Civian: If the Bruins are going all in, they have as much a shot at John Tavares as anyone

Sara Civian
June 25, 2018 - 11:22 am

Brad Penner/USA Today Sports

There are two types of people in this world, and both of them showed up Sunday night when news surfaced that the Bruins are at least somewhat involved in the John Tavares sweepstakes.

Person One heard about it and immediately rejected the idea. Maybe it was a defense mechanism, and a pretty good one. There are five or six teams in the running, and all will come bearing compelling offers. The owner of one of the best bagel shops in New York City already did.

Person Two heard the same news, knows the same things, and gave Person One a noogie regardless.

Before we hear either of them out, we must recognize that this isn’t anything like the Ilya Kovalchuk situation. Kovalchuk was polarizing from the jump -- point per game in his prime, 35-year-old coming off a five-year stint in the KHL today. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney’s going all in at this point, but three years, $6.25 million annually with that level of uncertainty would’ve been pushing it.

Can you think of a deal that would classify as pushing it for Tavares?

The franchise center has scored the fifth-most regular season goals in the league since his 2009-10 debut. And you know he’d have a postseason number as significant by now had he not spent the last nine years of his life with the New York Islanders.

He scored 37 goals and 47 assists for 84 points in 82 games for a top three career season in 2017-18. The 27-year-old is very much in his prime, and regarding his free agency July 1, there’s something he’s been stressing since Aug. 10, 2016:

“At the end of the day, I want to win a Stanley Cup.”

There’s no flagrant downside to having Tavares on your team. The fact that the Bruins, Leafs, Sharks, Stars and, of course, Islanders are all confirmed contenders (and those are just the confirmed ones) should make that clear. You know what you’re getting in him -- a reliable center in all three zones, a near perennial 30+ goal scorer, someone who just wants to win a damn Cup already. The only fatal flaw standing in his way might be that he’s too loyal.

So, with Tavares there’s no “should they?”

There’s just a big “can they?”

A question like that brings up a few more questions.

First, is Tavares just seeing what’s out there before he signs the eight-year extension with the Islanders?

Fans of almost every NHL franchise are losing their minds over him, and maybe that feels good after being underrated for a while. The Islanders proved they’d actually make a serious effort for Tavares when they dropped general manager Garth Snow and hired general manager Lou Lamoriello and now Cup-winning coach Barry Trotz.

From all accounts, it’s worth noting he values loyalty -- and no other team can offer him a guaranteed eight years (and $88 million). But what some other teams can offer is a more certain shot at the only thing Tavares hasn’t had in New York.

If Tavares is serious about winning, he’ll at least meet with the Leafs, the Bruins, and a few more of the up-to-nine teams with rumored interest.

What can the Bruins do for Tavares?

Well, wouldn’t you want the gentleman in the top hat who just became the youngest player in NHL history to score six points in a playoff game -- emphasis on playoff -- as your linemate?

The Bruins can offer him David Pastrnak. They’re also going all in for a Stanley Cup as long as the core of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask, and Zdeno Chara is at full strength. Not a bad place to land if you want the Cup and you want it now. If I’m Tavares, that core seems like slightly less of a risk than the perpetual “next year” Maple Leafs, but it's close.

Now the big one -- is this even financially feasible?

Assuming Tavares is seriously considering leaving the Island and all its free bagels, and considering he’d entertain Boston...does it make sense in terms of cap space?

He’ll cost north of $10 million. The Bruins have $11.9 million, but they still need to resign Anton Khudobin and Sean Kuraly -- probably a $3-4 million endeavor. They’ll need to get rid of either David Krejci ($7.2 million projected salary) or David Backes ($6 million annually for three more years). It seems that the Bruins will have to eat a lot of Backes’ contract to move him, but don't count out the idea of moving Krejci. Teams like the Leafs have way more cap space than the Bruins, but that becomes moot if they can manage a Krejci trade.

The push for Tavares will be one of the most intense free agency periods we’ve seen in a while. But if the Bruins are really going all in, they definitely have a shot. According to the oddsmakers in Vegas, they've got the second-best chance to win the Cup next season. They can offer Tavares a decent shot at the one thing he doesn't have.

Might as well give in and enjoy it.