Tavares says he wants to stay with Isles
Team Captain Breaks Summer of Silence with Positive Indications
John Tavares isn’t going anywhere.
At least that’s what the New York Islanders’ captain and one of the top 10 players in the NHL indicated Tuesday.
“It’s obviously a great place to play. I’ve really enjoyed my time being an Islander and I want that to continue,” Tavares told TSN (The Sports Network) in his native Toronto when asked about his free agency following the 2017-18 season, and the Islanders’ desire to get him inked to a long-term contract extension this summer.
Tavares, a two-time Hart Trophy finalist and face of the Brooklyn-based franchise since being selected first overall in the 2009 NHL Draft, is about the enter the final season of the six-year, $33 million contract he signed back in 2011.
On July 1, Isles general manager Garth Snow went to work on keeping Tavares from even getting to free agency next summer, where he will clearly be the most coveted player on the open market.
The team has an exclusive window to sign the 26-year-old center to a long-term extension before next season begins, and a rumored eight-year, $80 million offer should do just that.
Though he has remained mum on the matter, and continues to keep his business affairs under wraps, Tavares’ steadfast loyalty to the Isles has always been evident.
But it had to be heartening for Snow and team co-owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky, who are in the process of finding the franchise a new home, reportedly adjacent to the Belmont Park horse-racing facility, to hear that their most coveted asset remains all in for Brooklyn.
“I’ll just keep that all internal,” Tavares said of the ongoing offseason negotiations. “We’ve had great open communication.”
Keeping Tavares has to be the Isles’ first order of business, regardless of the ongoing stream of news regarding their distaste for the Barclays Center and pending bid for a Request for Proposal to the potential arena site in Elmont, N.Y.
The captain has scored 235 career goals and has amassed 537 points since first donning the Orange and Blue back in 2009 at the team’s former home, the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
His No. 91 jersey is the one most often identified with the franchise, which has won just one playoff series since the spring of 1993, mostly due to Tavares’ dramatic performance in Game 6 of the 2016 Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
In what proved to be the series-clinching finale, Tavares potted the game-tying tally against the Florida Panthers here in Downtown Brooklyn in the final minute of regulation, then scored the overtime game-winner to highlight the team’s inaugural campaign in our fair borough.
Isles head coach Doug Weight, who will be entering his first full season at the helm after finishing up on an interim basis last year following the firing of longtime coach Jack Capuano, understands the importance of having Tavares here for the foreseeable future.
“Listen, you come to [free agency] maybe twice in your career if you have a long career that works out where you’re really in control of the situation,” Weight told NHL.com last month.
“John wants to win Stanley Cups. He wants to be a Hall of Fame player. He wants to do it as an Islander. I would want nothing more, as our organization, than to see him lift the Stanley Cup with the ‘C’ on his chest with the New York Islander logo. It’s where he belongs.”
And where he’ll likely stay if Snow is able to get his name on a contract in the coming months. The GM has already made a move with Tavares in mind, getting him some help on the offensive end by trading for Edmonton winger Jordan Eberle, who has scored at least 20 goals five times during his career.
For now, Tavares remains steadfast in his desire to remain with the only NHL team he has ever played for, and prepare himself for what could prove to be the team’s swan song campaign on the corners of the Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.
“I’m just trying to focus and get ready for Day 1 of training camp, approach it like I have every year,” Tavares said.
“For me personally, I don’t know why I would change my approach,” he added. “I think I keep learning, keep getting better. You’re always tweaking things, seeing where some things have worked well and parts of your game have come a long way. I’m just trying to get better and be the best player I can be for the Islanders.”
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The Islanders retained the services of another of their veteran players this week, signing defenseman Calvin de Haan to a one-year contract.
The 26-year-old blue liner had new career highs with five goals and 20 assists this past season, playing in all 82 of the Isles’ contests as they finished just one point shy of making a second consecutive playoff appearance since arriving in Brooklyn.
Selected 11 spots behind Tavares in the first round of the 2009 draft, de Haan ranked fourth in the league in blocked shots (190) in 2016-17. He also won a silver medal as a member of Team Canada during the 2017 World Championships.
“Calvin is a homegrown product of the organization and has developed into one of our top defenseman during his time with the organization,” said Snow, who traded longtime Isles defenseman Travis Hamonic to Calgary earlier this summer.
“He plays important minutes for our club and we’re excited to have him back for one more year.”