Vancouver Canucks: Re-visiting the John Tavares sweepstakes

If New York Islanders captain John Tavares hits the open market, he’ll be the most sought-after free agent in NHL history. We take another look at if the Vancouver Canucks should pursue the perennial superstar.

The Vancouver Canucks have plenty of holes to fill in the offseason, but at least one of those can be addressed when they have another top pick in this year’s draft.

As for the scoring woes, New York Islanders captain John Tavares could hit free agency. If the Isles don’t retain him, Tavares will be the franchise-changing superstar that at least half a dozen teams will be chasing heavily. Perhaps more.

And if Tavares seriously thinks it’s time to move on and find a new home, shall general manager Jim Benning pursue him? I touched on this subject (way back), in August, explaining that he’d be too expensive and they’re set at centre with Bo Horvat and top prospect, Elias Pettersson.

But I’m re-visiting this subject, because Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun mentioned the Canucks as a team who could go after him:

The options for Tavares will be many. San Jose and St. Louis are thought to be at the top of the list of suitors should he make himself available. Teams with cap space and potential need for a No. 1 centre such as Vancouver, Vegas, New Jersey, are almost certain to be all over the first line superstar.

Tavares is easily going to command well over $10 million a season, and rightfully so. According to NHLNumbers.com, only the Carolina Hurricanes (approx. $19.095 million), Arizona Coyotes ($16.161), and Colorado Avalanche (approx. $10.739 million), have over $10 million in cap space.

Hard to see either of those budget-conscious teams throwing out a bunch of money at Tavares, and it’s unlikely he’d want to join any of those teams anyway.

There’s virtually no chance he’d go to Carolina or Arizona, given their statuses as rebuilding teams with limited money to spend.

And as Simmons noted, the New Jersey devils, Vegas Golden Knights and Canucks could all make space for Tavares, given their cap situations and needs for a player of his caliber.

If the Canucks wanted to pursue Tavares, they’d almost certainly have to say good-bye to the Sedin twins, whose contracts come off the books and will clear Benning $14 million in cap space.

Or, the Sedins could re-sign at major pay cuts, around $2 million a season each. It’s hard to envision the Canucks low-balling them, though.

Don’t get your hopes up

Okay, let’s end the fun and just be honest. The Canucks probably won’t be heavy players for Tavares, and he probably doesn’t want to come here.

Tavares has only sniffed the playoffs three times, and the Isles have only managed to win one postseason series under his watch. General manager Garth Snow hasn’t been able to build much around Tavares, as awful defence and mediocre goaltending have held this team back from being a Cup contender.

It’s safe to assume that Tavares will want to join both a Stanley Cup contender plus a team that can offer him a lot of money. The Canucks have to extend Brock Boeser eventually, plus pending RFAs Sven Baertschi, Derrick Pouliot, Jake Virtanen and Markus Granlund, among others.

And even if Benning landed Tavares, he wouldn’t single-handedly turn this team around. The Canucks don’t have enough scoring depth, their blue line is one of the worst in the league and the goaltending situation must be addressed.

So no, Benning won’t be able to offer Tavares that seven-year, $80-plus million contract. And there’s no way Tavares can view this team as a Cup contender; not when they’re about to finish in the bottom-five for a third consecutive season.

It’s a fun scenario to imagine Tavares playing for the Canucks. But the chances of it happening are slim to none. Fans should just look forward to the 1-2 centre tandem of Pettersson and Horvat instead.