But the real news is that the embattled John Ferguson Jr. is trying to sign OHL phenom, and the next Patrick Toews/Sidney Crosby/Wayne Gretzky, to an AHL contract. Needless to say the reactions have been mixed. Mirtle does not think it's likely since Tavares will theoretically have to wait until he is 21 to enter the NHL. Neate Sager at Out of Left Field wonders why neither the Hamilton Bulldogs or Toronto Marlies would have thought of this before but doubts that the NHL will let it fly. Ninja at Raking Leafs thinks that while this would be a coup of staggering proportions that maybe todays' cover of The Sun might have something to do with this news breaking at such an early stage. And David Johnson of Hockey Analysis thinks he might know a loophole that the Leafs could exploit to speed up their exploiting of the current loophole:
If the Leafs did this no one would likely draft Tavares because they wouldn't get him. But what if the Leafs drafted Tavares with a seventh round pick? Would he then be able to opt out (mutually of course) of his Marlies contract and then sign with and play with the Leafs? Probably and if that is the ase Tavares is only giving up one year but he isn't eligible to be in the NHL next year anyway.
But why stop with Tavares? Why not sign a dozen young players who would be mid-first round picks. Many of them have no hope of making the $3 million in bonuses and most will be toiling in junior or the AHL for a few years anyway. Give them three year contracts at $500,000 each. Mid-first round picks aren't likely to make that much from ages 18-20.
MLSE definitely has the deep pockets to be able to make this move worthwhile for Tavares. He could live in his hometown of Oakville, play for the Marlies, get a university education, and develop his game against grown men. Much like Dany Heatley and others that have followed the NCAA route Tavares would be getting exposed to a higher standard of hockey before entering the NHL except that in his case he'd make at least $20M before entering the league. That's just a guess on what it might take to have Tavares give up 3 years of playing in the NHL.
It will certainly be interesting to see how the league reacts to a move that smacks of the pre-draft era. Which is not surprisingly, the last period of success that the Leafs enjoyed.