The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed superstar center John Tavares to a seven-year deal, per Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.
The Maple Leafs get: The prize catch of this summer's free agency. Tavares was courted by six different teams, including the Islanders. But in the end, the lure to play for his local childhood team proved to be too much even for a return to the Islanders, in spite of their hirings of a proven general manager and head coach. Tavares has averaged nearly a point per game (0.93 Pts/GP) during his nine-season NHL career, so needless to say his addition will provide a major boost to the Leafs' scoring attack.
Fantasy Players Impacted:
John Tavares and Auston Matthews will enjoy a 1A/1B first-line center arrangement. Something that didn't affect Tavares last season when he coexisted with Mathew Barzal. Don't expect a significant change when it comes to Tavares' totals, as there will be a variety of quality scoring wingers from which to choose from. The only "minus" to Tavares' numbers last season was a minus-12, which should improve significantly on what is now a serious Stanley Cup contender in Toronto.
With Tavares being signed, there are rumors that the Leafs will need to shop William Nylander in order to make room – at least by next summer. But if he stays, Nylander's value will experience a tremendous positive impact. The Leafs listed below could also line up with Tavares, which would improve their fantasy values tremendously. The wingers, especially, will benefit. Imagine missing out on playing on a line with John Tavares, so you have to "settle" for playing with Auston Matthews? Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Connor Brown, Zach Hyman, Andreas Johnsson (prospect profile here), Patrick Marleau and Kasperi Kapanen will all benefit as at one time or another they will be playing with an elite centerman. Chris Johnston of Sportsnet is already reporting that Marner will be one Tavares winger for sure.
Over in Long Island, Josh Bailey and Anders Lee will be hit the hardest in terms of losing value. Both were frequent linemates of Tavares both in even-strength situations and on the power play and are coming off pretty massive career seasons. Though it's also possible that one or both are moved onto Barzal's line, which in turn would affect Jordan Eberle's value (Andrew Ladd's value was already limited). The Isles won't be able to replace Tavares. There's no question about that. So what you'll now see is Brock Nelson bump up in ice time and PP time, with Anthony Beauvillier shift over to center for a lot more shifts – which will result in more ice time. Mat Barzal will probably take a bit of a hit here as he adjusts to life in the spotlight. The opposition will be gunning for him and him alone – there will be no Tavares to take much of the heat off this time. Barzal will eventually come around, but 2018-19 will be a difficult one as he adjusts.
Update: Many requests to see the impact on Nazem Kadri. We feel that this will be a wash. On one hand, Kadri shifts back to the third line, but that's kind of where he was last year (debatable). He also loses a little bit of PP time. On the other hand, that PP time will at times include Tavares, which is huge. And Kadri will also get little attention from an opposition that will be focused on Tavares and Matthews. Call it a wash.
Fantasy Players this helps, in order:
1. Mitch Marner
2. John Tavares
3. William Nylander
4. Auston Matthews
5. Patrick Marleau
6. Connor Brown/Andreas Johnsson
7. Brock Nelson
8. Anthony Beauvillier
Fantasy Players this hurts, in order:
1. Josh Bailey
2. Anders Lee
3. Mat Barzal
4. Jordan Eberle
5. Nick Leddy