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|When John Tavares‘ contract ran out with the New York Islanders Kerryon Johnson Color Rush Jersey , he took the opportunity to talk with other teams.
”I felt like I owed it to myself to see what else was out there,” Tavares said.
Tavares’ exploration led him to rediscover his childhood affinity for the Maple Leafs, and his confidence in Toronto’s future led him to sign a monster $77 million, seven-year contract. The Islanders were left with nothing, a mistake other NHL franchises seem determined not to make.
Don’t wait. Sometimes not even a day.
On Sunday, when Tavares’ departure left a void on Long Island, the Sharks signed Logan Couture, Coyotes signed Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Kings signed Drew Doughty and Lightning signed Ryan McDonagh to long-term deals. None of them would have been free agents until July 1, 2019, and this was the first possible chance to ink extensions that begin more than a year from now.
It’s worth every penny to San Jose, Arizona, Los Angeles and Tampa Bay to get those contracts done now rather than risk a key player even exploring unrestricted free agency like Tavares did.
”If you wait too long and you get into the situation where they have the potential to walk or explore the UFA market, that can be challenging times,” Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said.
The Ottawa Senators are trapped in such challenging times. They made a contract offer to Norris Trophy-winning captain and 2019 free agent Erik Karlsson, but it’s not a great sign that the real negotiating is only just beginning.
”We’re not going there,” GM Pierre Dorion said. ”We don’t really want to talk about roster players Myles Jack Jersey , contract negotiations, trades, all these things, but I think we owe it to our fans and we made a promise at the town hall that we would make a contract offer to Erik Karlsson and we’ve done so.”
Tick, tick, tick. Even a year away, the pressure is on the Senators to sign Karlsson long term or trade him before the deadline so they don’t end up like the Islanders.
The Coyotes made sure they wouldn’t be in that spot by locking up Ekman-Larsson to a $66 million, eight-year deal that the soon-to-be 27-year-old defenseman called ”a no-brainer.” Arizona GM John Chayka calls it ”a huge moment for our entire organization” because there’s now no fear of losing Ekman-Larsson for nothing.
”A superstar-caliber player has the option to basically go to any of the 31 teams and felt the loyalty, felt the belief in what we were doing enough to sign on long term,” Chayka said, adding that the Coyotes had to convince Ekman-Larsson with actions that they were moving in the right direction.
The Kings convinced Doughty of that so much, he knew all season he was going to re-sign. He’s building a new house in the LA area, is getting married this summer and is ready to start a family in a place he wants to stay for essentially the balance of his career.
”I never wanted to leave there, to be honest,” Doughty said. ”It will be nice not to answer the question, `Hey are you coming to Toronto? You’re coming to the Leafs, right?’ No Authentic Armani Watts Jersey , I’m not coming to the Leafs, everyone.”
Doughty signing for $88 million over eight years sets the bar for Karlsson, who could face similar questions if he goes into the season without a future contract like Tavares did. Over the past week, Tavares began wondering if he would play for his hometown Maple Leafs, a bond too deep for the Islanders to overcome.
Couture grew up not far from Toronto, but he never entertained that possibility because he signed a $64 million, eight-year deal with the Sharks. Couture respected Tavares’ choice and made his own without much difficulty.
”We have some very good players: Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Brent Burns, Martin Jones, Evander Kane – very, very good players – Joe Pavelski,” Couture said, rattling off core players all signed long term. ”I want to win. That’s my goal as a hockey player. I believe that San Jose has and will continue to have a very, very good chance at winning in the future. That’s why my decision was so easy.”
It was just as easy for McDonagh, who signed a $47.25 million, seven-year deal with the Lightning, who acquired him at the trade deadline. McDonagh was comfortable with Tampa Bay Customized Seattle Seahawks Jerseys , which went through an almost-Tavares situation two years ago with captain Steven Stamkos before signing him on the eve of free agency.
Days after signing Stamkos in 2016, the Lightning extended top defenseman Victor Hedman at the first possibly moment like they did with McDonagh. GM Steve Yzerman knows how to work ahead, which is often essential in today’s NHL with important players.
”(If you wait), you don’t really know how it’s going to go,” Yzerman said. ”We go into next year for both parties, we don’t know, and I think it’s worthwhile exploring the opportunity now.”
The Dallas Cowboys decided linebacker was a bigger priority than receiver even after releasing franchise touchdown catch leader Dez Bryant.
The Cowboys took Leighton Vander Esch of Boise State with the 19th pick in the first round of the draft Thursday night. He walked the stage at his new home field in nearby Arlington, where Dallas was hosting the first draft in an NFL stadium.
"It made me speechless," Vander Esch said. "It's the craziest moment of my life so far."
The Mountain West defensive player of the year will have a chance to start right away alongside 2016 All-Pro Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith, who is getting ready for his second season after sitting out as a rookie following a major knee injury in his final game at Notre Dame.
The 6-foot-4, 255-pound Vander Esch was fifth in the country in tackles and had three interceptions and four sacks for a defense that ranked 22nd nationally.
All the top receivers were still available when the Cowboys selected, including Alabama's Calvin Ridley, who was Bryant's prediction on Twitter if Dallas went with a receiver.
Instead, the Cowboys picked the position that involved another significant loss in the offseason. Dallas let the versatile and durable Anthony Hitchens go to Kansas City in free agency.
"He was the highest-rated player on our board at the time," coach Jason Garrett said of Vander Esch. "We felt like he fit a need for our football team, but more than that, just someone who can make an impact on our football team."
The Cowboys targeted receivers in free agency Vladislav Namestnikov Jersey , adding Allen Hurns from Jacksonville and journeyman Deonte Thompson. They could go after another pass-catcher in the second or third rounds.
Dallas released Bryant earlier this month in a cost-cutting move after three sub-par seasons since the $70 million, five-year contract he signed following an All-Pro season in 2014. Bryant's 73 touchdowns were more than Hall of Fame receivers Bob Hayes and Michael Irvin.
Vander Esch disputed reports from before the draft that a neck injury had led to concerns for some teams, saying he "hadn't had any neck injuries." His agent has said he sustained a stinger and concussion on the same play early in the 2016 season and missed seven games, but said Vander Esch hasn't had any medical issues since then.
"There was nothing," Vander Esch said. "They took like a bad CT scan or something at the combine and some people started talking about it."
The Cowboys didn't hesitate on Vander Esch two years after taking Smith early in the second round knowing he probably wouldn't play as a rookie.
"Our independent doctors as well as our trainers gave him a medical grade that allows us to draft him in the first round," owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. "I do not stand here concerned about his medical."
A former walk-on from tiny Riggins, Idaho, who played eight-man high school football, Vander Esch had career-high 16 tackles in a triple-overtime loss to Washington State in September.
"It's been an incredible journey thus far," Vander Esch said. "I think (eight-man football) really developed me as a football player. You couldn't come off the field because you had to play both ways. You got in shape real quick. You really learn how to open field tackle."
The Cowboys have a history of taking Boise State defenders. Cornerback Orlando Scandrick played 10 seasons as a fifth-round pick in 2008 before his release this offseason.
Dallas moved up to get defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence early in the second round in 2014, and he finished second in the NFL with 14 1/2 sacks last season. Defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford is going into his seventh year as a third-round choice in 2012.
"You have to be careful about that, ascribing traits to a guy just because of the school that he came from," Garrett said. "But there's something about that program that grows them the right way. It just seems like Leighton is exactly like the rest of them, has a little chip on his shoulder and is a driven guy."
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