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MAILBAG: Where, oh where, will John Tavares sign?

We are edging closer to the point at which John Tavares will make his decision.

But we are left reading tea leaves until Sunday.

  (Toronto Star file photo)

Personally, I think it’s good news for the Leafs that Tavares came to Toronto after spending a few days in Los Angeles being wooed by suitors.

He didn’t — as Steve Stamkos did two years ago — go running back to his draft team after meeting with the Leafs. And now the kid from the GTA is home, presumably surrounded by pro-Leaf family and friends from whom he is seeking last-minute advice.

I’m not one of those who believe that all the attention from fans and media is a bad thing. I see it only as a positive, especially for a good team.

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Winning is good anywhere. Winning in Toronto would be even better.

The point was made the other night at PuckTalks by Justin Bourne — the former player, a writer at The Athletic and the son of a Stanley Cup champion — that post-career earnings should also factor in to a decision. Winning a Cup in a small market, and winning one in a big market represent two very different retirement revenue streams. Interesting point.

To the mailbag:

QUESTION: Two-part question. Who do you think the Leafs will need to give up in order to make room for JT? Nylander? And if they do, do they automatically become Cup contenders?
Bonifaccio

ANSWER: The good news is, that this year at least, they don’t have to give up anybody to make room for Tavares. In 2019-20 they might, but that depends on the size of the salary cap. … That said, I’m operating under the assumption that James van Riemsdyk leaves the team. I think that happens whether Tavares signs here or not.

Hi, Kevin

QUESTION: At the draft, the Leafs traded a sixth round pick next year to the Sabres for a sixth round puck this year, in fact the first pick of the sixth round. I remember the Leafs doing something similar with the Ducks several years ago. Why would the Sabres make that trade? It cannot possibly be because they think that Leafs are going to be the worst team in the NHL next year.
John H

ANSWER: Betting the Sabres saw a player they liked at that number, and wanted him. When it comes to the sixth round, I guarantee you each teams list of players is thin and very different. It doesn’t matter that the Leafs sixth-round pick next year will be 15 places further down the list. At that point, everybody’s lists are different. That’s why those rounds go so fast.

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QUESTION: Hi Kevin I enjoyed reading your answers about Jake Gardiner, yes I agree with a lot of your answers. Yes the Leafs don’t seem to have anyone to take his place and there’s a few others that seem to disappear in a hitting game. Nylander is one too. Van Riemsdyk is another. He’s gone. I know it’s a new NHL and leafs want to win now. I don’t think Leafs can win the Cup with Gardiner in the top four defence or even on the team, Leafs need to move him and get what they can I’m sure they can get another defenceman not as flashy but more dependable. Reading your answers tells me you are very logical with your answers. I haven’t coached for many years now but I thing I learn many years ago is you can’t coach fear that’s what his biggest problem is he’s afraid . I hope you don’t think I’m some sort of redneck.

ANSWER: You’re not a redneck, just sitting firmly in the anti-Gardiner camp. Funny, I’ve never thought of Gardiner as afraid to take a hit. He doesn’t get hit much. That’s a skill. (Mitch Marner is the best on the team at it.) Many of us grew up in the take-a-hit-to-make-a-play era. And there’s merit to that (but remember, for 50 years it didn’t work around here). But increasingly, it’s okay to make plays without taking a hit.

Gardiner’s issue, to me, is the pace of the game. When it’s fast, he’s terrific. He makes plays instinctively. When the pace is slow, he struggles, as if he has too much time to think and overthinks, ultimately making a wrong decision.

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