Two years ago today, the Toronto Maple Leafs made the biggest signing in team history by acquiring John Tavares.
For Canadians, July 1st is always a special day as we celebrate Canada Day, but when the Toronto Maple Leafs signed John Tavares to a seven-year contract, Leafs fans had an entirely different reason to celebrate.
That same celebration couldn’t be said for New York Islanders fans, as they quickly started to call their former captain “Pajama Boy” for leaving Long Island.
Tavares didn’t come to Toronto with a hometown discount in mind, as the 27-year-old signed a seven-year, $77 million contract to play for the team he idolized growing up.
Pretty sweet deal, right?
With Auston Matthews and John Tavares as your top-two centre’s, the city was buzzing with excitement. After years of having no true number-one centre after Mats Sundin left, the team now had two studs down the middle.
Should The Leafs Have Signed Tavares?
With two seasons under Tavares’ belt in Toronto, should the Leafs have still made the deal?
$11 million per year is a ton of money to pay someone, especially when Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Marner all combine for roughly $30 million already.
Although Tavares is the fifth highest paid player in the NHL, and finished 38th in points this season, signing him was worth the investment.
Tavares finished with 47 goals in the 2018-19 season, which was a career high. Although he scored a personal best with 47 goals, he’s actually made the players around him much better over the past two seasons.
Playing alongside Mitch Marner most nights in the 2018-19 season, Marner went from having 22 goals and 69 points to 26 goals and 94 points playing with Tavares every night.
That same combination had been playing together at the beginning of the 2019-20 season as well, but after Sheldon Keefe was hired, Marner moved the Matthews line and Nylander got paired up with Tavares instead.
Similar to the Marner story, Nylander had a career-high in goals this year and would have had a career-high in points had the season been played in full. Nylander was on his way to 37 goals and 71 points, which would have been 15 goals and 10 points more than his previous best.
The same sort of thing happened when Tavares was playing alongside Anders Lee in New York. Lee scored 34 goals in 2016-17 season and 40 goals in the 2017-18 season playing beside Tavares, but his goal-totals dropped to 28 and 20 in the last two seasons without him.
The former first overall pick of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft has been a consistent 20-plus goal scorer for his entire career because of his hockey IQ and it’s a reason why everyone he plays with has success.
When you’re as smart as Tavares and understand the game as well as he does, the wingers alongside him are going to be rewarded.
Not only is he a great leader on the ice, but he is off the ice as well. The Toronto Maple Leafs took three full seasons to name another captain before giving Tavares the responsibility, which says everything about the player he is.
Although you may not agree with his contract, you’re not the one who has to pay the bill, so don’t stress about it.
Leafs management is never going to go over the salary cap and Tavares is never going to be the reason why the Leafs don’t win.
Right beside Matthews and Freddie Andersen, Tavares is one of the most important players on the Leafs and if he plays to the best of his capabilities, his life-long dream of lifting the Stanley Cup as a member of the Maple Leafs may come true.