Make no mistake. John Tavares is a devoted Toronto Maple Leafs player. Although many fans believe he’s been overpaid, he’s been a valuable player on this team since he signed a lucrative seven-year, $11 million per season contract.
Now, Tavares has only two more seasons remaining on his current contract. No doubt, he’d love to stay with the team and the team would love to have him. But, at what price?
Would Tavares Be Like Giordano and Go Team-Friendly?
The Maple Leafs next contract with Tavares might be interesting. In truth, I had always considered that Tavares would play a Mark Giordano-like role with the team. My guess is that he’d sign a team-friendly contract for a lot less than he was currently making.
However, the recent two-year contract extension that long-time Los Angeles Kings’ player Anze Kopitar recently signed has made me rethink my ideas. That extension is for two years at $7 million per season.
There are similarities between Kopitar’s relationship with the Kings and Tavares with the Maple Leafs. However, are they any implications fans might draw from the two cases?
How Tavares and Kopitar Are Alike
Tavares and Kopitar share notable similarities that offer a realistic comparison between Kopitar’s new contract and what Tavares might sign. Tavares wasn’t originally drafted by the Maple Leafs, but he’s clearly a Maple Leafs – through and through. His connection to the team is unwavering.
He bleeds blue and white. He’ll re-sign with them. And, there’s no chance he’ll leave.
In that way, he’s like Kopitar. Kopitar has spent his entire career with the Kings, and he’s just as loyal to them as Tavares is with the Maple Leafs. As well, his production has been consistent. The team believes he has earned a significant place within the organization – even as his production begins to wane.
Tavares might not be an elite player, but he’s put up consistent offensive numbers. He’s also dedicated to the team. When he does retire, he’ll be seen as one of the franchise’s great players. In that, he’s similar to Kopitar. But, does that mean that Tavares deserves a contract similar to the one Kopitar recently signed?
What Is Tavares’ Value to the Maple Leafs?
Tavares will still retain value as a player with the Maple Leafs when his current contract expires. He’ll be 34 years old. Kopitar is currently three years older than Tavares. Their offensive performance has been similar, and both players have put up comparable point totals over recent years.
The one advantage is that Kopitar is a better defensive player. That said, Tavares still brings valuable attributes to the team, which makes him a key part of the Maple Leafs’ success.
How Would Negotiations Go?
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Tavares could seek a contract worth a similar $7 million per season if he continues his production. But, there’s an additional challenge with the Maple Leafs. Unless things change drastically, the team will want to retain its key players like Matthews, Marner, and Nylander. Even with an increased salary cap, that might be tough.
Is there space in this scenario to accommodate a large Tavares’ contract. With Matthews potentially becoming the NHL’s highest-paid player, at what price can the Maple Leafs sign Tavares? That decision will heavily rely on what the team believes Tavares’ value to the team’s future success might be.
The Bottom Line
I wouldn’t be surprised if, after next season, contract negotiations with Tavares will be done quietly and the results will simply be announced. I wouldn’t also be surprised if the numbers are much smaller than Kopitar’s numbers.
Part of it might depend on how the team does during the 2024 postseason. Regardless, there’s no doubt that Tavares is extended and that he would deserve a big number on his contract.
Still, given the context that surrounds this team and the deep desire to win a Stanley Cup, I believe Tavares will sign for a much lower number. I can’t believe negotiations will be contentious at all.
Both player and team will find a comfortable happy place. I remain convinced that Tavares will still have value to the team. He’ll also be one of its franchise’s key alumni when he retires.