John Tavares watch: Latest news, rumors on NHL's top free-agent prize

Thank the hockey gods for John Tavares.

In an otherwise nondescript 2018 NHL free agency class, Tavares Watch should supply all the intrigue needed on July 1 this year as the Islanders and five other sweepstakes finalists await the most anticipated free agent decision in recent memory.

Last week, Tavares and agent Pat Brisson entertained pitches from representatives of the Bruins, Sharks, Maple Leafs, Stars and Lightning at CAA headquarters in Los Angeles, each hoping to lure the Islanders star away from the franchise.

TRACKER: Full list of free-agent signings

The Islanders, meanwhile, have remained cool, calm and collected (on the surface, at least) throughout the process, an attitude adjustment influenced undoubtedly by new hockey czar Lou Lamoriello. It’s always been considered a longshot Tavares would leave the organization that selected him No. 1 overall in 2009 — one that’s become markedly more appealing in the last month with the hirings of Lamoriello and coach Barry Trotz. But the odds of keeping the captain in Brooklyn decrease with each passing minute, especially now that the Tavares camp skipped Saturday’s deadline to tack on an eighth year to his contract with the Isles.

Tavares flew back to his Toronto home on Thursday, where he’s spent the weekend deliberating the future with Brisson and his family. And while it seems unlikely Tavares wants to drag out the drama, it’s possible the NHL is left holding its breath beyond Sunday.

Sporting News will keep you up to date on the latest news and rumors below — however long #TavaresWatch lasts.

2018 UFA RANKINGS: Forwards | Defensemen | Goalies

John Tavares free agency: Latest news, rumors

As deadline passes, are the Isles out?

The rumor: The Islanders’ greatest advantage over other Tavares suitors was an ability to offer an eight-year maximum term, but that deadline came and went at midnight Saturday without a deal. It’s possible the sides could have agreed on terms before the cut-off with plans to announce it when free agency begins. It’s also possible the Islanders have lost their best bargaining chip and are barely holding on.

Reported by: Arthur Staple, The Athletic

Maple Leafs getting creative

The rumor: Tavares was “very impressed” by the pitch made by the Leafs braintrust, led by general manager Kyle Dubas and coach Mike Babcock. No doubt, they have the most to sell to the Toronto native with a young core on the rise, and prevailing wisdom is that the Leafs could be the front-runner. If that’s the case, there’s speculation Tavares would sign a one-year contract under a handshake agreement that an eight-year extension would follow when eligible Jan. 1.

Reported by: Darren Dreger, TSN

If not Islanders, the Maple Leafs, Sharks considered favorites

The rumor: If Tavares’ pick is a team other than the Islanders, it’s believed he considers the Maple Leafs and Sharks as his best chance to win — both in the present and the duration of his expected seven-year contract.

Reported by: Arthur Staple, The Athletic

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