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Let’s make a deal: Should Columbus trade for John Tavares?

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This one’s a bit wild

NHL: New York Islanders at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve been having some fun with trade proposals the past few days, and today I offer up the craziest one yet - a trade for John Tavares.

These posts are meant to be exercises in fantasy, but the more I think about it, a trade for Tavares isn’t that outrageous for the Jackets. He’s a legit top-flight center, the type of player any team would covet. He’s got one more year on his current deal (which comes with an 8-team-list NMC, according to Cap Friendly) at $5.5 million per season. He’d be due a hefty raise, but the Jackets would be able to offer him Clarkson’s dollars +++, if the speculated deal with the Knights goes through.

It’s not like Tavares’ name hasn’t been in any trade speculation. Take this article from Sportsnet with a quote from Eliotte Friedman earlier this year:

“There were reports this week that if the New York Islanders aren’t moving towards a contract with John Tavares in June, they will look at trading him”

Cool. Let’s continue.

Tavares will be just 27 in September, entering the prime of his career. Though his numbers have dipped a bit in recent seasons, he’s still as legitimate a top center as there is in the league, and the thought of pairing him with a shooter like Cam Atkinson is exciting, to say the least. If you recall, the pair played together at the most recent NHL All Star Game on a line together in the 3-on-3 tournament, where they shot the lights out with four points apiece.

It’s easy to list the reasons why he’d be a fit for the Jackets, but let’s talk about the cost. Assuming for a moment that Columbus is not among the eight teams Tavares doesn’t want to play for, and assuming that the Islanders are willing to trade within the division, we can start to assemble a package that could be enticing enough for Garth Snow.

The obvious inclusion of a first round pick isn’t as straight forward this year, as it’s apparently on its way to Vegas in exchange for cap relief. The Jackets don’t have a second rounder this year thanks to the Canucks receiving it as compensation for John Tortorella, so the pick will have to be the 2018 first rounder. Will the Jackets be willing to not pick in the first round two years in a row? Essentially they’d be trading the 2017 first for cap space to sign Tavares, and the 2018 pick to bring him to Columbus. I think it’s worth it to get a star player.

Ryan Murray is obviously included in this deal, and for a few reasons. First, it was reported that the Islanders offered their entire draft for the second overall pick the year Murray was taken. The Isles are likely glad they didn’t pull off that trade, but there was very real love for Murray just a few years ago. They have an interesting defensive group, and at a quick glance he seems like a terrific fit. In terms of dollars, the Isles would be picking up the one remaining year on his current deal, with a cap hit of $2.825 million per year. He’s controllable, as he’ll be an RFA after next year.

Following the ubiquitous “player, prospect, pick” formula, the prospect in this deal is Sonny Milano. A recent first rounder who’s just rounding into form after leading the Cleveland Monsters in scoring, he’s a talented forward who could probably make the Islanders right away next season. He’s also from Long Island, so you’ve got a potential fan favorite situation there.

Now, it seems like Murray, Milano and a first is the standard opening salvo by any CBJ fan in any trade proposal this offseason, but in this case, it works for the reasons I mentioned above. The Islanders save a bit of dough if they can’t nail down a new contract for Tavares, and pick up a top-four blueliner and an exciting local winger in addition to the top pick.

Let’s wrap this up with a bow, and project some forward lines using our fantasy trade:

Foligno - Tavares - Atkinson
Saad - Wennberg - Bjorkstrand
Jenner - Dubinsky - Anderson
Karlsson - Sedlak - Hannikainen

*Hartnell out, Calvert to Vegas, Gagner signs elsewhere

Not bad, let’s see if Jarmo and Garth Snow agree.