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This Date in NHL History

July 1: Tavares signs as free agent with Maple Leafs

Plus: Hall of Famer Gilbert born; Penguins acquire Kessel from Toronto

by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / Managing Editor


2018: John Tavares becomes the first No. 1 pick in the modern era of NHL free agency (beginning in 1995) to leave the team that drafted him and sign with another club when he signs a seven-year, $77 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Tavares, a Toronto-area native who spends his first nine seasons with the New York Islanders after being selected No. 1 in the 2009 NHL Draft and is their captain from 2013-18, spends the week before the start of free agency meeting with six teams, including the Maple Leafs and Islanders. In the end, the opportunity to play for the Maple Leafs, the team he grew up cheering for, proves to be too attractive to pass up.

He leaves the Islanders with 621 points (272 goals, 349 assists) in 669 NHL games during nine seasons; that's fifth in Islanders history but first among players who weren't part of their four consecutive Stanley Cup-winning teams from 1980-83. Tavares has NHL career highs in goals (47) and points (88) in his first season with the Maple Leafs, though Toronto again fails to get past the first round of the playoffs.

Later in the day, Ryan O'Reilly is traded to the St. Louis Blues by the Buffalo Sabres for three players and two draft picks. The veteran center ends his first season with St. Louis by helping the Blues win the Stanley Cup for the first time since entering the NHL in 1967 and being voted winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.



1941: Rod Gilbert, the New York Rangers' all-time leading scorer, is born in Montreal. In his 18 NHL seasons, all with New York, Gilbert sets team records for goals (406) and points (1,021) despite numerous back injuries, one of which causes him to have a spinal fusion. Gilbert is the right wing on the "GAG Line" of the early 1970s, along with left wing Vic Hadfield and center Jean Ratelle, a boyhood friend and teammate. All three eventually have their numbers retired by the Rangers.


1967: Construction begins on the Forum in Inglewood, California, which will serve as the home of the Los Angeles Kings when it opens six months later. The Kings, in their first NHL season, play at the Long Beach Arena and the Los Angeles Sports Arena until their new home is ready.


1995: The deal to relocate the Quebec Nordiques to Denver becomes official; the team will become known as the Colorado Avalanche. The move comes 13 years after the Colorado Rockies leave Denver to play in New Jersey. After finishing first in the Eastern Conference in their final season in Quebec, the newly named Avalanche win the Stanley Cup in their first season in Denver.


2015: The Pittsburgh Penguins make the first of a series of moves that will culminate in back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 2016 and 2017 by acquiring forward Phil Kessel in a trade with the Maple Leafs. Kessel, a five-time 30-goal scorer, is made available after dropping from 80 points (37 goals, 43 assists) in 2013-14 to 61 points (25 goals, 36 assists) and a minus-34 rating in 2014-15. He finds a home late in the 2015-16 season on a line with left wing Carl Hagelin and center Nick Bonino; the "HBK Line" helps the Penguins win the Cup for the fourth time in their history. Kessel also plays a key role in Pittsburgh's run to a second straight championship in 2017. Kessel leads the Penguins in goals (10) and points (22) in the 2016 postseason. He has more points (23) in 2017 but finishes third in scoring behind teammates Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.  

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