John Tavares is one of the most talented players in the NHL, so when he decided to return home to join the Toronto Maple Leafs last summer his decision had Leafs fans thinking Stanley Cup or bust the moment the transaction became official.
This summer the attention is on Mitch Marner, as the 22-year-old winger is still without a new contract as we approach mid-August, but Tavares says he and his teammates aren’t too worried about the on-going negotiations and believe Marner will have a new contract with Toronto once the season rolls around. Here’s what he had to say in a recent interview with TSN’s Cory Woron in regards to Marner’s current situation and if he’s reached out to him.
“No, I think Mitch knows that I’m there for him whenever he needs it, but I think you certainly want to respect his situation and the process, the way they’re going about it. There’s lots of restricted free agents unsigned still, a lot of guys in the similar position as him, so there’s still some time here and I think we all believe the right thing will happen and something will get worked out,” said Tavares.
“I think that’s something both sides obviously want, sometimes it takes a little bit longer than others. Mitch is obviously an important player for our team. Just the type of guy he is as well, we really count on him. Obviously we want to get him there for day one of camp and get moving forward and continue to kind of build this thing and work towards the ultimate goal.”
Tavares’ first season with the Maple Leafs was certainly one to talk about, but the team’s Stanley Cup dreams were quickly shot down in the opening round of the playoffs. Considering how close they were to moving on, the entire team learned a thing or two during their failed run, especially Tavares.
“How hard it is. Just really how close you really are, as well,” said Tavares when asked what he learned from their playoff exit.
“It kind of goes both ways and really how hard it is to put a team away just even in the first round and, you know, trying to do that four times, beat four different teams in a seven game series, just how difficult that journey is. It really can come down to a handful of plays. I felt we were really in control most of the series and had two great opportunities to move on and we didn’t capitalize and I think mostly you can’t let the opportunities slip, you have to make the most of them.”
The six-time NHL All-Star was the captain of the Islanders for five of the 10 seasons he spent in New York, but is now in a situation where there is no captain and there are plenty of options on the table for management to choose from. After going from being the captain to a team with no captain, Tavares talked about whether or not he and the players think about it and mentioned how important the role is considering it’s the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“I think management, Shanny, Dubie, Babs, all have a really good feel for our group and are obviously they’re here on a daily basis. I think we’ll really have a good idea when the time is right. I think we have plenty of guys who can fill that role and do a great job at it. I think that’s a real special thing to have when you have so many quality people and quality players that can really fill that role and embrace the opportunity. Obviously there’s special significance to it, but when the time is right I think they’ll address it and do that if it’s necessary.”
“I don’t think we worry about it a whole lot. I think we just go to the rink every day and try to enjoy being around each other. You rely on each other, even the guys who have been around and have experience, guys look to them,” said Tavares.
“I know speaking from my own experience when I was a captain you rely on so many players around you for their advice and guidance and leadership when you’re kind of the voice of the team and a lot of media and fans look to you for what’s on on a daily basis. I think it’s a very special and significant role, especially being with the Maple Leafs and the history of it, and there hasn’t been one here for a little while, certainly a lot can be made about it but when we have so many good quality people and players in our locker room we know it’s not going to change the way we go about our daily basis and how we focus for the season and prepare.”
The 2009 first overall pick is coming off a year where he scored a career-high 47 goals and 88 points in 82 games and two goals and five points in seven playoff games.