Toronto Maple Leafs Second Line Center Spot Going Forward

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The Toronto Maple Leafs have an incredible one-two punch with Auston Matthews and John Tavares as their top two centers. Someone recently asked me who should play as the second-line center if Tavares shifts to the left wing or third-line center. My first thought was, why would they move Tavares? I know his point production is down this season, but he is still one of the best second line centres in the NHL.

Though Tavares is going through a slump, he is putting up 5v5 numbers that are on par with the rest of his career. The Leafs get more puck possession than their opponent when he's on the ice, they get more shots and more goals. Tavares has a 55% Expected Goals rating, which is higher than each of the last two seasons and one of the highest marks of his carrer. The Leafs get 56% of the scoring chances when he's playing, as well as 57% of the high-danger chances (

Yes, the 33-year-old Tavares is in a slump and has not registered a point in nine games. However, I'm sure he will break out of his slump and finish with a productive 2023-24 season. Every player goes through these types of slumps from time to time. I'm not worried about Tavares's point production. He does many other things with and without the puck that makes him effective.

As for his role as the Leafs second-line center, Tavares is doing just fine. In the 46 games he has played this season, Tavares has meshed well with Nylander and Bertuzzi, and only bad puck-luck has prevented them from being completely dominant. If Tavares actuallly does start to decline, he can prolong his career on the wing, but that point isn't even close.

The Future of John Tavares and the Toronto Maple Leafs

Next season will be the final year of the seven-year deal Tavares signed in July 2018. As a member of the Leafs, Tavares has registered 167 goals and 221 assists for 388 points in 406 games.

There is no telling how long Tavares' current slump will last or what his production will be like next season. However, people have already begun to predict what Tavares' next contract will look like.

At the start of his next contract, Tavares will be 35 years old. I don't see the Leafs signing him for longer than five years. As for his salary, I don't see him making more than $5 million a season.

The ideal contract for Tavares would be a three-year deal worth $3 million a season. After making $77 million over seven years, I don't think it's a slap in the face to give him a much lower amount. Plus, it will free up some much-needed cap space to address other areas of concern on the team, like defense. (Salary cap info from


If Tavares can still play after the suggested three years, I can see the Leafs re-signing him to one-year deals worth the league minimum until he decides to retire.