*Note from Robert: This is all total speculation with no basis in fact, and should be taken as such. This is not a rumor, an alleged quote, or anything like that. It is a discussion topic—but not an altogether ridiculous one at that, I think. So, don’t yell at me too much, okay?
Okay, get it all out of your system right now. Clickbait, insanity, sowing seeds of dissent between fans and hot young centermen, etc. etc. etc. I get it. No one really wants to countenance this sort of idea right now. We’re not looking forward to summer just yet.
But here’s a huge, stupid, but maybe brilliant idea: the Stars, if they wanted to, could totally try and sign John Tavares on July 1st. And it wouldn’t mean dismantling the team to do it. Heck, they wouldn’t even necessarily need to trade Jason Spezza. And I think I’m coming around to a place where I don’t think this idea is so absurd that it should be immediately discarded.
I should back up to where this started. I had a conversation at a bar where this idea was brought up (not by me), and my first reaction was to scoff. After all, July 1st, for Dallas, will be all about a certain someone whom they acquired back on a certain July 4th: Tyler Seguin. Going after someone like Tavares is the type of thing a team does because they don’t have a Tyler Seguin in-house, able to be re-signed. Why throw money at Tavares that all but guarantees you’ll lose Seguin the following year?
Before I start off, a word: the point of this isn’t to drag Seguin for not being John Tavares and to pitch a change for the sake of it. Tyler Seguin—and we must continue to emphasize this—is and has been an elite, glorious acquisition for Dallas, and we have been lucky to be fans of him and this team with him. The Stars need Tyler Seguin, and he has delivered consistent superstar performances to them.
John Tavares and Tyler Seguin are rarified air. Who else can you put up there among the top centers in the game today, realistically? Names like McDavid, Stamkos, Crosby, Matthews, Bergeron, Pavelski, Backstrom, and I guess maybe Scheifele this year? (It’s a rough list, don’t flip out if Your Guy isn’t on it. I’m just trying to paint the picture here.) These two guys are both ridiculously good at hockey, and comparing them to each other shouldn’t lessen our appreciation of their respective games one whit.
The Stars, come July 1st, can officially sign Seguin to an extension. There has been lots of talk about (for example) how the playoff run (we hope) this spring will impact those negotiations, whether Seguin wants to stay, and how maybe if fans just shout his name a little bit more he’ll take a discount just to be nice. It’s a big deal for Dallas; every team that doesn’t have a young-ish elite center is currently looking for one, and you can bet Seguin and his agent are not unaware of his value.
But...here’s the thing. This insane, unfounded idea just sort of sets that all aside. What if the Stars, given their improved cap situation next year, just kind of decide to table the huge Seguin extension for the moment and sign another center to a huge deal instead? One of the only centers, in fact, that you could even begin to discuss as being as desirable (or moreso) than Tyler Seguin?
Tavares is older than Seguin, but only by a year and change (Sep. 1990 vs. Jan. 1992), so a max-term seven-year deal signs him though age 34, as opposed to an eight-year deal for Seguin through age 33 (which the Stars can make since they’re re-signing a player of their own). Both players would command max term and probably something around Jamie Benn money (though I’d expect a touch more to persuade Tavares). You get one more prime year from the younger Seguin, but the expiration dates are only one year apart.
Tavares, however, has done more than Seguin, from an individual standpoint. Tavares has more points per game in his career (0.93) than Seguin (0.85), and has been an elite playoff performer if you care about such things: 22 points in 24 games, to Seguin’s 21 points in 49 games. Granted, many of those playoff games for Seguin came when he was getting low minutes at a young age in Boston, so you’d expect his playoff numbers to be much better as the Stars continue to return to the playoffs. But GMs care about that stuff.
(John Tavares also won an Art Ross Trophy a couple years ago, I think, didn’t he? My memory is fuzzy, but I think I recall him being in the lead or something late in the year. I’ll double check that later.)
Anyway, you don’t need me to tell you how good Tavares is. You don’t even need me to compare him and Seguin, since having either of them is a huge luxury for any team in the NHL. What I’m musing about here is, what if the Stars realized they could have both, for at least one season?
Think about it: If, somehow, the Stars could sign Tavares—and again, this is probably insane and I know it and you know, so don’t act like I’m a naive idiot for throwing it out there during a veritable desert of Stars hockey to watch—then Seguin either becomes someone playing with a chip on his shoulder for a huge contract in the offseason (from Dallas or elsewhere), or, worst-case, he becomes a gold-plated trade chip at the deadline (or before). Yes, it would be weird, and even somewhat unprecedented. But imagine that lineup, eh?
Actually, you don’t have to! I created just such a team on CapFriendly with a slapdash method of setting the cap at $80 million, bringing back a few RFAs for a slight raise, Nichushkin for 2+ million (it will probably be more, I know) and finally (yes, it’s come to this) I brought back pending UFA Greg Pateryn. All of these are, it hardly need be said, my own rough, rough contract estimates (never mind the term).
I mean, the left wings are still rough, but that’s almost Tampa-esque up front, isn’t it? And speaking of which, if Steven Stamkos could go back to the Bolts after everything that went down there, I don’t think you necessarily have to say that Seguin is gone for good should the Stars miraculously land Tavares. But with that said, having John Tavares around after Seguin’s theoretical departure would be a bit comforting.
And yeah, you can quibble with the $9.5 million number if you want, too. If it gets much higher, then you probably do have to trade someone like Jason Spezza that same summer, which isn’t the end of the world, but I’m just using it as a baseline for now. We’re painting in broad strokes here.
We’re so far down Crazy River here that it’s weird to even think about this, but it’s not totally impossible for the Stars to rock a lineup going forward with all of Benn, Tavares, Seguin, Radulov, Klingberg, Heiskanen, and Honka, is all I’m saying. Maybe you pitch the Pittsburgh model to Seguin, with Crosby and Malkin on different lines, both making that team’s back-to-back Cups possible. Maybe you just say, “look, we’ll be super good, ok?” I don’t know, I am not an NHL general manager (YET).
With Spezza’s contract coming off the books when Seguin’s new deal would kick in anyway, the Stars will still have room to be flexible. Maybe you trade or buy out Martin Hanzal after year two if he doesn’t improve in order to make more room. Maybe you rely on more affordable contracts from your defensive prospects after Methot’s deal expires. The money could be there, should the Stars want it to be. Certainly you’d think the talent is there on the blue line right now to keep things affordable, though.
(Now is the mandatory time when we all genuflect towards the John Klingberg contract. Thank you, that was very nice.)
So, okay, that’s enough from me. This is all, ahem, “extremely unlikely,” given how complicated and risky it would be, but then again, if you’re a GM who has at least some chance to land John Tavares, would you think about finding a way to bring him on board while you also have Tyler Seguin for at least one year, and maybe more? I kind of think I might look at it, at least.
The Central Division seems ready for someone to step up and take the throne for the next few years. Maybe that team is the Stars, with Benn, Seguin, and Klingberg. But it could be done with different players, too. John Tavares, as of right now, is one of those possible players. Unless he decides that he wants to keep playing for the literal New York Islanders and signs an extension before July 1st, you have to think Jim Nill and company will at least have a discussion about him, and every other free agent. Maybe that will be a quick, dismissive conversation. But right now, I don’t think it’s totally ridiculous to have a longer one.