John Tavares Could Change The ‘Loyalty Dynamic’ in The NHL

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John Tavares
GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 22: John Tavares #91 of the New York Islanders skates on the ice before the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on January 22, 2018 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Islanders 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The 2018 NHL offseason has come and superstar centreman John Tavares has yet to ink a long-term deal with the only franchise he has known his entire National Hockey League career, the New York Islanders. As June fades into July, Tavares and his agent, Pat Brisson, listen to pitches from teams trying to acquire his services. As each day passes, there is somewhat of a feeling that Tavares could actually leave the Island and go elsewhere. If such a feat were to be accomplished, it could very well be a change in the guard for the league and its star players.

John Tavares Could Change The ‘Loyalty Dynamic’

It is believed that Tavares is going to talk to five teams this week in-person. Those teams include the Toronto Maple Leafs, San Jose Sharks, Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lighting, and Dallas Stars. Not forgetting to mention, Tavares will listen to a few teams with condensed pitches over the phone. Of course, Tavares will also look to further his talks with New York Islanders’ general manager Lou Lamoriello. Nevertheless, the decision lies in Tavares’ hand. A choice that John Tavares has rightfully earned with his outstanding play on the ice during his career.

Will Tavares go to his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs and help them win a Stanley Cup for the first time since Canada’s Centennial year of 1967? The Maple Leafs have a young core in Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner. All of which have not reached their ceiling in the NHL.

Maybe he’ll end up in the safe city of San Jose, California? Okay, maybe the team does not jump off the page to Tavares. San Jose might not have a roster full of superstars, but Sharks’ GM Doug Wilson has managed to build a solid team over the years. Tavares could be that piece which could put San Jose over-the-top.

Why not go to the State of Massachusetts where the only things that matter are Tom Brady and the Boston Red Sox? Oh and the Celtics too. The Bruins have a good mix of grizzled veterans like Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, and Tuukka Rask and youngsters like Charlie McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk. On top of that, at least Tavares knows he will not be the center of attention.

Maybe the Lone Star State has a little room for the big (scoring) guns of John Tavares in the Wild West? Every Stanley Cup Champion has had a good one-two punch. That’s what it takes to win. Maybe JT and Jamie Benn can be the next?

Or why not take a seven-year trip to Tampa Bay where the grass is green and the girls are pretty? Maybe Steve Stamkos might even give Tavares his #91? Who knows, Stammer might even give Johnny T the ‘C’?

Or is it possible that his heart is still with the Islanders and this whole “let’s talk to other teams” fiasco is just an elaborate game of charades set up to get Tavares more money from the Islanders?

The outcomes are why everyone who watches hockey religiously is into this story turned media circus

Honestly, right now it is too early to tell what Tavares will do. Tavares and his agent could very well be using these sitdowns with other teams to force Lou Lamoriello’s hand and drive up the capital of his alleged offer of eight-years at $10 million per. That being said, with all that has transpired in the Island before the hiring of Lou Lamoriello, maybe Tavares wants to find a team where he can win now? People close to Tavares have claimed that’s what he wants to do.

‘The grass is always greener on the other side’

Seldomly do we see instances in the NHL where bonafide superstars consider leaving the team that drafted them in their prime playing years via free agency. For the most part, players are loyal. And with the new CBA, the players’ drafting team have the advantage to offer an extra year when discussing a long-term contract extension. This could very well be the reason why most players choose to stay with their current clubs.

Although most fans like to think there is some morality in the decision. Maybe there is! But tailored suits, fine hotels, and big cigars come with a price. As someone becomes the ‘cream of the crop’ and rises to the top of their respective sport, so does their lifestyle and their cost of living.

Yeah, some athletes can brand themselves well and earn major endorsement deal after endorsement deal like basketball legends Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and want-to-be G.O.A.T LeBron James. The reality of it though is that most players, no matter what sport they play, do not have that ability. That means they need to cash in big come UFA time.

It is understandable that these athletes want to cash in on their dreams to make the big cream. A professional career can only last so long before a player needs to call it quits. Most players, not all of them, playing professional sports was their only profession. Most skipped out on college early or did not even go to college, in order to kickstart their professional playing careers.

Players get paid in the NHL, but it seems that loyalty, so far, has reigned supreme

In the NHL, players get their fair share of change. No there are no whopping $25 million per year contracts. That goes without saying, if a player can contribute, they will get paid. So, yes, they can be heavy hitters making it big in the mainstream. Yes, less skilled players will change teams from time-to-time in order to attain a nice raise. But it seems like there has never been a superstar in their prime years that have walked away from the team that drafted them.

Steven Stamkos might have come close, but at the end of the day, he did not leave. Erik Karlsson might leave the Ottawa Senators, but if that is the case, he will be traded before he can walk away in free agency. Sidney Crosby did not walk away from the Penguins when his time came. Nor did Alex Ovechkin leave the Capitals. They stayed with their team and get rewarded for it financially. That’s why one can see them rolling in their ‘Lexes with the chrome high, rolling far and living large.

What’s different with Tavares?

From what is being said and assumed, Tavares wants to win now. Can that happen in New York? It seemed for the longest time that the answer was a big fat “no”. From the issues with the team’s arena to management and plans for the future. Now some things have changed rather quickly in the Island and the Islanders could be treading in the right direction. Can they contend for a Cup next season? Probably not and that is why Tavares is listening to offers from other NHL teams that he feels can win a Cup now.

Obviously, any team would kill to get a superstar centreman like Mr. Tavares on their team. That’s why he’ll be stuck in a building in LA listening to offers for three days.

Why is his decision so big?

Tavares’ decision is a big one because if he chooses to walk and sign with a new team in free agency, more than likely, other big name superstars will be more open to the idea of doing the exact same thing with their UFA time comes.

It is, quite frankly, a changing in the guard. Society is ever changing and culture evolves itself. The sports world is no exception. Maybe the traditionalists won’t say that. And maybe millennials might oversell the anti-traditionalist ideology after chanting “SHAME ON YOU” well trying to figure out how to combat the intellectual dark web. Either way, the fact still remains, as cliche as it might sound, change is inevitable.

When the Edmonton Oilers traded the great Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988, it shocked the entire sporting universe and the trade changed the idea of superstar players being “untouchable”. This trade gave birth to the “no-trade clause”. This was the NHL’s “Woodstock”. A change in the dynamic. A “paradigm shift”, as the academics not named Jordan Peterson would say.

If faith promotes miracles, maybe this is a team’s lucky year. For Mr. Tavares, the most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. If Mr. Tavares chooses to sign elsewhere, it will change the way superstar hockey players view free agency and it’ll change the NHL’s loyalty dynamic from what it is now.

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