NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 24: John Tavares #91 of the New York Islanders in action against the New Jersey Devils during the third period at the Prudential Center on February 24, 2018 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils won 2-1. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)

John Tavares could be the biggest free agent to hit the free market in years. Steven Stamkos could have hit the market in 2016, but just days before he signed an 8 year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning. John Tavares could sign in almost any team he wants, but where? Here are 6 places John Tavares could sign during free agency.

John Tavares Could Hit Free Agency and Everyone Wants Him

JT hitting the market has been the talk of the town seemingly all season. With The New York Islanders being a bit of a hot mess lately many wondered if Taveras would be back. So far Tavares has not resigned with the Islanders which means he is likely looking to shop himself around. But where is the best fit?

Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay is a team that has been on the cusp of being a Stanley Cup team for a few years now. After locking Stamkos down for 8 years in 2016, being clear buyers at the deadline acquiring Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller from The New York Rangers, The Bolts want to win, and they want to now. Steven Stamkos and John Tavares are friends and reportedly talked before Stamkos signed in Tampa. Tavares and Stamkos tossed the idea of playing together in New York. Well, now the tables have turned and they could play together in Tampa.

If Tavares is looking to win, this would be a good team to sign with. Looking forward it is expected The Lighting will be contenders for years to come. The issue here is the huge price tag the Tavares is expected to come with. John Tavares could be worth as much as $10M a year for 7-8 years. With Nikita  Kucherov is going to be a UFA starting next year, it could be hard to fit all that talent under the cap, even if it is expected to raise close to $80M a year.

Vegas Golden Knights

The Golden Knights made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in their inaugural year. That did way more than establish an immediate fan base, it also but eyes on the team and the city. It showed that Vegas had more to offer than casinos, bright lights and late nights. Vegas is suddenly a desirable city for free agency. Nice weather, a passionate fan base, and a strong, fun, and winning team. Not only that, Vegas has a projected $30M in available cap space. There are many players that will need contracts starting July 1st for the team, but there is also incredible flexibility. Vegas has many players hitting the market as either UFAs or RFAs including James Neal, William Karlsson, David Perron, Ryan Reaves, and more. Vegas has some decisions to make.

A large criticism of the Vegas Golden Knights was that they didn’t have “that star player that can get them goals”. They didn’t have a Sidney Crosby or an Alex Ovechkin, they have leftovers. While players had break-out years, its still up in the air if those players can repeat such unexpected scoring. Tavares or Karlsson could walk into the team and be that guy. And if they can finesse the books and managed to acquire both, that would make for a very serious team.

San Jose Sharks

The San Jose Sharks have been freeing up cap space recently hinting at some sort of big move to come. In a series of trades involving 2 teams and Mike Hoffman, the Sharks unloaded about $4 Million a year for 2 years. Mikkel Boedker was sent to Ottawa along with Berman and a 2020 6th round pick for Hoffman, Donaghey and 2020 5th round pick. The Sharks then Flipped Hoffman to the Florida Panthers for more picks. Later in the week, the Sharks placed Paul Martin on unconditional waivers to buy him out. The Sharks freeing up about $3.4M over the next 2 years. The Sharks appear to be planning for something.

The Sharks are another team that is looking to win right now. The Sharks Signed Evander Kane just recently after picking him up at the deadline. This is expected to spark the Joe Pavelski. With Joe Thornton at 38 years old and struggling with injury, it may be time for him to take a lesser roll on the team. Tavares would be a way to shoot some speed and scoring into the line up in the centre position. The Sharks are expected to have about $18M before some signing some UFAs and RFAs. Tavares would fit well in this very offensive team. Off the ice, the Bay Area is a very desirable place to live, good weather year round an exciting place to play, without extreme media pressure.

Montreal Canadiens

Speaking of extreme media pressure, the Montreal Canadians have a need for someone like John Tavares. Though Montreal is not exactly in the best shape right now as a franchise they have draw in just the history of the team. Montreal is also an incredible hockey market. As long as he does what he is supposed to do, Tavares could be a rock star. Montreal is in desperate need of a centreman, especially after they traded Galchenyuk to The Arizona Coyotes. Montreal is looking to join contention again and to do that they need to sort out their issue down the middle. After trading Galchenyuk many scratched their heads wonder what the thought process behind the move was, well maybe they wanted to clear some cap space for JT.

The Habs have a projected cap space of about $18.5M coming into next year according to CapFriendly and don’t have a lot of free agents to re-sign. With all-star goalie Carey Price healthy, adding a player like JT could really propel the team up the standings. Even if management rights the ship in Montreal, I don’t feel like Tavares is likely to run from the Islanders to a team like the Canadiens.

Toronto Maple Leafs

More likely than not, Tavares would love to sign in Toronto for a few reasons. Let’s start with birth, Tavares was born just outside Toronto in Mississauga. Toronto is a team that is expected to be a contender for a long time with Mathers, Marner, and Nylander all at a young age. The Leafs have a projected $24.6M in cap space according to CapFriendly. With James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and William Nylander all in need of new contracts this year that money will be tied up before you know it. To go along with that, Mathews and Marner both are RFAs at the end of 2019 and will need some new (and hardy) contracts.

Toronto has had early eliminations from the playoffs the last 2 years. The team is very young and as such were given a pass for their swift exits. The 3rd time around their feet will be held to the fire a little more, Tavares could really help them take that next step. It is reported the Toronto Maple Leafs have been working on a promotional video for Mr. Tavares to help entice him back home. It would really be worth taking a run at Tavares for some extra star power to help bring the Stanley Cup home.

New York Islanders

Signing with the New York Islanders doesn’t even need to wait until free agency on July 1st. The Islanders have clearly done everything within their power to make Tavares stay with the team. It started with hiring Lou Lamoriello being signed on as President of Hockey Operations. Lamoriello then fired GM Garth Snow and coach Doug Weight. Lamoriello named himself the new GM and started looking for a new coach. After the alleged fallout of Bary Trotz and the Washington Capitals, they hired the Stanley Cup winning coach. All just to show John that they are serious about making the changes needed to keep him around. The Islanders have set the bidding at an 8 year $88M contract according to The Score. Will the price tag of $11M a year be too much for other teams? I guess we will find out!

Not everything on Long Island is perfect, however, the stadium issue is still not sorted out. With the Barclays Center still a poor place for watching hockey, and still in Brooklyn, not Long Island. That being said 20 games will be played in the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, their former home and half at the Barclays Center. It will be 3 years before their new home at Belmont Park is developed putting the Islanders without a fixed home for the next few years. As a hockey player, these are not things you want to be worrying about.

Last Word

It’s anyone’s best guess at where John Tavares will go. One thing we can all agree upon is The Islanders Organization has done everything in their power to keep him at home. With his teammate Mathew Barzal winning the Calder for rookie of the year, the future looks bright on the ice, its the off ice issue that will prove to be an issue more than anything. Any team would be lucky enough to have him, its a matter of if the uprooting his life, the pay, and term will be worth it. I would say it is a 60/40 chance he stays with the organization.

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