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John Tavares leaves Islanders for 7-year deal with Maple Leafs

John Tavares was the biggest name on the market this offseason. | Julio Cortez/AP Photo

Superstar forward John Tavares and the Maple Leafs have agreed to terms on a seven-year, $77 million contract, the team announced Sunday. The monumental move cements Tavares’ departure from the Islanders after an aggressive bidding period over the last week.

Tavares receives an annual cap hit of $11 million, which is the second-highest in the NHL behind Connor McDavid’s deal with the Oilers. The vast majority of the payout will be in the form of signing bonuses, per The Athletic, which will help protect Tavares’ compensation in case of a lockout.

Tavares, a consistent Hart Trophy contender, is one of the best players to hit unrestricted free agency in NHL history. The 27-year-old has averaged nearly a point-per-game over the last five seasons, including an 84-point campaign with New York last season. Players of this caliber almost never hit the open market.

The Islanders hired president of hockey operations Lou Lamoriello, added a Stanley Cup-winning goalie in Barry Trotz and had the advantage of being able to offer Tavares a maximum term deal lasting eight years, but apparently that was outweighed by the opportunity to play elsewhere. It’s a crushing blow for the Islanders, who built their team around Tavares for much of the last decade.

The addition of Tavares is a game-changer for Toronto. Tavares is a legitimate No. 1 center who should take some of the burden off young forwards Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner while playing in all situations. Even with a cap hit that makes him one of the highest-paid players in the NHL, the opportunity to acquire a superstar without giving up anything beyond money is a major victory for Toronto.

Tavares, a Toronto native, is clearly excited to go back home.

According to The Athletic, he turned down more money from other teams in order to sign with the Leafs.

The Islanders selected Tavares with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft. He made his debut later that year and finished fifth in Calder Trophy voting. Within three years, he was a Hart Trophy finalist as one of the league’s most valuable players. In 669 games with New York, Tavares recorded 272 goals and 349 assists.