John Tavares skates during the warmup period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome.

USA Today Sports Images

Graziano: ‘The Decision’ Reaches Final Week For John Tavares

Andy Graziano
June 26, 2018 - 9:05 am

For a couple of reasons, I have tried to stay away from writing too much on the John Tavares contract saga.

For one, the media market has been saturated with such columns. Secondly, things have been quiet from the Tavares camp, led by agent Pat Brisson, and the Islanders, leading to much speculation and not much fact. Lastly, nothing mattered if we didn’t get to this week, the final week where all that speculation will end and questions will finally be answered.

Do I stay or do I go now?

Tavares and Brisson are hosting at least five teams this week – the Dallas Stars, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, San Jose Sharks and Tampa Lightning. TSNs Pierre LeBrun noted two to three other teams will have phone conversations with the power pair that may lead to meetings. Multiple sources have indicated to WFAN that Vegas and general manager of the year George McPhee are expected to be one of those teams at least making a call.

The Islanders will be there too, of course, as president and general manager Lou Lamoriello, along with new head coach Barry Trotz, flew to Los Angeles immediately after this past weekend’s entry draft in Dallas to make the presentation on behalf of the home team. He didn’t come away with a goaltender or top-four defenseman, but did restock the farm system with some incredible talent across the first two rounds.

>>MORE: John Tavares' Appointment Book Includes Meetings With Bruins, Leafs, Lightning

New York remains with the cap room, assets and leadership that evokes confidence the two most pressing roster needs will be met in some way before the start of the 2018-19 campaign.

For now, Lamoriello must sell Tavares on the benefits of living on Long Island, Belmont Park (on schedule to be ready in the 2021-22 season), 20 games at NYCB Live over the course of those three waiting years, reigning rookie of the year Mathew Barzal, a stocked farm system, new leadership in hockey operations consisting of himself and Trotz and $11 million dollars in each of the next eight seasons that would take Tavares to age 36.

Some would argue the time wasted under Garth Snow’s regime might have cost the Islanders a shot at easily the biggest and most coveted free agent of the summer. However, one would have to think Tavares is forward thinking enough to realize you can never push ahead to the future if you’re always stuck in the past. What’s more important- what has happened, or what could potentially happen? It's an interesting question that, surprisingly, might not lead to the same answer from pundits and fans.

Of the teams meeting with Tavares (and there could still be more unknown/unconfirmed), some seem to have a more realistic chance than others.

Steve Yzerman has proven himself to be an outstanding businessman, as savvy and excellent as he was on the rink. With Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Ryan McDonagh and others, the team is loaded and ready for another Stanley Cup run. Yzerman has two moveable assets in Ryan Callahan and Tyler Johnson that would create the necessary cap room.

Boston is always around the playoff discussion, also loaded with both young and veteran talent. They are right at the $12 million mark in available cap space, so would likely only need a minor room to fit Tavares into their financial situation.

>>MORE: Graziano: Trades Don't Fall Islanders Way, But Draft Does

Vegas, if they do get a meeting with Tavares, needs to build on the tremendous expectations set this year in their run to the finals. The momentum needs to be carried forward to keep a city with plenty of distractions engaged. Money is not an issue. They have the reigning coach of the year in Gerard Gallant and a bunch of players who put their heart and soul on the line nightly. If they land Tavares, they could also land Erik Karlsson. Easily.

San Jose is yet another of the teams that looks primed to make more noise in the playoffs than in previous years, after being eliminated in the second round this season by the Knights. Evander Kane, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, Martin Jones and the weather could all lure Tavares to the west coast.

Dallas somehow got into the equation, even as nobody seemed to be talking about them at all with regard to this process. The thing they have to consider is that, if they sign Tavares to a huge deal, what do they do with Tyler Seguin, who is expired at the end of the 2018-19 season and due a huge raise off his current cap hit of $5.750 million? They have some roster holes to fix as well, with only 8 forwards, 5 defensemen and a goaltender currently inked. They appear on the outside looking in.

Toronto wants to win, almost needs to win, but floating a one-year, max deal to return home, with a promise to negotiate in January? Woah. If Brisson was to ever allow his client to sign such a risky contract, he should be fired on the spot. Toronto does have the money (right now, anyway) and the lure, not to mention exciting players including Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Morgan Reilly and others. Bigger issue is, how do you pay them all? Only Reilly is signed long-term.

Tavares has a critical decision to make - where to spend the next eight years of his hockey career. It’s a decision he has earned, a decision he has fought to get to- fought through all the cheap shots, missed calls and missed opportunities. He has always professed his love for Long Island and its community, as well as the long-suffering fans of the Islanders.

Those fans have taken it up a notch, as well. After tracking a plane at last season’s trading deadline, local bagel shop Bagel Boss and its owner, Donald Rosner, have promised a daily delivery for John and his soon-to-be wife, Aryne Fuller. They are even sending a delivery each day this week to Brisson’s office in Los Angeles. After that announcement, Oyster Bay Brewing Company jumped on board to offer to fully stock the Tavares' fridge with its beer. Tri-Color cookies? Those could be on the docket, as well.

If you are looking for the glass half full analogy, some have surmised this could all be an NHLPA ruse to show good faith in meeting with other teams during the interview period for one of its biggest free agents to set a precedent. After giving it some thought, I just don’t see Tavares partaking in such a dog and pony show. I believe his intention is to sincerely listen to these teams, let them make their pitch to how quickly they can compete for a Stanley Cup, then make a final decision at the end of the week.

In any event, glass half full or half empty, it will all be over soon. And the Islanders will march forward with their captain……or attempt to survive yet another shot to the jaw for a franchise that has taken more than its fair share of haymakers.

Follow Andy on Twitter at @AndyGraz_WFAN