The Boston Bruins are reportedly “in” on free agent center and New York Islanders captain John Tavares. The Bruins are one of a handful of teams set to meet with Tavares this week in Los Angeles according to TSN. Tavares is a legitimate top player in the league both on and off the ice and GM Don Sweeney and Cam Neely have scored a meeting with the center along with Toronto, Tampa, San Jose and Dallas.
The 27-year-old Tavares, is an incredibly durable player, leader, play-maker and scoring threat each shift on the ice. He will command at least $10 million a year on the open market and the maximum 7-year deal each team can offer. The Islanders have leverage in the fact they can offer the 8-year deal to secure bringing back their guy, and have already reportedly floated an 8-year, $88M deal to re-sign their captain.
The Bruins will have to clear money off the books before they could ink the Canadian centermen, but that could easily be done in a number of different ways. Find a suitor for David Krejci and the three-year $7.25M AAV he has remaining on his deal. Krejci, even at his age would be the easiest guy to strike a deal for as the center has produced consistently for the black and gold, but keeping Krech would easily make the Bruins the deepest team at center in the league with Tavares, Patrice Bergeron and Krejci. The other option would be a pure money dump of David Backes, the veteran grinder who makes $6M AAV. Backes may not be worth the money he is being paid, but that came at the cost at the time to sign the former Blues captain as a free agent and brings a lot to the table with his physical play and leadership.
A third option could be to trade the goalie. Tuukka Rask has been up and down through his entire Bruins career and while he was good this year in getting Boston through the first round, he still wasn’t nearly enough to get by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Clear the $7.5M and get a suitable replacement to fill the crease. Who that is at this moment, I cannot tell you, but there is an option cheaper than Rask that nets positive in the long-run for the Bruins if they bring in Tavares.
The money problem is second priority here as first you have to lure the big fish to Boston. That process takes places this week, and the fact that you have one of his good friends and Canadian teammate Patrice Bergeron in house and representing your brand certainly helps. Bergeron is the ultimate competitor and teammate and would no doubt take the so-called “demotion” to the second line. The fact of the matter is he would still play the same amount of time on ice and rather than first and second line it would be Lines 1A and 1B. Bergeron would likely stick with Brad Marchand as a linemate and David Pastrnak would pair with the skilled Tavares. Through the first 9 seasons of his professional career, Tavares has 272 goals, 349 assists and 621 points through 669 games. Last season he netted 37 goals and had 84 points with 12 power play goals.
I need John Tavares on the Bruins. You add the caliber of a forward and weapon to this team and you have a legitimate Cup Contender. The possibility of re-signing veteran winger Rick Nash is still in play depending on his asking price, and considering Boston gave up a first rounder to go get him last season, they would certainly keep dialogue open depending who was moved to facilitate the signing of Tavares. For now, we wait to see what Don, Cam and Bruce Cassidy bring to the table in the meeting and hope they and the Bergeron factor separates Boston from the rest of the franchises in play.
UPDATE: After a long weekend of deliberation, Tavares informed the Islanders camp he will not be back according to multiple reports. Toronto remains the favorite to land the home-town kid with Sharks and Bruins hanging tough with a punchers-chance.