Leafs now appear to be the front-runner for his services…”
Vegas swipes Stastny from Winnipeg
Despite the Winnipeg Jets’ salary dump Saturday — in which they dealt RFA Joel Armia and anchor goaltender Steve Mason to the Montreal Canadiens — they are no longer the favourite to land Paul Stastny, the best UFA centre not named John Tavares.
The Vegas Golden Knights, for whom cap space is not an issue, have jumped into the lead, confirms Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos.
Ironically, it was the Knights who ended Stastny and the Jets’ season, ousting them in the Western Conference final.
Stastny has flown to Vegas to sign off on a three-year deal that carries a $6.5-million cap hit.
The Knights are letting winger David Perron walk to St. Louis, while re-signing tough guy Ryan Reaves.
All the signings we think we know
We’ll dive deeper into these deals as the day goes on, but here are all the contracts we expect to be signed today, starting at 12 p.m. ET. Everything is happening!
• James van Riemsdyk is returning to the Philadelphia Flyers on a five-year, $35-million contract.
• David Perron is leaving Las Vegas and returning to St. Louis on a four-year, $16-million deal. This is the winger’s third stint as a Blue. He reportedly had a similar offer from the Islanders.
• The Detroit Red Wings have locked up right-shot defenceman Mike Green (two years, $10.75 million) and will sign Thomas Vanek (one year, $3 million) and backup goalie Jonathan Bernier (three years at approximately $3 million per).
• Ex-Maple Leaf Roman Polak has found a one-year deal with the Dallas Stars.
• Carter Hutton is signing a three-year, $8.25-million contract with the Buffalo Sabres.
• Jack Johnson will reunite with pal Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh. The defenceman is inking a five-year, $16.25-million deal with the Penguins.
• Tomas Plekanec will indeed return to the Montreal Canadiens on a one-year pact worth about $2.2 million. The depth centre reportedly fetched interest from Chicago. Plekanec will celebrate his 1,000th NHL game in bleu, blanc et rouge.
• Blake Comeau is joining the Dallas Stars for three years at a $2.4-million cap hit.
• Ian Cole has been linked to the Colorado Avalanche.
• Jaroslav Halak is getting a two-year deal from the Boston Bruins to serve as the club’s backup.
• Anton Khudobin, formerly of Boston, will sign his own two-year deal to back up Ben Bishop in Dallas.
• Ex-Jet Michael Hutchinson will be added to the Florida Panthers goaltending depth.
• Centre Derek Ryan will rejoin coach Bill Peters in Calgary on a three-year deal worth approximately $9.375 million. The Flames are also signing centre Austin Czarnik, formerly of the Bruins. The undrafted Czarnik, 25, has played 59 NHL games over the past two seasons, scoring 17 points.
• The Vancouver Canucks are signing depth forwards Jay Beagle ($3 million cap hit) and Antoine Roussel ($3.25 million) to four-year deals. Wow.
• Ryan Reaves will re-up in Vegas for two years at $2.775 million per season. The fourth-liner fetched interest from multiple teams, including Calgary.
• Cam Ward chose the Chicago Blackhawks over the Red Wings. While starter Corey Crawford is expected to be healthy and ready for training camp, GM Stan Bowman won’t risk going into another season without some proven depth in net.
• Defenceman Thomas Hickey will stick with the Islanders, signing a four-year deal at $2.5 million per season.
• Kyle Brodziak should be joining the Edmonton Oilers on a two-year deal that carries a $1-million cap hit.
• Eric Gryba is expected to end up in New Jersey.
• Former Florida goaltender Harri Sateri, who played nicely when Roberto Luongo went down to injury, is set to become the Red Wings’ third-stringer.
• Scott Wedgewood will slot in as the Sabres’ No. 3 goalie on a $450,000, two-way deal.
• The Minnesota Wild will sign Matt Hendricks, Eric Fehr, Greg Pateryn and Andrew Hammond.
• The leading landing spot for defenceman Xavier Ouellet, bought out this week by the Red Wings, is Montreal.
• Zac Rinaldo is joining the Nashville Predators on a two-way deal.
• Three elite defenceman from the 2019 UFA class — L.A.’s Drew Doughty and Arizona’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Nicklas Hjalmarsson — have deals in place to re-sign with their current clubs today.
• Ditto centre Logan Couture, who can put pen to paper on an eight-year, $64-million extension with the San Jose Sharks this afternoon.