Tavares to the Bruins? Don’t Count On It.

The John Tavares sweepstakes is officially underway. For the next week, a hand full of teams will attempt to persuade the superstar center to sign a lucrative long-term contract when NHL free agency begins on July 1 at noon. Among those teams are the Boston Bruins.

Boston will face some heavy competition to win Tavares’ services, and although they are an attractive destination for free agents, it’s highly unlikely that they will land the star center. Never say never, but there’s too many factors working against the Bruins that will prevent them from landing Tavares.

The biggest factor that will prevent the Bruins from landing John Tavares is the dreaded salary cap. With approximately $12 million in cap space, the Bruins don’t have much wiggle room to add Tavares, who will reportedly earn between $11 to $12 million per season. Fans have suggested trading players with bulky contracts such as David Krejci or David Backes to make room, but it’s not that simple.

For starters, Krejci and Backes are making $7.25 million and $6 million respectively for the next three seasons. Given their ages and the fact that their production levels haven’t been on par with their salaries, teams aren’t going to be clamoring for their services. To make a trade, the Bruins would either need to take a lesser return or include a talented prospect or high draft pick in the deal. Either route would be a tough pill to swallow, especially if such a deal was for a fan-favorite like Krejci.

What makes matters more difficult is that Krejci and Backes also have no-move clauses in their contracts, which allows them to block any trade the Bruins might make. At this point, the only way to get rid of them would be to buy them out, which means Boston would get nothing in return and suffer a buyout penalty against the salary cap over the next few years. It is highly unlikely that Don Sweeney will go this route.

New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero made a great point a few weeks ago when he said that just because a team might have cap space to use, that doesn’t mean they should impulsively spend it. A team needs to consider the long-term factors as well, such as giving raises to its up-and-coming stars. The Bruins need to keep that in mind when players like Charlie McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk need new contracts.

In addition to cap constraints, the Bruins will also have to contend with the sales pitches of the other teams listed above. Boston might be ready to win now, but can they offer Tavares the chance to play at home? Can they offer him the opportunity to play in a beautiful area like San Jose or Tampa Bay? Winning is always an important factor, but this will be the biggest decision of Tavares’ life, and he will likely take every factor into consideration before making a decision.

While some fans think its unlikely at this point, don’t count out John Tavares returning to the New York Islanders. Laugh all you want, but the Islanders brought in a Hall of general manager and a Stanley Cup winning coach to develop a winning culture in New York. They have a talented young core, the most cap space of any team, and will soon be playing in a brand new arena on Long Island. They’re not out of the running yet.

Ultimately, despite hearing the other teams’ sales pitches, I believe John Tavares will stay in New York to captain the Islanders for the remainder of his career. I’m sure the Bruins will make one hell of a push to sign the NHL’s most coveted free agent, but given their current circumstances, they would be smart to sit this one out. Don’t be disappointed, Bruins fans. Your favorite team could always go after Erik Karlsson or Drew Doughty next offseason.

Photo: My NHL Trade Rumors

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