One of the most sought-after free agents this NHL offseason is John Tavares. Many Blues fans have been clamoring for him to wear the blue note. However, maybe a signing of John Tavares for the St. Louis Blues does not make sense.
I’ll admit, I have been clamoring for a signing of John Tavares for the St. Louis Blues for some time now. In my piece at the end of the season, I said that he had to be a top priority for Doug Armstrong this offseason. However, I want to look into why this is potentially a bad idea for the Blues.
Bad Finances Leaves a Bad Predicament
The St. Louis Blues have the cap space. However, there’s already $33,641,667 wrapped up in the cap on forwards, with $12,917,345 in cap space available. Rob Vollman of ESPN projects that Tavares will likely earn a contract with an $8.5-$9.5 million cap hit. So, if we are looking at it from the high side, the Blues will then only have about 3.5 million to fill the rest of their needs, if there are no departures.
Now, the Blues are in this position because of Doug Armstrong flippantly handing contracts out to current players. The Blues aren’t likely going to find a suitor to take on the $5.4 million that Jay Bouwmeester is owed and they are stuck with $5.75 million a year on Alex Steen for the next three seasons. That’s over $10 million in bad contracts right there. Not to mention that Vladimir Sobotka is under contract for $3.5 million for the next two seasons.
Now, Sobotka might be a moveable asset this offseason, but it won’t come easy and the return likely won’t be great. If that’s the case and Tavares is signed at $9.5 million, the situation is a little better given you have about $7 million remaining in cap space to fill the team.
However, there are a handful of RFAs on the team as well as a couple of guys eligible for arbitration, so those guys will need to have money dedicated to them. Not only that, but we also will have players like Robby Fabbri, Ivan Barbashev, and even some of the young guys who will need to have their contracts adjusted in the future. Not to mention, Vladimir Tarasenko will be due for a pay raise/extension in the next four to five years.
Financially, when you take all of these things into consideration, it just doesn’t make sense to see the Blues spend this money on just one player.
Options in the Pipeline
I know most fans will look at this and say, “I don’t want to wait for Jordan Kyrou or Rob Thomas”. I absolutely understand where this perspective comes from. We all want this team back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as well. However, the Blues may be better served simply waiting for the kids to make an impact.
The players that have the most chance of making an impact are Jordan Kyrou, Rob Thomas, and Klim Kostin. You could even consider Robby Fabbri here as he displays some great potential as well that is mostly untapped.
The problem with adding Tavares is that it doesn’t really allow for the development of these prospects at the NHL level. The forward group is really crowded right now and adding another strong veteran presence adds to that crowded mix.
Now, that doesn’t mean that the Blues couldn’t make more room to add Tavares and a younger forward. That would be great but given Doug Armstrong’s MO, that doesn’t really sound likely. So, adding Tavares will further make the Blues Top Nine overcrowded. Making it hard to fit these young prospects in.
Letting the prospects join the team allow them to have a vital role, might be more beneficial in the long run for the team.
Not Worth the Investment
The third and final leg of this article will likely not be very popular to the average fan either. Let’s be serious, if a team is going to woo Tavares away from the Islanders it’s going to take an eight-year deal around that $9-$10 Million range. Maybe John Tavares is simply not worth the investment of $9-$10 Million over an eight-year period.
To play the comparison game, let’s take a look at two players with cap hits that are similar to what Tavares will command. The first is Sidney Crosby who signed a 12 year $104.4 Million contract back in 2012 that has a cap hit of $8.2 Million per year. Granted that deal was signed six years ago and Crosby would absolutely command a higher annual salary now.
It is something to at least look at considering what Tavares is going to command. However, Tavares is simply nowhere near the production of Sidney Crosby no matter the sample size. So, I am pretty sure that Crosby would have a much higher deal if he were going on the market this summer.
Alternatively, his teammate Evgeni Malkin signed a deal in 2014-2015 with a cap hit of $9.5 Million. Right around the range that we expect Tavares to sign for.
When you look at point production over the last five years, you see that they are very even with Tavares nudging Malkin by two points (372-370). However, the similarities stop there. Out of Malkin’s 370 points, 144 came on the power play as opposed to Tavares’ 103.
While +/- isn’t the be all to end all in terms of measuring a player’s worth, Tavares stands at a -3 to Malkin’s +43. Now, Malkin plays on a much better team and has way better teammates than Tavares, it’s still not a good look for Tavares.
That isn’t it though. Over this same five year stretch, Tavares has amassed 406 giveaways which averages out to 81.2 over the course of a season. Malkin, on the other hand, has only given the puck away 290 times for an average of 58 a season.
For reference, Paul Stastny only gave the puck away 54 times the past five years. I’m not alluding to Stastny being on either player’s level but it is at least worth noticing.
The point here is that Tavares doesn’t necessarily look worth this kind of large deal. He’s at his peak right now. Rob Vollman mentions that his peak will likely last the next three years until he surpasses his age 30 season.
I’m sure that Tavares can absolutely prove his worth the first three years of the deal, but the final five could be tough. With the Blues current financial situation, they can hardly afford to have a guy like Tavares sour on them in the latter portion of an eight-year deal.
Obviously, I’d love to have another solid player on this team to pair with Tarasenko and Schwartz. This team lacks a number one center and has always lacked that. Don’t get me wrong, Brayden Schenn was remarkable last season, but he’s not a number one center.
It just doesn’t make perfect sense for the St. Louis Blues to pursue John Tavares at $9-$10 Million a year for eight years. Unfortunately, it would make more sense if the team had an extra four to five million in cap space lying around, but they don’t.
I’d love to have Tavares, it just doesn’t look like it’s something that would work out long term. Maybe I am wrong. We shall see. Regardless, thank you for reading. I appreciate it. If you wouldn’t mind following us on social media and letting us know your thoughts on this, we’d greatly appreciate it, thank you!