Since being drafted 1st overall in 2009, John Tavares has been the New York Islanders leading scorer. He has also been the Islanders most important player for the last 9 years and is at the end of the contract.
First off, I have no idea what Garth Snow was doing in 2011 by not giving his franchise player a long-term deal with a higher AAV. 6 years and $5.5 million per year is not enough for a guy that has been your team’s best player since he was 18.
Since the 2009-10 season, the Islanders have made the playoffs 3 times. They lost in the 1st round to Pittsburgh in 2013 and to Washington in 2015. In 2016 they managed to win their first series since 1993 on a John Tavares wraparound in overtime to beat the Florida Panthers in Game 7 but after that, the Isles lost in 5 to Tampa Bay.
Sorry to Islanders fans, but the reasons for John Tavares to be wearing a different jersey next season far outweigh the reasons for him to stay in Brooklyn (or wherever the team will be, I’ll get to that later). 24 playoff games in 9 years doesn’t exactly help convince your best player that you’ve surrounded him with capable talent. The biggest reason for the losing is goaltending, Thomas Greiss, Jaroslav Halak, Evegeni Nabokov, Al Montoya, Kevin Poulin, Rick Dipietro, and Dwayne Roloson haven’t given the Islanders close to NHL quality goaltending. The only positive on this front is that the Islanders 3rd round pick from the 2014 NHL draft Ilya Sorokin has been putting up monster numbers in the KHL but who knows when (or if) he comes to Canada.
The talent around Tavares is not horrible, they have a very good top 6 with Mat Barzal, Jordan Eberle, Anthony Beauvillier, Anders Lee, and Josh Bailey (although who knows what Lee is without Tavares and what Bailey does after he got paid in his contract year, not surprising he put up career high numbers). The bottom 6 is a different story with aging veterans like Cal Clutterbuck and Andrew Ladd who have provided very little for their lengthy contracts.
The biggest thing about this whole topic is the Islanders rink situation. It was announced that there will be a new $1 billion-dollar rink built in Belmont Park, but how long will that take? No shovels are in the ground yet so that is another 3 or 4 years of playing at the Barclay’s Center (which has the worst ice in the NHL and a seating structure that is not meant for hockey) or maybe they move back to Nassau Coliseum (which only has 13,000 seats after a renovation).
Tavares is one of the quietest superstars in the league who stays away from the spotlight as much as possible, the Islanders are not a team that is always in the spotlight and they would be able to pay him. Many project his contract to be around $11 million annually. It seems like he will wait to July 1st and see what the market has to offer, teams like San Jose, Montreal, and the Rangers are rumoured to be interested. The uncertainty around the rink might be too much for Tavares to pull a ‘Steven Stamkos’ and circle back to his team on July 1st. My prediction (where I have no sources) is that he walks.
Photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Tavares_(ice_hockey)