Tavares Should Be Bruins Top Priority

The Boston Bruins are reportedly going to be a part of the John Tavares Sweepstakes.

While it may have seemed far-fetched to even mention the Bruins and Tavares in the same breath during the season, the Bruins are making a push to sign the NHL’s soon-to-be most prolific unrestricted free agent and will reportedly get a chance to meet with him before his contract expires on July 1.

With Tavares set to meet five teams in the coming week – reportedly including the Bruins, the Toronto Maple Leafs, San Jose Sharks, Dallas Stars and one of the Nashville Predators or Tampa Bay Lightning, while also excluding potential suitors in the Montreal Canadiens and Vegas Golden Knights, for now, the Bruins are one step closer to potentially signing Tavares and pushing their bid for a Stanley Cup over the top. To even suggest that this means that the Bruins are a lock to sign Tavares would be irresponsible,  however, as there are multiple factors to consider in such a situation.

For starters, Tavares has started a life in New York with the Islanders and in today’s NHL, star players very rarely, if ever, leave their team to sign a big contract elsewhere. Tavares has been with the Islanders through thick and thin and though the team has yet to separate themselves from the pack as legitimate contenders in the nine years that Tavares has been in the league, they’re home to him all the same.

John Tavares
John Tavares (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Something else to consider is the financial implications of signing a contract in the NHL. While Tavares is almost certainly going to be among the top one percent of the NHL’s highest-paid players before the 2018-19 season starts, his actual earnings could fluctuate greatly depending on where he signs.

With Tavares reportedly being offered an eight-year deal by the New York Islanders worth $88 million, we can assume, to make things simple, that any team looking to sign Tavares would have to match that money in a seven-year term. Going with that logic, any of the team’s meeting with Tavares would be looking at an annual cap hit of $12.57 million over seven seasons, or roughly $88 million.

Breaking Down the Numbers

If we break down the actual earnings Tavares would make after-tax in each city by using Cap Friendly’s Post-Tax Earnings Calculator, Tavares would be looking at the following net earnings in descending order:

Dallas – $7,636,973

Nashville Predators – $7,636,973

Tampa Bay Lightning – $7,636,973

Boston – $6,995,830

San Jose – $5,988,089

Toronto – $5,875,909

If we’re looking at what he’d earn in New York with an $11 million annual salary, Tavares’ net-earnings would come to $5,739,149. When factoring those totals over the course of an eight-year deal (or seven in the case of the Islanders), Tavares would see the following in net-earnings over the life of the deal, in descending order:

Dallas – $53,458,811 (7 years)

Nashville – $53,458,811 (7 years)

Tampa Bay- $53,458,811 (7 years)

Boston – $48,970,810 (7 years)

New York – $45,913,192 (8 years)

San Jose – $41,916,623 (7 years)

Toronto – $41,131,363 (7 years)

On paper, it looks like the Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning would be the best-equipped teams to pay Tavares the money he’s earned while still giving him a chance to succeed as the Stars are an up-and-coming young team with a strong core in place while the Predators and Lightning finished in first and third in the NHL’s standings last season respectively

This, of course, doesn’t factor in the cost of living, but it’s a base idea of where he would see the most earnings.

Winning Over Money?

Where Tavares would have the best opportunity to win, however, could be ranked in a significantly different way than the earnings list. While the Maple Leafs are at the bottom of the list for net earnings, they would be near the top for the potential to win a Championship over the life of Tavares’ contract. As mentioned, both the Predators and Lightning would also be pushing for the top of the list given their recent success.

The Bruins would also have to be ranked right near the top in that regard as they proved to be a formidable opponent in 2017-18 and among the NHL’s best with even more young talent on the way in the near future.

John Tavares (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The San Jose Sharks are making a heavy push this offseason to try and bolster their team and win a Championship, though they (and the Bruins) ultimately fell short of the mark when Ilya Kovalchuk signed with the Los Angeles Kings. The Stars have as good a chance as any team to turn things around and bring another Stanley Cup home while the Islanders could still be a few years away from contending despite having an excellent draft class in 2018.

Related: Kovalchuk Signs With Kings

If the Bruins are going to land Tavares, they’ll have to make their best push when they meet with him, especially if the Maple Leafs are getting a chance to speak to him as well. Tavares, of course, was born in Mississauga, Ontario, just a stone’s throw from Toronto and could be tempted to join his hometown team. The Maple Leafs have an incredibly bright future and one of the best coaches in the history of the sport.

It’s hard to argue against that, especially when considering the endorsements that would be lined up for Tavares as the potential face of hockey in Canada should he sign with the Maple Leafs.

In the Predators and the Lightning, Tavares may be joining teams even better suited to win the Stanley Cup in the present than the Bruins with the Lightning also having an excellent prospect pool that could rival the Bruins’ piece for piece.

The Cost is Worth the Risk

Despite this, the Bruins are as well suited to Land Tavares in the long-run as any other team in the running and they’ll have to prove as much when they meet with him this week.

The cost would be significant and it could hurt the Bruins chances at re-signing some of their own internal free agents, though it could be made easier if the team could find a suitor for David Backes – a player they’ve expressed interest in wanting to move. Another player who could be on the move would be David Krejci if the Bruins could convince him to waive his no-movement clause this season.

Related: David Krejci Trade Debate

While trading Krejci wouldn’t make much sense under normal circumstances, the chance to sign Tavares would change things significantly. For starters, Tavares is still only 27 years old (though he’ll be 28 years old for the entirety of the 2018-19 season). He would instantly give the Bruins a long-term answer at center who happens to be five years younger than Patrice Bergeron and he is a proven star who dazzles with every shift. Tavares would be the team’s second-line center in the interim and could eventually take over as the team’s top pivot.

Losing flexibility hurts but considering he’s averaged  33 goals and 76 points over his career, including 34 goals and a hair under 77 points in his last four seasons, Tavares is undoubtedly one of the best players in the entire world and worth that type of risk. He also has extensive experience on special teams on both the power play and the penalty kill.

While the Bruins need to consider the long-term when making any sort of move, the fact of the matter is this team also is in a win-now mode with Patrice Bergeron turning 33, Brad Marchand 30 years old, Zdeno Chara 41 years old and Tuukka Rask also being 31 years old. The future is bright in Boston but the window to win a Championship is wide open for the taking right now.

John Tavares, New York Islanders, NHL
John Tavares has since become a superstar in the NHL (James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

If Tavares tells the Bruins that he’s open to signing a contract with the team, the only answer they should give him is “sign here.”