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Rick Zamperin: John Tavares coming home to Toronto, Leafs fans over the moon

Click to play video: 'Leafs fans react to the Maple Leafs signing free agent John Tavares to 7-year, $77 million deal' Leafs fans react to the Maple Leafs signing free agent John Tavares to 7-year, $77 million deal
WATCH ABOVE: Leafs fans react to the Maple Leafs signing free agent John Tavares to 7-year, $77 million deal – Jul 1, 2018

John Tavares is a Toronto Maple Leaf.

You read that right.

Tavares, by far and away the National Hockey League’s most prized free agent in years, is going to Toronto after agreeing to a seven-year, $77 million contract with the Leafs.

The 27-year-old superstar spent the first nine seasons of his career with the New York Islanders, who drafted him No. 1 overall in 2009. But despite accumulating 621 points in 669 regular season games with the Isles, the team made the playoffs only three times and advanced to the second round just once.

READ MORE: John Tavares signs 7-year, $77 million contract with Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs, who’ve been eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs in back-to-back years, are now counting on Tavares to help propel them to bigger and better things.

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After listening to contract offers from the Leafs, Islanders, Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, San Jose Sharks and Dallas Stars, Tavares followed his heart.

He was born in Mississauga and grew up a diehard Leafs fan, and in the end, Tavares clearly showed his decision was not based on which team was going to offer him the most money. The 2014 Olympic gold medalist could have signed a much more lucrative contract elsewhere, but he wanted to be a Leaf – and for good reason.

With generational talent Auston Matthews, budding stars Mitch Marner and William Nylander, and a core that includes goalie Frederik Anderson, centre Nazem Kadri, winger Patrick Marleau and defenceman Morgan Reilly, the addition of Tavares makes the Maple Leafs a true Stanley Cup contender.

It has been a long time since we’ve been able to say that.

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