Mirtle has a post up on The Globe and Mail's front-page story about the Leafs' apparent offer to 17-year-old junior phenom John Tavares, who's already got the Ontario Hockey League overmatched: Sign him to a three-year AHL contract (there's no salary cap in the AHL), so he could bypass the draft and sign with his hometown Leafs in 2011.
Cynics would say the Leafs, at their current rate, stand a good chance of winning the '09 draft lottery and drafting Tavares anyway.
The NHL would never stand for this, but besides (total sarcasm), they owe the Leafs one. What team surely exercised power to keep Hamilton from getting the Nashville Predators, thus keeping Gary Bettman from having egg on his face over his failed Southern Strategy?
It was predicted here in July that some AHL team would try this with Tavares, including the two in Southern Ontario who have attendance problems:
"Why wouldn't the Hamilton Bulldogs, who only get about 4,000-5,000 fans per game (most on discounted tickets), sign Tavares for one season? Why wouldn't MLSEL put Tavares under contract and have him play for the Toronto Marlies, who are also struggling at the gate? -- July 17, 2007 (comments section)The bottom line is Toronto's hockey scene is eleven shades of staid these days. The Leafs are lousy and the AHL Marlies actually are off to a decent start, but after all, they're the guys who aren't good enough to play for the lousy Leafs, so who can get excited about them? Tavares wearing the blue and white would actually generate some excitement around the Leafs for the first time since before the lockout.
(UPDATE: Eighty-one per cent of respondents to a Toronto Star web poll think it's a good idea. Hardly scientific, but that's still something.)
Leafs make unconventional play for phenom Tavares (David Shoalts, globesports.com, via Mirtle)