NHL free agency 2018: John Tavares reportedly eyeing Sharks, Maple Leafs if he leaves Islanders

All eyes are on John Tavares as 2018 NHL free agency rapidly approaches, and while the prized New York Islanders center still has roughly 48 hours until he officially hits the open market, it appears he may have narrowed his focus on three teams.

The Athletic's Arthur Staple reported Thursday that while Tavares, 27, has yet to publicly rule out any of the six teams he recently met with in advance of free agency, it's likely the Islanders captain will target either the San Jose Sharks or the Toronto Maple Leafs if he decides to leave New York.

"In fact," Staple wrote, "the Islanders will almost certainly know by Friday whether Tavares is staying for eight years and somewhere between $92-100 million. That sort of contract takes time to finalize, so with the midnight deadline on Saturday looming -- after that, Tavares is considered an unrestricted free agent and cannot get the eighth year from the Isles anymore -- Tavares and his camp will let Lou Lamoriello know on Friday to either start the contract process or say goodbye after nine seasons."

A four-time 30-goal scorer with the Islanders and the first pick of the 2009 NHL Draft, Tavares recently arranged meetings with the following six teams and reportedly decided this week to consider no others: The Sharks, Islanders, Maple Leafs, Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Three of those teams, of course, play in the same division, although some are better positioned than others in terms of possessing the salary-cap space to pursue Tavares, who's widely considered one of the top players to hit free agency in recent NHL history. The Isles are projected to lead the NHL in cap room, but the Maple Leafs aren't far behind. The Bruins and Lightning have significantly less space entering free agency.

Our Latest Stories