They signed Lou Lamoriello in an effort to stabilize the team, and Tavares ended up signing with the team Lamoriello literally built before leaving for the Islanders. They signed Barry Trotz to be their head coach for five years. They told Tavares they would split time between Brooklyn and Nassau Coliseum, before building a new arena at Belmont Park. They had local businesses offering him lifetime supplies of bagels, cheesecakes and beer.
None of it mattered. Tavares wanted to go home, and he didn’t have faith in an organization that had too much turnover (like jettisoning his friends Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen) and too much uncertainty.
In some ways, the task for the Islanders doesn’t change. They have a great young player in Mathew Barzal, who clearly becomes the franchise focal point. They have some prospects in the pipeline, especially in goal. The answers weren’t going to come from unrestricted agency, but through Lamoriello working his trade magic. There are some options, like wingers Max Pacioretty and Jeff Skinner, or center Ryan O’Reilly, or the Erik Karlsson gambit, if he wanted it.
But their attention should go beyond that. Please recall that the Sharks cleared out money in Mikkel Boedker and his $4 million salary cap hit, dealing him to Ottawa; and then buying out the contract of Paul Martin.
It’s no surprise, as I’ve said before to you, that Ryan is a guy that teams ask about. When people are calling me to talk about our team, they’re looking at our better players. Ryan is certainly one of our better players. We’ve talked at length about his reputation throughout the league, so that’s why we’ve been getting calls on him, said Sabres GM Jason Botterill. We’ll certainly look at them because of where we finished in the standings. It would have to make sense to improve our team.
The first week of free agency will dictate how Philadelphia handles the expiring contract of Jerryd Bayless.
If the 76ers are in play to land a max free agent, Bayless and his $8.5 million salary will need to be traded to a team with room, with Philadelphia not taking back salary. If Philly misses out on its targets, Bayless could be used as filler in a future trade, or the team can be patient and let his salary come off its cap ledger next summer.
One under-the-radar name to keep an eye on is guard T.J. McConnell.
With five point guards on the roster — not including second-round pick Shake Milton — McConnell could be squeezed out. McConnell has value in a trade based on a receiving team inheriting his Bird rights in 2019 and his low $1.6 million free-agent cap hold. A new team could chase free agents and eventually sign McConnell to exceed the cap. McConnell is also renegotiation- (starting in September) and extension-eligible.