December 22, 2017 | 4:25pm ET
By Anthony Di Marco, The Fourth Period

THE EYE OF THE HURRICANE

 
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John Tavares, Islanders captain

 
 

MONTREAL, QC -- There’s a storm brewing in Brooklyn. With each passing day, and we get one day closer to July. 1, the cloud hovering over the Barclays Center gets darker and darker. No, it’s not because of the Islanders’ eventual move to their new facility in Belmont. It’s one that has been talked about and addressed at length, but has yet to be resolved. 

As we continue to get closer and closer to the midway point in the season, it seems as though this particular storm is going to completely be unleashed in Brooklyn by spring.

Ever since he’s been eligible for a contract extension, the debate surrounding superstar John Tavares as to whether or not he’ll be an Islander long-term has not stopped. The team’s lack of true success can be directly related to this (winning one playoff series since he was drafted in 2009), as well as the team’s long-term location uncertainty. 

Up until just earlier this week, when it was announced that the franchise will be getting a new arena back on Long Island, nobody truly knew where the team would play in the long-term.

But even with the club’s long-term playing future now secure, it seems as though it has not swayed Tavares’ decision either way, as he promptly told local reporters earlier in the week. Tavares still seems determined to take all the time he needs to make this massive decision, and effectively choose where he will be playing for the balance of his career.

But with this storm seemingly coming to an inevitable head for the Islanders, it seems as though it may be much more than just a regular storm for management. A storm of this magnitude may be closer to that of a Hurricane, one of which Tavares is the eye of.

With all the talk of where Tavares will end up playing, one team may be lurking in the weeds as the true favorite for Tavares to land. Could one team, arguably the least talked about team in the entire NHL, be the Raleigh-ing spot for Johnny T? Have you caught onto to the cheesy references yet?

That’s right; the team I’m talking about is the Carolina Hurricanes.

Now, I know what you all are thinking: why in God’s name would Tavares leave one problem organization for another? That is a fair question (to say the absolute very least). In fact, the Hurricanes mirror some identical problems to that of the Islanders. Uncertainty in ownership (which was just recently resolved with the majority of the team being sold to Thomas Dundon earlier this month), poor attendance and a lack of success over the better part of a decade have been two major issues in Carolina. Actually, the Hurricanes have not even made the playoffs since 2009.

So, yes, why would Tavares even consider signing with Carolina?

Well, Ron Francis has quietly been building quite the team in Raleigh. Bit by bit, Francis has grown one of the most impressive crops of young defensive talent in the entire NHL. Anchored by former All-Star and co-captain Justin Faulk, the Hurricanes’ defense features young rearguards Jaccob Slavin, Noah Hanifin, Haydn Fleury, Brett Pesce and former Blackhawk Trevor van Riemsdyk as their starting six. Collectively, the group averages an age of 23 years old. It’s hard not to like that defensive group, especially when you consider that they have former first-round pick Jake Bean coming up the pipe line.

But obviously, you need to be able to score goals to win. While the Hurricanes have some nice pieces up front in Elias Lindholm, Victor Rask, Teuvo Teravainen, Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal and Sebastien Aho, the team hasn’t truly had a dominant superstar since the early days of the former face of the franchise Eric Staal. Teravainen currently leads the team in points with 25.

Many hoped Lindholm would’ve taken the reigns as the dominant, No.1 centre the team has needed since the elder Eric Staal’s departure, but it has become more and more clear that he is better suited on the wing (think the Hurricanes would want a mulligan on that pick, as Sean Monahan went directly after Lindholm in that draft?). With Hurricanes being so close to a playoff team already (and arguably would be if not for being in the barbaric Metropolitan division), it seems as though that adding a superstar would push this team over the edge.

Insert John Tavares.

Tavares would immediately make the Hurricanes a playoff team and, in my opinion, a team capable of finishing in the Top 3 of their division. In the not too distant future, it is not hard to imagine the Hurricanes having one of the better defensive groups in the entire NHL, and if Tavares were to be added to the mix, it could be argued the same for the forwards.

Not only could the Hurricanes offer a team with long-term success, but could also offer more financially than any other competitive team. 

The Hurricanes currently have the second lowest payroll in the entire NHL, so offering Tavares a blank check would be 100% doable. With Tavares sure to be looking for a seven-year contract with an average annual value well north of $10 million, there will not be too many competitive teams capable of dishing out that kind of money.

Favorite landing spots for John Tavares are big market Canadian cities like Montreal and Toronto, but there are glowing problems for each city.

In Toronto, they already have a superstar in Auston Matthews, who will be getting Tavares-like money in the near future. Aside from Matthews, young stars Mitch Marner and William Nylander (not to mention recently signed veteran Patrick Marleau) will all take up significant money on the cap. Hard to think the Leafs could fit Tavares in with an already overly expensive forward group.

As far as Montreal goes, why would Tavares want to play there? Sure, Marc Bergevin would probably give Tavares the biggest deal imaginable, along with the key to the city, but the future has never been duller in Montreal. With arguably the thinnest pipeline in the entire NHL, and the team’s top two players (Shea Weber and Carey Price) already being on the wrong side of 30, it’s hard to imagine the Habs being a competitive team long-term.

Tavares is not only hungry for a big pay day, he’s hungry for success. But there are not a lot of franchises that seem poised to offer him both. There are many that can offer him one or the other. It seems that Tavares in Carolina is a match made in heaven.

It can be said that Hurricanes are the most devastating natural disaster. When it becomes a perfect storm, it can be incredibly hard to stop. If Tavares becomes the eye of the Hurricane, it will not doubt be a perfect storm, and not one that many NHL teams will be strong enough to stop.

Anthony Di Marco is the Philadelphia Correspondent for The Fourth Period.
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