The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed forward John Tavares to a seven-year contract worth a reported $77 million.
Tavares couldn’t get a deal done with the New York Islanders and became an unrestricted free agent when the clock turned past midnight Saturday. That opened him up to sign a deal up to seven years with any of the league’s 31 clubs and that opened the doors for the Maple Leafs.
Toronto was one of the teams Tavares met with during the week.
The 27-year-old is a franchise-changing talent. He was drafted by the Islanders first overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and went on to become the face of the hockey club.
In 82 games in 2017-2018, Tavares had 37 goals and 47 assists. He finished a -12, however.
In 669 NHL games, all with Long Island, he has 272 goals and 349 goals for a total of 621 points. He has 22 points in 24 playoff games.
This is obviously a huge Canada Day get for the Toronto Maple Leafs and general manager Kyle Dubas, who may have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to potential franchise players. The newbie general manager, who many have decried as too young or too inexperienced to get anything done, now has a considerable feather in his cap. He pulled off a stunner.
This contract makes Tavares the second-highest paid player in the NHL. Connor McDavid still earns more per year at $12.5 million, while Montreal’s Carey Price and Chicago’s Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane make $10.5 million a year.
It’s arguable that Tavares could’ve received more money staying with the Islanders. He certainly would’ve had an extra year on the term.
But in the end, the desire to play hometown hockey won out and Tavares will be close to family, friends and a legion of fans. He’ll have what he always wanted: a chance to hoist the Stanley Cup in Toronto as the fulcrum of a young, absurdly talented team.
That’s not bad for a Mississauga kid with Maple Leaf bedsheets, is it?