One of the biggest running stories of the 2015-16 season was the speculation on whether or not Tampa Bay Lightning star centre Steven Stamkos would re-sign in Tampa Bay or leave at the end of his contract and join a new team. To go along wih that speculation, there was also tons of questions regarding the question that if Stamkos did leave Tampa Bay, would he return home and sign with his hometown Maple Leafs. Leafs fans loved this possibility, and their hearts broke on June 29th, 2016 when Stamkos announced an eight year contract to remain in Tampa Bay. It seems now that Leafs fans have set their sights on the next free agent superstar in John Tavares, who also happens to be a GTA native. I don't want to burst your bubble, but I'm here to tell you why anyone who's hoping for Tavares in 2018 should probably give up while they're ahead.
1. Two Entirely Different Situations
One of the main differences between the Stamkos dilemma and the Tavares situation is the fact that the reason there was so much speculation on the Stamkos deal was because he took so long to sign his deal. He signed it literally two days before he would become an unrestricted free agent, when typically you'd expect someone of his calibre to be locked up long before when Stamkos was inked. Meanwhile, we're still two years away from Tavares becoming a UFA and I would assume that joining the Maple Leafs hasn't crossed his mind even once. Stamkos also had a young core built around him that wouldn't have suffered very much if Stamkos decided to leave. They had Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Ben Bishop, and Andrei Vasilevskiy to carry the team if they lost their star. Meanwhile, the Islanders really don't have anyone besides Tavares. Of course he doesn't completely carry the team, but if they didn't have him then it's likely the Isles would still be fighting for a wildcard spot, or even worse. Tavares is more valuable to the Islanders than Stamkos is to Tampa Bay, and it's very unlikely the Isles let Tavares walk for nothing.
2. They Don't Really Need Him
If you think of the Leafs top needs over the last decade, a goalie certainly comes to mind. Since the days of Curtis Joseph and Ed Belfour, they've had a number of disappointing goalies. From Andrew Raycroft, to Vesa Toskala, to Jonas Gustavsson, to Jonathan Bernier, the list just goes on and on. They now have Frederik Andersen, however, so that need is met. Another need is a franchise number one centre. Since Mats Sundin left, they haven't truly had anyone to fill that role. They tried for years to force Tyler Bozak into that slot, but that didn't work out either. They also met that need this summer by drafting potential franchise centre Auston Matthews first overall. Because of this, their need for another star studded centre like Tavares really isn't there. Matthews has all the tools to be an effective Kopitar-like top line player and while bringing in Tavares would certainly be a huge addition to the Leafs' forward core, it could potentially strike Matthews' confidence and wouldn't really be neccessary considering the role we would be bringing in Tavares for wouldn't be a needed one. It would be best to just let Matthews run as the #1 centre and fill in the next three centres with whoever is developed right over the next few years.
3. Tavares Said It Himself
One thing you'll have noticed during the Stamkos sweepstakes was that he remained very quiet during the ongoing contract negotiations. He never really liked to comment on the matter and besides stirring the pot by liking tweets about him joining the Maple Leafs and being seen around Toronto during the offseason (all of which meant nothing later on), you never heard much from Stammer. Tavares, however, openly stated that you shouldn't count on him leaving the Islanders to join the Maple Leafs, and that he wants to be an Islander for life. Analysts have proven to have been wrong from time to time, but when the man himself says that he's not going to leave for the Maple Leafs once he's a UFA in 2018, it's usually not a good sign. This shouldn't be a big deal considering the Leafs already have Matthews, but it still shoots down any potential rumours in the near future.
Now, I can't tell the future. For all I know, some incident could go down over the next few years prompting Tavares to leave Brooklyn for free agency and the Leafs could scoop him up. They could also sign Tavares to a ten year extension next season. Hey, I don't know. But the point of this article was simply to let you all know my thoughts on the situation (that's for some reason a thing right now) and hopefully save you from disappointment once we get closer to 2018.