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Is John Tavares to Buffalo worth thinking about?

TSN analysts have had differing opinions this week

May 18, 2018 - 3:28 pm

Joe DiBiase reporting

New York Islanders captain and former first overall pick John Tavares could be in line to become the most marquee free agent to hit the open market in a long time. Tavares will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1 after playing the first nine years of his National Hockey League career with the Islanders. If Tavares makes it to July 1 without an extension, are the Sabres a contender to sign him? 

TSN's Gord Miller made some interesting comments on Wednesday with TSN 690 in Montreal, saying that the Sabres could be contenders to land the top-line center after winning the NHL Draft Lottery.

"I've started talking to NHL people since the lottery, and I think this makes the Sabres a legit contender to sign John Tavares," Miller said. "Tavares wants to win. That's his No. 1 thing, he wants to win and he wants to play in a hockey market. Buffalo is a good hockey market. Now you got Rasmus Dahlin coming, they already have [Rasmus] Ristolainen, they've got [Jack] Eichel, they've got an owner who's willing to spend money.

"It's close to home, but it's not in Toronto with all the scrutiny. His Uncle John played lacrosse in Buffalo and is a legend there. All the sudden, with Buffalo winning the draft lottery, they look like a team players would want to play for."

A lot of what Miller had to say makes sense. The Sabres have a couple of really promising young pieces in the organization, Jack Eichel has already proven to be about a point per-game player early in his career, and Rasmus Dahlin is the most hyped defenseman in years to enter the NHL Draft.

Tavares, 27, is a native of Mississauga, which is part of the Greater Toronto Area. The one thing we always seem to hear about players heading to free agency with ties to the city of Toronto is, "[Buffalo]'s close to home, but it's not in Toronto with all the scrutiny." When it appeared Steven Stamkos would hit free agency in 2016, we thought Buffalo had a reasonable chance because of the short drive up the QEW to his hometown. 

While Gord Miller seems to think the Sabres have a good shot at landing Tavares, TSN's Darren Dreger isn't as optimistic. 

"I wouldn't say 0-percent, but I'd say as close to 0-percent as you can get," Dreger said with The Instigators on Friday.

"I don't think that John Tavares knows anything about Rasmus Dahlin. Next to nothing. Until he and future free agents see this kid on the ice and know he can play, I don't know the influence is there. If Tavares goes to free agency, I'm not saying he'd dismiss the possibility of Buffalo, I'm just saying Buffalo would be further down the list."

All of this is under the assumption that Tavares leaves the Islanders, which is still far from set in stone.

You can listen to Dreger's entire segment with The Instigators below:

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