In bidding farewell to the New York Islanders, where he was the captain and face of the franchise since being drafted with the No. 1 pick in 2009, Tavares chose Toronto and agreed to a seven-year, $77 million contract about an hour after the NHL’s free-agency signing period opened on Sunday.
Tavares, whose 306 points over the past four seasons rank sixth among players over that span, was the highest-profile player to hit the market since the Minnesota Wild signed both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to matching 13-year, $98 million contracts.
Tavares’ signing led to a domino effect in player movement.
Toronto lost two forwards in free agency. James van Riemsdyk left the Maple Leafs after six seasons to return to Philadelphia, where he signed a five-year, $35 million contract. The Leafs also lost center Tyler Bozak, who signed a three-year, $15 million contract with St. Louis. Some of money the Lightning saved by not landing Tavares was spent on signing defenseman Ryan McDonagh to a seven-year, $47.25 million extension, which kicks in next summer.
Paul Stastny caused another ripple of moves in the Western Conference. He left Winnipeg to sign a three-year, $19.5 million contract with the Stanley Cup finalist Vegas Golden Knights – a spot left open after David Perron returned to St. Louis by signing a four-year, $16 million deal.
Vegas forward James Neal is among the more high-profile free agents still unsigned and Buffalo Sabres general manager Jason Botterill hasn’t ruled out the possibility of trading center Ryan O’Reilly.
In Nashville, the Predators will turn their attention to negotiating a contract extension with defenseman Ryan Ellis, who is entering the final year of his contract. The Ottawa Senators are expected to do the same with their captain, Erik Karlsson.
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