John Tavares going the extra mile for the Leafs with playoffs looming

Mike Armenti
April 5, 2024  (4:31 PM)

Leafs captain John Tavares celebrates a huge goal with his teammates
Photo credit: John Tavares - John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY SPORTS

With the Stanley Cup Playoffs just around the corner, it appears as though Maple Leafs captain John Tavares is going the extra mile to try to give the Leafs any edge they can get in Round 1.

There was a lot of excitement coming out of Leafs practice on Friday, starting with the return of the team's undisputed top playmaker, Mitch Marner. Prior to going down with an unfortunate ankle injury back on March 7th, Marner was skating on the top line with Auston Matthews and Tyler Bertuzzi. However, on Friday, Marner skated alongside Tavares and Bobby McMann.
Tavares put up the best season of his NHL career skating alongside Marner in his first season with the Maple Leafs back in 2018-19, producing a career-high 47 goals and 88 points, while skating in all 82 games. A lot has changed since then and now. First and foremost, Tavares isn't in his prime anymore. He was 27 when he signed in Toronto, and 28 by the time his first season began. Now, at 33 years of age, Tavares' best days are behind him. But that doesn't mean the captain is ready to be put out to pasture. He's got plenty of good hockey left in him and with his actions following Leafs practice on Friday, it's clear that he's dedicated to putting in the work necessary to get the most out of his remaining years.
After practice, while every other Leaf was showering up and getting ready to leave the team's practice facility at Ford Performance Centre, Tavares remained on the ice, grinding away on his edge work, stick handling and his shot.
This is a very important season for the Maple Leafs. After 7 consecutive years of the team coming up short when it matters most, the hope is that this will finally be the year where we see some playoff success. The fanbase is hungry for it, the media is hungry for it and the players themselves have set their sights on a long postseason run.
Tavares has always been viewed as a consummate pro and a good leader. He scored one of the biggest goals in Maple Leafs history last April to propel the Leafs past the Tampa Bay Lightning and beyond the 1st round for the first time in nearly 20 years. Still, with time ticking down on his career, he has limited opportunities remaining to win a Stanley Cup. Obviously, that's very good motivation for the veteran forward to keep grinding away towards the ultimate goal.
This season marks the 2nd last year on Tavares' 7-year, $77M deal with the Leafs, which he signed back on July 1st, 2018. The truth is that while I'm sure Tavares would welcome a new deal and the chance to retire as a Maple Leaf, nobody really knows what's going to happen beyond the 2024-25 season - the final year of the captain's contract. We do know that, if Tavares is back, it will be at a rate far below the current $11M AAV that he currently rakes in. Just how low he's willing to go to remain in Toronto is anyone's guess. However, there's a very real possibility that the team will go in a different, more youthful direction.
Winning a Stanley Cup in Toronto would put a stamp on an already impressive NHL career and could very well lead to an eventual Hall of Fame induction. Unfortunately for Tavares, time may be running out on that dream. Nothing in life is guaranteed, so if Tavares wants a chance to win a Cup in Toronto, he'll have to focus on doing it in the next 2 playoffs, because after that, we don't know where he might end up. I'm sur that's in the back of his mind and his willingness to grind after practice on Friday shows just how important these upcoming playoffs truly are to him.
5 AVRIL   |   651 ANSWERS
John Tavares going the extra mile for the Leafs with playoffs looming

Will John Tavares win a Stanley Cup with the Leafs in this year's playoffs or next?

Yes, he'll lead this team to a championship23536.1 %
No, the Leafs will come up short again41663.9 %
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