TSN Hockey Insiders Darren Dreger, Bob McKenzie and Pierre LeBrun joined host Gino Reda to discuss whether a John Tavares sign and trade is a possibility, the latest on goaltender interference and if James van Riemsdyk is expected back with the Toronto Maple Leafs next season.
Sign and trade possible for Tavares?
John Tavares is set to become an unrestricted free agent as of July 1. If he does decide to leave the Islanders, could it be done via sign and trade?
Pierre LeBrun: If he does decide to leave the Islanders and he hasn’t made that decision yet, a sign and trade – we haven’t had one in the cap era, this would be exciting – is a possibility. I’m not saying it’s going to happen for sure but I can tell you this is why it would make sense under certain conditions: One, it would be about John Tavares wanting the eighth year on that contract, which he can only get by signing with the New York Islanders and then being flipped to another team. Kind of like what we had speculated on two years ago when Steven Stamkos was deciding whether or not to re-sign with Tampa Bay. Tampa and Newport (his agency) looked at that had he left Tampa Bay. Number two, if you’re the team acquiring him, the eighth year would lower the AAV and lower the cap hit on what you’re paying John Tavares. And obviously, for the Islanders the appeal is that you get something back for a guy that would be exiting. So again, there’s a lot of moving parts, it’s complicated, there’s a reason why we haven’t had one, but it’s certainly a possibility.
Darren Dreger: John Tavares will meet with his agent Pat Brisson at the end of the season and they’ll begin to map out whatever that strategy might be and they’ll inform the New York Islanders of their intent well in advance of the June draft in Dallas so that general manager Garth Snow and management of the Islanders can make their necessary adjustments. But they’ve got to visit and revisit the criteria that will be established ultimately by Tavares. Is he willing to wait for the new building? This could be three-plus years. Does he see the pieces within the organization or is he getting a promise from the Islanders that there are pieces that are going to be brought in that are going to help this team win a Stanley Cup. So all of this will come into play before the draft in June.
The latest on goaltender interference
With the general managers meetings set for next week in Boca Raton, Fla., is the hot topic of goaltender interference going to be brought up?
Bob McKenzie: No question about that. It’s a very simple question really – what is or isn’t goaltender interference? That’s what the general managers want to know. But it’s much more difficult to get an answer to that question and they will try and attempt to do that. Now, one of the things the general managers believe that would enhance the consistency of the goalie interference coach’s challenge rulings is to take the final decision-making on the review away from the referees and put it exclusively in the hands of hockey operations in the situation room in Toronto. That way the same guys every single night will be making the same calls and there would, in theory, be more consistency. Now, hockey ops isn’t angling for this and it’s a bit of a political hot potato because the refs are not prepared to give up control that they’ve got and was introduced when they brought the coach’s challenge in. So we’ll see if there’s enough momentum for that to happen or whether that’s a key factor at all. The other element of course on coach’s challenges is offside. And we talked a lot last year about would they tweak the rule and take away the multi-dimensional question of is the skate on the ice, or is the skate off the ice? And the general managers didn’t get past the start line last year with Gary Bettman on this issue. But they’re back at it again this year and they really want to make this happen. Many of the hockey ops people are in favour of this because it would eliminate about half of the most contentious offside reviews. We’ll see if that gets any traction on Monday or Tuesday.
Are JvR’s days as a Leaf numbered?
James van Riemsdyk is having one of the best seasons of his career and leads the team in goals, but should the Leafs get ready for life without him?
Darren Dreger: I think that’s fair based on the lack of dialogue between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the camp organized and managed by James van Riemsdyk’s agent because the reality is they haven’t had any meaningful negotiations to date. Now that could change with Lou Lamoriello picking up the phone very quickly at the end of the year and say hey we’re willing to go in at six years at $6 million. And that seems unlikely when you look at Auston Matthews being top priority. Then you’ve got Mitch Marner and you’ve got William Nylander and only a limited amount of cap space. But the market value for van Riemsdyk is also very significant. When we look at free agent frenzy, well you’re going to see John Tavares’ name at the top of that list on that graphic and then you’re going to see JvR. He’s a $6 million-plus player on a seven-year term according to some teams, and if he goes slightly under, maybe on a five or six-year term, then he’s probably closer to $6.5 million.