JOHN TAVARES (pronounced Tah-VEH-rihs) is a Canadian-born hockey player for the New York Islanders of the National Hockey League. Tavares, born September 20th, 1990 in Mississauga, Ontario to Joe and Barb Tavares, was drafted by the Islanders first overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. His position is center, and he has served as the team’s captain since 2013. At 26, he is considered one of the very best players in the entire NHL. His current contract with the Islanders ends on July 1, 2018.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (pronounced Tronna Mape Leefs or simply Leefs) are a Canadian-based professional hockey franchise, also of the National Hockey League. The club was founded in 1917 as the Toronto Arenas. The club later changed its name to the Toronto St. Patricks in an effort to lure long-deceased fifth century Irish holy man St. Patrick from the grave and onto their roster. In 1927, coach Conn Smythe bought the club, changed its name to the Maple Leafs and set the franchise on its never-ending mission to acquire any good player born within 100 miles of its home arena.
Tavares has often expressed his desire to remain with the Islanders for years to come. Many Toronto-based fans and media have expressed a desire to have the Leafs sign Tavares when his contract ends.
These are the complete documented instances of John Tavares (politely) telling the Maple Leafs, their fans and their media to get lost.
Update: September 7, 2017: Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, hockey players are starting to flock back to their teams for the fall. Some have responsibilities before training camp even starts, like going on The Today Show or doing other media relations work. So while new guy Jordan Eberle was in front of cameras talking about his move from Edmonton to Brooklyn, Islanders captain John Tavares was off playing golf with a bunch of old men.
Those old men just happened to be former Islanders captains themselves. And Newsday’s Mark Herrmann covered it like it was the moon landing.
Did the contract come up? You bet your ass it did.
“I think it’s fantastic. Pretty cool to be around these guys from different generations,” [Tavares] said. “You’re still kind of pinching yourself, looking up to these guys.”
As for his own situation, Tavares said, “In terms of the contract, it’s just one day at a time and let the process kind of run its course. Things have been great with the communication so far.”
The outing was the idea of owner Jon Ledecky, who also played along with Garth Snow, Doug Weight (a former captain himself), Ed Westfall (who had a burr up his saddle about the state of the team), Denis Potvin, Clark Gillies, Michael Peca and others. So if you were wondering what guys who retired years ago think of Tavares’ contract coming up next year, here you go.
Everybody on the grounds seemed to agree with Potvin, the franchise cornerstone, who said of Tavares: “Personally, I would like to see him stay an Islander for the rest of his career, like many of us have done.”
Tavares, as usual, isn’t sweating not having a contract, which, as usual, is easy for him to say.
Via Brian Compton at NHL.com:
"Things are a lot more complicated than they think," Tavares told NHL.com. "I think everyone's situation is different, everyone's circumstances are different, but you look at some of the situations with guys in similar situations that I'm in, it doesn't always happen the first day or that first month. It takes time. It's a big decision in your life and you want to make sure you're thorough and you understand everything going forward, so I think anybody making any decision like this in life would approach it the same way.
"There are a lot of things that are of importance as well, like the start of the season. For management, obviously they're doing what they need to do to, whether it's the draft or free agency and then heading into training camp, making sure we're ready to start from Day One. To me, that's the most important thing."
That “more complicated than they think” part raised a few eyebrows, since it could allude to the kind of wacko behind-the-scenes intrigue the Islanders have made their trademark. My own interpretation is that, once again, Tavares is giving every indication that he wants to stay and is simply waiting for a reason to say, “yes.”
I feel like that also might be Compton’s thinking, too. Here’s his follow-up.
And yes, after speaking with him today, I still firmly believe Tavares is staying. #Isles— Brian Compton (@BComptonNHL) September 6, 2017
Meanwhile, at a preliminary skate at Northwell Health Ice Center, Tavares’s teammates sound like they all studied the memo: Let John Be John, Concentrate on the season.
“Knowing how Johnny deals with things, his personality, I think that’s what makes it a non-factor,” Andrew Ladd said. “He’s so good at handling, whether it’s the questions or the talk that comes with it, I don’t see it being an issue. I think we know more in here than everybody else on the outside, so we’re comfortable with where it’s at.”
Cal Clutterbuck knows the best way to shut everyone up about it.
“If we can take care of what we need to on the ice, as far as being successful, winning games, it’s not something you worry about,” Clutterbuck said. “It’s only something to worry about if the team really doesn’t do well at the start. I don’t think that’s going to be the case. We’re going to be well prepared, we’re going to be a good team from the start. We’re going to be the same team we were the second half of last year, if not better than that. I don’t think it’s going to be a problem for us.”
Oh, right. Almost forgot. There’s one more person to throw into this update because why not. Before teeing off with his fellow captains on Wednesday, Tavares ran into another world class athlete at Sebonack Golf Club - NBA MVP and two time champion Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors.
Game recognize game. pic.twitter.com/y1eyzlR14n— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) September 6, 2017
Dude, what the hell?
The Islanders superstar and current captain told the Golden State Warriors superstar and current captain what a sports devotee he is, and that he follows pro basketball. Curry told the hockey player how much he is enjoying his week on Long Island (Tavares’ turf). The two-time NBA champion was interested in the Islanders, asking numerous questions such as how they are going to be this season.
Tavares was almost apologetic in replying, “Well, we got off to a bad start last year . . . ” then went on to promise that the team will be better.
I know I was a quivering pile of Jell-O when I met Tavares at a game last season. I had no idea what to even say to the guy. What’s it like for Tavares to meet Steph?
"He's definitely a great person as well. He was talking about his family a lot. Pretty cool. I'm a little starstruck for sure."
Pro Athletes: They’re just like us!
Rookie camp begins on Friday the 8th, and full training camp kicks off next week. Surely (and unfortunately), there will be more Tavares contract chatter at that point.
After well over a year of updates and 25,000 words spilled about them, “Tavares plays golf with Islanders captains and happens to randomly run into Steph Curry” seems like as good a place to stop as any. For now. Barring any significant updates (like, say, him signing tomorrow), we’ll start up the John Tavares Contract Encyclopedia Volume II once camp begins in earnest.
In the meantime, you can revisit all of this insanity anytime you want. And, please remember: Ghouls like Mike Zeisberger can go fuck themselves.
New York Islanders captain John Tavares told reporters on Wednesday that playing the final season of his contract without an extension won’t be a distraction. Let’s see if he maintains that stance after being peppered with questions from his hometown media when the Isles visit the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Jan. 31.
July 26, 2016: Tavares tells Sportsnet Radio he wants to be an Islander "for the long haul"
(host) Andrew Walker: [cheekily] What will be your favorite part of playing in Toronto in two years?
Tavares: I would not count on that. I think I've shown my commitment, my appreciation and my desire to play on Long Island. I would love for that to continue for the long haul. I think that you look at some of the greatest players in the game have been able to spend their entire careers somewhere. I hope I'm in that same position.
August 15, 2016: Tavares tells Newsday’s Arthur Staple he doesn’t “really have any reason to leave” the Islanders.
“I don’t really have any reason to leave and I think we have a great makeup and a team that can do something special this year,” Tavares told Newsday yesterday. “I’ve always expressed my love for playing for Long Island. It’s where I started; it’s all I know in the NHL. The opportunity they’ve given me, I would love to see it all the way through and win a Stanley Cup.
August 16, 2016: Tavares tells Sportsnet’s Luke Fox that the worst ice he played on during the 2015-16 season was in Toronto.
Is the Barclays Center ice really as bad as its reputation?
Yeah, it had its moments. To be dead honest, I think the worst ice I skated on all year was in Toronto. It was so hot the one game [on March 9*], I couldn’t believe how warm it was. We were playing there on a back-to-back, and by the end of the third period we couldn’t even move.
September 5, 2016: Tavares tells the Toronto Sun’s Mike Zeisberger he gets where Toronto is coming from but he’s only in town to play for Canada in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
“I think it’s obviously the nature of the beast,” he said. “Toronto’s a great hockey city -- obviously I’m from there -- so I grew up around it, I understand it. You learn to expect it.
September 6, 2016: Tavares tells TSN Radio basically what he told the Sportsnet guys back in July. (transcript by Chris Nichols of Today’s Slap Shot. Islanders section starts at 24:20 on the audio link)
“Yeah, I mean I’ve expressed, I think, since I’ve gone to New York how much I enjoy playing there,” said Tavares. “ I’ve always been treated really well by the organization. I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about the organization and about the Islanders and I think we’re starting to turn some heads that way.
September 8, 2016: Tavares tells ESPN’s Pierre Lebrun that’s he in no rush to start negotiating on an extension with hockey games to win first.
"It's still a long ways away, a couple of years," Tavares said of the two seasons left on his deal until he becomes an unrestricted free agent. "And obviously when there's one year left you can start negotiating. There's still a lot of time and focus on tomorrow and getting better.
"I want to help my team on Long Island take the next step and try to go all the way.”
January 9, 2017: Things went quiet for a while there on the “John Tavares says publicly that he actually likes being an Islander” front as the season got underway and went immediately down the tubes.
While not specifically Leafs-centric, Tavares took some time after practice to give Newsday’s Steve Marcus his first captain’s confirmation of 2017. Even a season as disappointing as this one isn’t enough to throw him off his cold water game.
“I think for myself, I’ve always shown and talked about my commitment here,’’ said the four-time All-Star, who signed a six-year, $33-million extension in 2011, on Monday at Northwell Health Ice Center. “Wanting to have success here and keep building on some of the good things we’ve done. Obviously, this [low] point’s been disappointing.’’
January 18, 2017: Well, that escalated quickly. Out of (almost) the clear blue sky, the Islanders fired head coach Jack Capuano one day after a 4-0 win in Boston over the Bruins. Dozens of postmortem articles were written about why, why now and now what and a lot of them centered around how Tavares was taking the news.
On an emergency edition of the Islanders Point Blank podcast after the firing, Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman made no bones about what he hears regarding Tavares’ feelings on staying an Islander for life (the bit below starts around the 14:00 mark). Friedman was spirited and adamant as he told hosts Brian Compton and Mike Carver that he hears from multiple sources that Tavares wants to remain on Long Island past 2018.
Guys, you would not believe - and I’m happy to say this on an Islander podcast - you would not believe how many people tell me that John Tavares wants to stay in New York with the Islanders. You would think on the outside that John Tavares might want to just bolt and go somewhere else next year. But I don’t think that’s true. I think he’s got a lot of Stamkos in him and I think all things being equal he wants to stay there.
Now, they have to give him a lot of convincing. They have to show they’re going in the right direction. A new building would help, too. But the fact is that I think this is a guy who wants to be a New York Islander for life.
He’s not a high-maintenance guy, he plays hard, he works hard. You guys see him every day. He’s not a guy that needs a lot to be made happy. It’s just, ‘Drop the puck and give me a chance to win.’ And I think when you have a guy like that, who’s heart is in the right place, you don’t have to let him pick the coach as long as you put a guy there he respects and puts the team in the right direction, he’s gonna be happy.
January 19, 2017: One day after Friedman spoke about Tavares on the Point Blank Podcast, Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post asked the captain directly about his free agency status. You’re not gonna believe this, but Tavares shot him right down.
“I’ve always stated how much I’ve liked it here and appreciate what the organization has done for me,” Tavares told The Post on Thursday morning before the first game with Doug Weight as interim head coach, a match against the Stars at Barclays Center. “I think when the time comes, that’s when everything will be handled and I’ll worry about it then.”
Of course, Tavares doing his thing didn’t dissuade Cyrgalis from writing that if owners John Ledecky and Scott Malkin don’t make the right moves this summer, he could opt for greener pastures. But that’s the way it’s gone for a while now (see all of the above).
January 25, 2017: We’ve gotten a little far afield from Tavares directly telling the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, the team’s media and the Greater Toronto Area to get lost when it came to his unrestricted free agency. But while Tavares’s loyalty pledges to the Islanders remain unabated to ever more general audiences, let’s hear from an actual current Toronto Maple Leaf (and former Islander) Matt Martin, who gets a turn at shutting down LeBrun when he tries to broach the subject.
Martin (with a huge smile): I think, out of respect for John Tavares, that I'm going to not give you any sort of answer on that because I can only imagine what's going to unfold when you post this. Listen, he's a dedicated guy, he wants to win, but he's a loyal guy at the same time. He loves Long Island; I've never heard him say a bad thing once about playing there. Everyone who has played there has loved it there. I loved it there as well.
Martin will probably show up again later in this encyclopedia, seeing as how he’s gotten more national interviews in his first few months as a Leaf than he did in seven years as an Islander.
January 28, 2017: During his All Star Game media availability in Los Angeles prior to the Skills Competition, Tavares told reporters that he’s ready to talk extension at the earliest possible time which is this summer.
John Tavares says he's open to discussing an extension with the NYI this summer. Adds "I'm excited about where the organization is headed."— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) January 28, 2017
Despite the wisecracks in Johnston’s replies, it’s easy to be excited about the direction of the franchise when they’re 4-0-1 under a new coach going into the All Star break. Still, Tavares must have known he was going to get these types of questions at the league’s midseason showcase event and his response here is a classic and comforting.
In the fleshed out story by Jonas Segal of The Canadian Press, Tavares’s full quotes were relayed, as were his thoughts on his relationship with Capuano and his feelings on the coach’s firing. But as for the contract...
"I’ve always stated how much I enjoy playing on Long Island and the organization, how well they’ve supported me," Tavares said during the media day portion of NHL all-star weekend. "Obviously we’ve had some new ownership (come aboard recently) and they’ve brought some real commitment and shown their vision for the future so I’m excited about where the Islanders are headed and hopefully we can work something out."
This bit’s new, and seems directed at a lot of the daily pearl clutching over what every little thing that happens to the Islanders means in the big Tavares picture.
"I don't think from now until the end of the season will mean more than say what happened last year or previous years. I think you take that all into account," Tavares said. "And obviously the vision and the future of the team which I believe is in good hands."
Later, Johnston expanded upon his original tweet for Sportsnet and added that Tavares has high hopes for and a good relationship with the Islanders’ new ownership.
However, he seems to have faith in Malkin and Ledecky.
“I don’t talk to them on a daily basis, weekly basis or even a monthly basis,” said Tavares. “Certainly when they’re around we talk and say hello. A lot of that doesn’t have to do with hockey in general. For me as a player and as a captain, I’m trying to convey and connect the message from the coaching staff or management to the players in the locker-room.”
February 5, 2017: With the Leafs coming to Barclays Center for a game both teams need in their quests for the playoffs, Staple talked to Tavares about the crazed media from his hometown that always asks him about his contract status - particularly the ones that bombarded him at the All Star Game. No matter. The captain is, as always, focused on the ice.
“Some of that media you don’t see very often, so perhaps they’re waiting to ask you something. And obviously up in Canada and Toronto, there’s always those connections. It’s a talking point. [Steven] Stamkos just went through a similar thing and people want to relate it to that because that just happened last year. So it is what it is. I try to worry about playing, enjoying being an Islander, enjoying the All-Star Game and that celebration.”
Although technically posted a day later, we’ll just roll up this NHL.com article from Compton with Staple’s. Tavares doesn’t want the questions from Canada to get him or his team down.
"At this point, I've got enough to worry about with our team and trying to make the playoffs," Tavares said. "I can understand and respect why the questions are being asked. It's something to talk about, it's something that's coming up in the future, but for myself, I just try to worry about playing."
Tavares also says he learned a valuable lesson from what Stamkos went through during his free agency feeding frenzy: stay the hell off of Twitter. Just to be safe.
“I think the same thing for him; he just tried to worry about playing and just made sure not to like any tweets. I rarely go on my Twitter anymore anyways, so it is what it is. I just worry about playing and helping the Islanders as best I can."
It was only going to get worse when the Islanders traveled to Toronto about a week later on, of all days, Valentine’s Day.
February 14, 2017: Right on cue, the Islanders’ visit to Toronto on Valentine’s Day caused the Maple Leafs media throng to descend upon Tavares like a squadron of flying monkeys sent to kidnap Judy Garland.
Somewhere in there is John Tavares doing a media scrum here at Air Canada Centre. Wonder what he will be asked :) pic.twitter.com/DAkUcr9p0g— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) February 14, 2017
I’d like to embed video of the whole scrum, but since Canadian sports giant TSN absolutely hates Americans, it kept the clip under a tight region lock. I can’t believe I’m about to type these words, but... fortunately Ken Campbell of The Hockey News (ugh...) was there to relay a small part of what Tavares said.
In a story about Tavares and Weight helping turn the Islanders’ fortunes around this season, Campbell says the captain is sincere in his desire to stay with the only team he’s played for in his career, despite all the things that make the franchise seem radioactive to people like Ken Campbell.
“I want to be honest with you,” Tavares said. “I think we all want to know where we’re playing and what the situation is, but a lot of that stuff is rumors and reports and the organization has been great, not just with me but with all the players and their families in what’s going on. That’ s stuff you worry more about in the off-season and it doesn’t change my thought process in wanting to be an Islander and hoping things work out there.”
With a talented captain and an enthusiastic new coach, Campbell says the Islanders are in good hands. At least, until such time as the venerable hockey scribe decides they aren’t.
Meanwhile in the National Post, Michael Traikos uses the same quotes as Campbell to twist the story in the negative, saying that while Tavares may love the Islanders, they (and their fans? WTF?) don’t seem to love him back and have surrounded him with sub-par teammates. Traikos also doesn’t seem to know who Anders Lee is, describing the burly winger and two-time 20-goal scorer as just, “a sixth-round pick.”
Traikos isn’t necessarily wrong about the Islanders’ many missteps in the Tavares Era, he’s just ignoring what’s being said in order to pick the lowest hanging fruit off the tree. At least he hit his deadline. Oh, and by the way, the Leafs won the game 7-1.
There was also a late entry via NHL.com that includes an extra quote from Tavares directly addressing the questions about just how long the Islanders will remain in Barclays Center. Long story short, wherever they play, he wants to stay.
"That stuff does not change my thought process in wanting to be an Islander and hoping things work out," Tavares told the Toronto Sun prior to playing the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.
February 15, 2017: We have our first video! In a quick segment on NBCSN before the Red Wings-Blues Wednesday Night Rivalry game, host Liam McHugh asked TSN’s Darren Dreger what he knew about Tavares’ contract situation.
Dreger didn’t say anything new (a Dreger specialty), and led with Tavares’ poise and loyalty in the face of the relentless Toronto media assault before quickly pivoting to standard talking points.
Here’s the video and here’s a transcript:
He was terrific yesterday. In fact, he stood in there for several minutes and with full credit to the assembled media in that scrum, each reporter tried to get a different answer [to] essentially the same question, wondering whether or not he would have any interest in the Toronto Maple Leafs as an unrestricted free agent.
But his commitment, his loyalty, is to the New York Islanders. But there’s a list of questions he needs answers to. Is Garth Snow going to be the general manager? What about the head coaching job? Is that going to be Doug Weight’s on the long term, assuming Doug Weight wants to be the long term head coach of the New York Islanders. Where is this team’s future in terms of it’s home? Is there going to be a change there that’s going to impact his decision? Perhaps most importantly, can he win a Stanley Cup with the group assembled?
Those are the questions that John Tavares is going to seek answers for before he decides whether or not to extend with the Islanders.
Dreger’s mind-reading skills must be as good as his investigative ones because Tavares just friggin’ said the day before that those concerns won’t change his thought process when it comes to extending. While not informative in the slightest, the segment did provide NBCSN viewers with one full minute that was blessedly free of the oppressive presence of Mike Milbury.
February 22, 2017: Craig Custance is one of ESPN’s better hockey writers. He’s so good, in fact, that you have to fork over some dough to read most of his work via the Worldwide Leader’s Insider premium plan.
Because of my dedication to this ever-growing historical document (and because I’ve been meaning to for over a year anyway), I signed up for the service to read an article from Custance regarding Tavares’ future with the Islanders in the face of the team’s surprising chase for a playoff spot.
Most of the article is a well-reasoned look at just how much the captain’s next contract might cost the Islanders. I won’t post that stuff here because I don’t want to make ESPN’s lawyers mad. (Spoiler Alert: it’s a lot of money).
What I will take issue with is with Custance’s very grave assertion that Tavares could walk away from the Islanders as early as this summer if he’s not satisfied that the team could win a championship in the near future based heavily on the home stretch of this season.
Quick Quote (please don’t sue us):
The Islanders' success has temporarily quieted the speculation, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that we’re witnessing the stretch of hockey that will determine whether or not Tavares stays with the organization in the long term.
Custance isn’t wrong in that Tavares wants and deserves a chance at glory. But tying that desire to the last 20-odd games of this season when everything the man has said contradicts that idea is playing on the fears of Islanders fans and stroking the fires of 29 other teams that all think they have what Tavares is looking for.
Tavares has said more than once in the many, many articles above that he’s excited about the direction of the franchise, appreciates the years he’s spent on Long Island and what the Islanders have done for him and trusts the team’s management and new ownership.
Let’s be super-duper cynical for a minute and assume that’s all lip service. The things we do know about John Tavares based on his actions over the years are that he is A. Extremely loyal to the Islanders; B. Humble to a ridiculous degree rarely seen of athletes of his prowess, and; C. That he takes losses personally and always points to himself first as needing to play better when the Islanders are in a slump. His dedication to penalty killing for the first time in his career this season, as well as his year-over-year improvement, is proof he’ll do anything to give the Islanders a chance to win.
How all of those and other things extrapolate out to his contract talks remain to be seen. The last quarter of this season will be a part of them, but probably not the whole.
(Please don’t sue us)
March 8, 2017: After a 4-1 win in Edmonton, the Islanders head to Vancouver for a game against the Canucks. On local TSN radio ahead of that game, insider Pierre LeBrun was asked about Tavares’ contract extension, which is now - apparently - officially contingent upon convincing the captain that his team is headed in the right direction.
That part is old news. But LeBrun’s tone, at least via the quotes from FanRag Sports’ Chris Nichols, shows that maybe the things Tavares has been saying this whole time are starting to sink in.
“Well, he hasn’t decided that yet. I think his heart wants to stay with the Islanders,” said NHL Insider Pierre LeBrun during a Wednesday morning radio segment on Vancouver’s TSN 1040. “I think the odds are he will sign a long-term deal with the Islanders. But I think the reason why he can’t come out and say that 100 percent is that I do think it is important to play out the year and see what new ownership has to tell him after the year in terms of their vision and their plan. The expectation is ownership is going to bring in a sort of new president of hockey operations, someone sort of above Garth Snow.
For what it’s worth, Newsday’s Arthur Staple made similar comments on Edmonton radio* before the game against the Oilers, so all this smoke might lead to some fire. But for the time being, it doesn’t look like enough to burn the house down.
(* - I’d add a link, but for some reason host Bob Stauffer blocked me on Twitter. Whatevers. Just take my word for it.)
March 10, 2017 Islanders fans got a special surprise from the team’s trip to Vancouver when Arthur Staple stopped by The Hockey PDOCast to take host Dimitri Filipovic on a “deep dive” into the team’s season. The podcast has been consistently excellent since it started two years ago, but with a focus on teams, players and issues affecting the entire league, the mostly okay Islanders generally get left to the side of the road. Filipovic has hinted at looking into the Islanders for a while, but something bigger always came up.
Fortunately, the final product was well worth the wait. With intelligent, relevant questions and the right guy to talk to, the entire 41 minute show is gold for those of us (or maybe it’s just me) who are pathologically obsessed with seeing the Islanders get a fair shake on a widely listened-to program. Topics covered include the differences between Doug Weight and Jack Capuano (a combination of tactics and communication), the genesis of the Two Year Three Goalie Circus (blame everybody) and even what it’s like to be a team’s sole travelling beatwriter (It’s hard. Give Staple a break on Twitter, already).
Naturally, the Tavares contract situation came up and Staple gave some thoughtful answers drawing upon what he hears and what he knows about Tavares and the team. After noting that Tavares called Capuano after his firing to offer a 10 minute apology for failing him as a captain (!), Staple says his understanding is that Tavares is “looking for reasons to stay,” before covering the many factors that will go into the decision including the dreaded Doomsday Scenario.
(the section starts at 16:05 but here’s the end, which comes about two minutes later)
So I think there’s things in place and I think his relationships with the people that have been around him a long time in the organization are good enough that, if there’s good signs that he sees between the end of the season and July 1, I would imagine that July 2 or 3, you’ll see him sign. That doesn’t happen? July 4, my personal feeling - and Pierre LeBrun, at least respectable national guy backed me up, is they gotta trade him. Which would be... I mean... I’d set fire to my laptop and never look at Twitter again if that came. But that’s gotta be the play because if he doesn’t decide right away, you have to be able to get something for him. Because I assume if he doesn’t say yes to what I imagine would be eight years and somewhere between $82 and $86 million - at least as a negotiating point - if he says no way, I’m not negotiating, then that’s it, he’s not staying.
While similar to LeBrun’s report from a day earlier, Staple’s take on the situation is a lot more nuanced thanks to his closeness to the Islanders. Despite the ominous tone of the above excerpt, Staple says he thinks the Islanders have the makings of a being a very good team in the near future or the pieces to make a trade for an impact center. Tavares also has said previously that he likes the direction the team is going in, so maybe the “good signs” he’s looking for are already there.
But by putting dates and time frames on all of this - “end of the season,” “six to eight weeks,” “July 1,” “July 4” - really drives home the immediacy of the situation. The time for decisions will very soon be upon us. The resolution could be a quick, happy one or a quick, unhappy one or a long, unhappy one or any combination of things. Even if you’re confident in Tavares re-signing, the ticking clock is a sounding louder and louder by the day.
In the meantime, please enjoy the entire episode for some super in-depth insights into the Islanders and what it’s like to cover them as a reporter. And subscribe to the Hockey PDOCast for even more. Let’s hope the next Islanders “deep dive” isn’t a year from now (and that it’s a positive one).
March 21, 2017 With the Maple Leafs taking a three-point lead over the Islanders for the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, the TSN Insider Trading crew decided to revisit the Tavares free agency well one day before the Islanders showdown with the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The focus this time is on, once again, the potential doomsday scenario in which the club needs to trade their captain because re-signing him isn’t likely.
That’s a lot more salacious than the actual segment, which TSN decided to not region lock for our viewing enjoyment.
We can’t embed it, but you can watch it here. They put the Tavares stuff right up front, too.
James Duthie: When might we see a decision or resolution here?
Darren Dreger: Well, it’s expected by June, and you wouldn’t hear an announcement by the New York Islanders until after July 1 when they can negotiate and announce an extension of John Tavares. But there’s also a trade scenario here that should be introduced as well.
And I know Islanders fans are going to be outraged by the thought of John Tavares moving on, but put yourself in an Islanders perspective here for just a moment. Let’s say the negotiation does not go as well as both sides are expecting. Maybe John Tavares doesn’t see the future as bright as Islanders ownership is hoping.
Well, the New York Islanders, to maximize the return are best to deal with this perhaps on the Draft floor. I’m not suggesting that the trade scenario is more likely than a long term extension. But all of that should get dealt with before July 1st.
Let the record show that Dreger takes great pains to make clear that, while a trade possibility potentially exists, it would only come to pass should extension talks go sideways. Dreger, perhaps terrified at the idea of hordes of Islanders fans flooding his Twitter mentions with vitriol for even suggesting the idea of a trade (or of just one lone Islanders fan transcribing his words for their own sick reasons), even intimates that, as of now, both sides expect negotiations to go smoothly. Unfortunately, we won’t know they’ve gone sideways until it’s too late.
A pattern has emerged in the last few months regarding The Tavares Question. They include, in some order: a ticking clock and a franchise direction that Tavares finds to his liking enough to sign on for more seasons.
How cast in stone is that pattern? Does it come straight from the captain’s (or his agent’s) mouth? In his recent Reddit AMA, Staple says that while not “gospel,” the idea should be read more as common sense for a player at his peak deciding where his future should lay.
The Islanders have 11 games left in their regular season. Should they miss the playoffs, The Tavares Question will kick into high gear almost immediately and dominate the Islanders’ entire offseason, including the Entry Draft which is June 23rd and 24th in Chicago.
Whatever direction the club needs to be in to align with Tavares’ common sense needs to be found pretty quickly.
March 23, 2017: While Darren Dreger took the lead on Tuesday’s Insider Trading session, it was his TSN colleague “Uncle” Bob McKenzie who expounded upon the Tavares doomsday scenario in a couple of venues a day later.
On TSN 690 radio in Montreal on Wednesday morning, McKenzie broached the whole trade idea again, but even more so than Dreger, hammered home the idea that that direction could be but one of many possible futures, like the kinds explored Ad nauseam in X-Men comics during most of the 1990s.
Via Chris Nichols at FanRag Sports (Scroll down. The Dreger stuff we’ve been over already covers the top half of the post):
“I think the only point that’s really being raised here is that the timetable is such that it needs to talked about – and that is he’s got a year left on his deal,” noted McKenzie. “John Tavares, it should be noted – as captain of the New York Islanders – has not said one thing that would lead you to believe he has any interest in going anywhere other than staying with the New York Islanders. Anybody who knows John Tavares knows that’s the kind of guy that he is. He’s given every indication that he’s all in on this organization.
McKenzie goes on to talk about the possible salary range Tavares might command (somewhere between the Stamkos Extra Value Meal and the Toews VIP Package) and reiterates the same questions about the franchise’s future that Tavares will probably want answers to that we’ve heard before.
He also, like Dreger, mentions the vociferous reactions he gets from Islanders fans whenever this stuff comes up. It’s kinda funny but also a little alarming, especially coming from McKenzie, the original hockey insider and a guy who’s so chill he calls himself “Bobby Margarita” during his offseason vacation time.
Before finishing, McKenzie throws a new spin on the Leafs angle that was the genesis of this bottomless tome in the first place. With Toronto showing a lot more talent than most people expected this year thanks to a trio of quality rookies, it appears a player of Tavares’ caliber might be a luxury they just don’t need right away.
“The funny thing though is I don’t think John Tavares sits in the wheelhouse of what the Maple Leafs are interested in,” speculated McKenzie. “And unlike a year ago, when the Leafs were very hot after Steven Stamkos – and I could be way off on this – but I think they’ve already got their John Tavares and his name is Auston Matthews. And they’re going to need to devote and allocate their cap considerations for many years down the road to Auston Matthews and William Nylander and Mitch Marner.
“I’m not sure that even though he’s a Toronto kid… I think John Tavares in a perfect world would love to stay with the New York Islanders, but the New York Islanders are going to have to answer some questions first.”
McKenzie repeated most of these same points during a short segment on NBCSN between periods of the Islanders 3-2 win over the Rangers. He called the possible trade discussion, “a long way off” and said of Tavares, “You’re not gonna get a more dedicated, professional, serious guy who’s been all-in on this franchise and believes in them and says and does all the right things.”
Here’s the video. Sorry, it was once embedded here but had to be un-embedded for technical reasons.
Finally (because this week has been exhausting), Dreger talked again about the situation on TSN 690 Wednesday afternoon, when asked if the Montreal Canadiens could be a player for Tavares should he become available. One customer at a time, guys. Nichols has the transcript of that conversation, too, if you want to read it.
Putting the words “Tavares” and “trade” in the same sentence is enough to get Islanders fans - one of the most sensitive and alarmist fanbases in the NHL - to explode like Mount Vesuvius, especially with the team in the thick of a playoff chase and with the added idea that all of this could come to a head in a matter of mere months.
The question of the Islanders trading Tavares should negotiations disintegrate caused a lot of grief this week, mainly because it was broached by trusted guys like Staple and McKenzie (and, yeah, okay, Dreger, too). While they might be jumping the proverbial gun on the discussion, these aren’t the types of reporters to write “click bait” articles or troll for re-tweets or Facebook shares. Early as it may be, it is a discussion point, whether we want it to be or not.
To a man, each is clear that, as of now, Tavares’ inclination and preference is to stay with the Islanders long term. It’s how the team’s offseason questions are answered that could be the stumbling blocks.
Not that that summary is going to console anyone, but it’s where we’re all at as of now.
March 26, 2017: While the Islanders were losing 2-1 to the Boston Bruins and putting a serious dent in their playoff hopes, Elliotte Friedman talked about the Tavares contract on Hockey Night in Canada’s intermission show. Friedman’s great - one of the very best hockey reporters out there, in fact. But I think he’s being a little loose with his wording here.
The video is here, and is sadly unembeddable. Here’s the transcript, generously taken care of by Sportsnet.com:
“There were reports this week that if the New York Islanders aren’t moving towards a contract with John Tavares in June, they will look at trading him,” said Elliotte Friedman during the Headlines segment on Hockey Night in Canada.
This right here is a problem. The “reports,” such as they were, were speculation from a few plugged-in insiders thinking aloud that, should the negotiations go awry, the Islanders would be smart to look into trading Tavares to (at least try to) mitigate what would be a major loss. All of the parties involved - Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger and Arthur Staple - included disclaimers saying there’s no indication either way that Tavares was looking to leave or that the team was looking to move him, but that time was ticking away. Just scroll up to see what I’m talking about.
When a guy as trusted as Friedman talks about “reports” saying “they will look at trading him,” it sounds like a done deal. And because it’s viewed by millions across the continent (and especially because this is the Islanders we’re talking about), it’s a very short trip from that to, “OMG the Islanders are going to trade John Tavares.”
This is how your rumor mill sausage is made. It’s a giant, hockey-centric game of “Telephone” where one person says something and it spreads and changes as others repeat and interpret bits of what they heard. Then before you know it, we spend months talking about trades that maybe were never going to happen anyway.
I gotta say, it’s disappointing to hear something like this coming from Friedman because his weekly 30 Thoughts column and honest, in-depth reporting on all things NHL are godsends in a sport that simply isn’t covered as well as others here in the States. I don’t think he meant it to come out the way it (and I might be interpreting it wrong myself) but it just bugs me that the intro was phrased this way. It makes me think things are going to get out of hand quickly, if they haven’t already.
The meat of Friedman’s bit was about Tavares’ agent Pat Brisson meeting with Islanders brass this week, either about a extension talks or a front office job. Again, Friedman is citing reports that, as far as I know, don’t exist.
"Pat Brisson, Tavares’s agent, was in New York this week," Friedman explained. "Now, last summer it was reported that they offered Brisson the job running their hockey ops and more in their organization. There were rumours this week when Brisson was there that they were trying to do it again in order to make Tavares feel better."
Despite the rumours, though, Friedman added: "Brisson says that’s not true and he’s not going to be doing that.”
When he first reported in December that Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin were looking to add an executive to run the hockey operations or oversee Garth Snow, Staple included Brisson’s name among those that the owners talked to. Later, it became clear that they were basically talking to anyone within earshot to ask them for pointers on running an NHL team. So while meeting Brisson is always significant, as far as we know, no offer was put on the table for him to join the team in a official capacity at any time.
The “rumors this week” he’s alluding to might be this Staple tweet about seeing Brisson around Barclays Center well before negotiations could begin.
Spied Pat Brisson at Barclays Center last night. #Isles owners keeping lines of comm open w/ Tavares' agent ahead of 7/1 negotiating period.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) March 17, 2017
It’s also possible that Friedman is referencing other info he may have heard. If he is, those rumors didn’t extend to our neck of the cyber woods. To the hockey world at large, this is a less eye-grabbing issue than the Tavares contract. But still, the phrasing here takes the information and presents it in a way that’s different from how it was originally given.
Nick Kypreos ends the segment saying that finding a place to play in a few years and signing Tavares to an extension are tied atop ownership’s to-do list. That might not be breaking news, but it least I understand what he’s saying. Wish I could say the same for the rest of the segment.
March 28, 2017: The Islanders had (and lost) another huge game on Monday night against Nashville, and earlier in the day, both Friedman and Dreger were asked the Tavares question in different appearances.
On NHL Network, Friedman fleshed out his points from Hockey Night in Canada over the weekend. Via Chris Nichols at FanRag Sports:
“But what I think is going on there is the Islanders are considering the possibility of everything in the off-season. And what happens if they find out come July 1 that he’s not willing to extend, and will they consider moving him elsewhere? I think they’re preparing for that contingency plan just in case it has to happen.”
Friedman goes on to again mention Pat Brisson perhaps being offered a job with the team that was turned down. He includes all of it in his essential 30 Thoughts column, in which he kindly describes the Islanders as “chasing playoff participation” while they do everything in their power to stall before the finish line.
Meanwhile on TSN 1050, Dreger was putting the Islanders timeline into stark perspective. From the same Nichols article:
“There’s a lot of things that have to come into focus here. What I know is this: It’s the intention of John Tavares to know exactly what he’s deciding on by June,” said Dreger. “And there’s a lot of reasons for that. He is a pending unrestricted free agent after next season. He’s different in that the no-move clause doesn’t apply to him in the way that it did to Steven Stamkos. So Stamkos, after July 1, could manage things differently than John Tavares could.
Stamkos figures heavily later in the same discussion. Another thing we know about Tavares during his time as an Islander is that he is an extremely modest, private person who doesn’t like to rock the proverbial boat, especially publically. Which is why this makes total sense:
“Tavares, as far as I’m told, wants nothing to do with what Stamkos went through that final season where every city he waltzes into… every city, especially Toronto. Every time there’s a Tavares connection, he’s going to have to answer that type of question.
“So I would presume both sides would want to deal with it very early in the summer.”
This encyclopedia was first published almost eight months ago. The question of Tavares re-signing with the Islanders has been a topic for over a year before even that point. That a resolution could come so quickly is starting to get a little terrifying.
April 2, 2017: Plot Twist! During a 2-1 home win over New Jersey on March 31st, Tavares fell to the ice after crossing behind the Devils goal in a chase for the puck. He clutched the back of his thigh and had to be helped off the ice by teammates. A day later, the Islanders announced he was “week-to-week” with a lower body injury, effectively meaning his season was over with the team’s playoff hopes at the slim-to-none stage.
In his feature article on the injury, Staple hit upon a few other topics related to Tavares. Naturally, his contract was one of them. But in mentioning again the owners’ desire to bring agent Pat Brisson into the front office, Staple also essentially gave us our first look at the type of contract the team was preparing to offer its captain.
Even if Brisson isn’t their man, Malkin and Ledecky need the agent on their side as they try to convince Tavares to sign what would be an eight-year deal worth more than $10 million per season. So the talks, and perhaps the wooing, will continue into the offseason.
When Bob McKenzie guessed that Tavares’ next contract would be more towards the Jonathan Toews side of the spectrum rather than the Steven Stamkos’ side, he wasn’t kidding. Staple’s “eight-year deal worth more than $10 million per season” sounds an awful lot like the twin eight-year $84 million contracts that Toews and teammate Patrick Kane signed on July 9, 2014 that are each worth $10.5 million a year.
That’s a lot of dough, Johnny. Shouldn’t take a lot of convincing to say yes. But that’s where Staple ratchets up the anxiety.
If the Barclays Center ice was partly responsible for Tavares’ injury, then the arena could end up impacting the negotiations more than originally thought. The article’s stinger:
But now, with a season-ending injury possibly abetted by the lousy ice, this may become more of a focal point in talks between Malkin and Ledecky and Barclays Center on altering the team’s lease beyond next season. The captain’s fate may now hang on it.
While the team’s home could and should be one of Tavares’ concerns, he’s also certainly already intimately familiar with Barclays ice conditions. I’m not sure one untimely injury changes the way he’s felt about it for two seasons now. Hell, no Islander complains about the ice more than Cal Clutterbuck, and he just signed a new five-year contract last summer. Obviously it didn’t bother him that much.
If Tavares gets $10 million a year, he earned it by being the team’s “guiding light,” as Staple succinctly and accurately calls him. That total would be almost double the $5.5 million he’s been making since 2011. The shame of it would be in the Islanders inability to surround him with extra talent during the years he was making far less than he was worth. Because those days are coming to an end.
April 10, 2017: Despite winning their last six games in a row without Tavares, the Islanders were eliminated from the post-season, finishing with 94 points, one behind eighth place Toronto. The irony of losing out to the Maple Leafs in the face of his compilation isn’t lost, but let’s move to more important business.
Clean out day at Northwell Health Ice Center was a chance for Tavares to address the contract extension for the first time this offseason. It will not be the last time he does so before it’s all over.
Tavares praised his teammates and especially his interim coach for keeping hope alive until the very end and said his first priority is getting healthy quickly so that he can get back on his normal training schedule (after some rest, of course). As for the contract, he says there’s time for things to fall into place, but he would prefer to get things done sooner rather than later.
Via Arthur Staple:
“Ideally you’d like to get something done as soon as possible,” Tavares, who has one year left on his contract, said as the Islanders held their exit meetings on Monday at Northwell Health Ice Center following the end of the season on Sunday. “But at the same time, like I said, it’s a process and I think we’ve seen other guys go through it and it doesn’t necessarily happen the first day it can happen. I’m just speaking out loud. We’ll see how things go.
“Like I’ve said before, during the season I’ve never had to worry about it because it’s just not that time yet. Now as the time approaches we’ll start going through the process of talking and getting there and even before that Doug [Weight] determining what he wants to do and that process going forward from there, which I think probably is first on their agenda let alone my situation. So just take it one thing at a time and one day a time.”
Staple also says that talks between Brisson, Islanders management and ownership have been ongoing, with topics spanning the team’s arena situation, an offer to Brisson to join the front office, the general direction of the franchise and, possibly, foreign movies, the weather and easy recipes for leading a satisfying vegan lifestyle (I may have added those last few).
Staple’s Newsday colleague Neil Best says Tavares is just as sincere in his desire to stay with the Islanders as other teams could be in their desire to snatch him away.
Tavares admitted he will have questions for management, including getting “an understanding of their vision and where things are going.”
But Tavares being Tavares, he made it clear such discussions will be “handled internally” because doing so publicly “wouldn’t be great for the process.”
Two things he was willing to state unequivocally: He would like to have coach Doug Weight back, and, again, he really, truly likes it here.
“Obviously you want to enjoy where you’re playing and where you’re living,” he said. “I’ve always stated that I’ve enjoyed those things and I’ve always been treated really well here. So there’s no doubt about that for me.”
Best evokes the names Derek Jeter, Eli Manning and even Henrik Lundqvist when describing Tavares’ presence as the face of the franchise. Despite that elevated position, the captain still defers to his bosses in empathizing with the tricky business of running a pro sports team in a salary cap league. He probably knows he can demand the world, but also that it’s one of several huge decisions Garth Snow (or whoever’s in charge) has to make in the coming months.
Via Brian Compton at NHL.com:
Tavares said he doesn't expect the uncertainty to play a role in whether or not he re-signs with the Islanders.
"Not necessarily," he said. "I think for me at the end of the day, I want to win a Stanley Cup. I think everyone here is absolutely committed to doing that. Hopefully we can work something out and I'm here.
"It's a lot more complicated process than probably people realize. I haven't even really gone through it yet, so I think just looking at a lot of situations that have kind of come over the last couple of years, I think not only from my side but from the team side, just with the management of the cap and obviously the financial side of it, kind of those details that come into it in the negotiation process … obviously you want to enjoy where you're playing and where you're living.
Unfortunately, Tavares will be watching the 2017 playoffs on television like the rest of us. While he does that, he’ll get some time to assess the season and rest his body before he starts his insane summer workout schedule again.
In case you’re just joining us...
When they ask about your contract again pic.twitter.com/enOquwD4BB— kerry (@Kschwenky) April 11, 2017
April 13, 2017: The Islanders settled one question right at the start of their offseason, naming Doug Weight head coach for 2017-18. But more questions remain, starting with that whole John Tavares thing.
On NHL Network, Friedman talked about a possible timeline in which the captain will gather his thoughts before sitting down with management about a contract extension.
Via Chris Nichols at FanRag Sports:
“I think they’re going to have an idea in the next two-to-three weeks about John Tavares. Is he going to give them an indication that he is going to sign an extension, or is he going to give them an indication that he is going to wait.
“I think that is going to kind of force their hand and shape their future. Do they feel they’re going to have to trade him. Do they feel he’s going to stay.
“I think the way Tavares reacts with them in the next two-to-three weeks, in terms of what idea he gives them about whether or not he will sign an extension, will answer a lot of their other questions.”
Now, if you’ve read the preceding 8,500 words of this article, you would see that, so far, he has clearly indicated that he wants to stay. Again Friedman’s talking about Tavares’ reaction to what the team is planning going forward. Weight’s hiring is a part of that and we already know that Tavares is a fan.
Would the Islanders hire more people Tavares likes in the hope of swaying his decision? Friedman thinks so.
“I think anything is possible,” considered Friedman. “I think what you’re doing right now is you’re looking for people who maybe have a relationship with Pat Brisson or with John Tavares.
“Bill Guerin I think is a really good name because he works in Pittsburgh, an organization that has a good relationship with Pat Brisson, who has a long time friendship with Mario Lemieux.
He also mentions the names of now-fired Kings GM Dean Lombardi (Not close with Brisson. Also, no thanks.) and former Canucks GM Mike Gillis, whose name we’ve heard from Friedman before.
Friedman also has an interesting take on Garth Snow’s performance at Weight’s introductory press conference. He feels the Islanders GM didn’t sound like a guy who’s completely sure of his future with the club, which is almost the complete opposite of what everyone else heard.
In other words, one of the many, many questions hanging over Tavares re-signing is who will be the one handing him the pen.
April 19, 2017: In one of his first wrap up columns of the offseason, Staple said what we all know: that signing Tavares to an extension should be first and foremost on Ledecky and Malkin’s to-do list. According to the team’s only regular beatwriter, the retaining of Doug Weight and Garth Snow was done because they could make completing that task easier.
At least Malkin and Ledecky made a quick move. The owners have been courting Pat Brisson, Tavares’ agent, all season long, keeping the Tavares camp abreast of all relevant information — about the team’s future home, about the front office, all of it. The move to keep Weight had plenty to do with keeping Tavares, who has one year left on his contract but can sign an extension on July 1.
Tavares reportedly will let the Islanders know in the next few weeks whether he’s interested in that extension — it would be for eight years and more than $10 million per year, no doubt — or whether he’s not sure about the future of the franchise. Which would mean Snow almost certainly would trade his star player before the summer is out, which means the Isles would be scrambling to recover from such a headlining rejection.
Staple calls the quick decision to name Weight head coach and to keep Snow, “shrewd” as opposed to rashly cleaning house and potentially upsetting Tavares. We’ll have to wait and see if that assessment is correct.
He also mentions the owners talking to Wayne Gretzky about a front office job, which is a whole conversation for another time.
April 25, 2017: Friedman opens his 30 Thoughts column this week by getting everyone on the same page regarding the Islanders and, by extension (pun intended), with Tavares.
Like Staple, Friedman speculates that the team’s moves following the season - Weight and Snow sticking around, the push for a new arena - all will have an effect on negotiations with the captain. But the Sportsnet insider also goes one step further, surmising that Tavares’ decision will affect other how other teams approach their offseasons.
I’m not going to guess what he’ll do, but it’s safe to surmise that several teams will hold their off-season plans until there is some clarity. Tavares will be able to pick his spot should he choose to go, but even if you get a seat at the table you've got to have cap room and the players to make a trade work.
If you’re Detroit, Los Angeles, Montreal, San Jose, Tampa Bay or Toronto (although I’m not sure it can actually work there anymore), aren’t you waiting to see where this is going?
Later, Friedman verbalized the same idea on NHL Network. Via Chris Nichols at FanRag:
“I don’t profess to know what John Tavares is thinking. Everybody thought Steve Stamkos was going to leave Tampa Bay last year and he stayed. Now, this is a different situation. But I will tell you this: there are teams out there who think that if John Tavares wants to be traded, they would be potentially on a list where he would want to go. And I think what they are doing is they are waiting to see what his decision is. They are figuring out what they would need to do if they had to make a trade for him. And they’re going to sit patiently and not do anything else until they know what Tavares says about his future.
In the column, Friedman also says his belief is that, “all things being equal, Tavares’s preference is to stay.” Of course, he also knows by now that saying anything else is to risk dozens of Islanders fans sieging his Twitter timeline like the orcs arriving at Helm’s Deep. Still, I’ll take his word for it.
April 27, 2017: Hey, you know who could use a John Tavares (besides the Islanders and like, 29 other NHL teams)? The Montreal Canadiens, themselves recently booted from the playoffs by the Islanders’ archrivals, the New York Rangers.
That’s the basis for an article by Habs beatwriter Eric Engels in Sportsnet, who says the Canadiens should move heaven and earth acquire Tavares should he not re-sign with his current club. The idea is based on two facts: 1. In case you forgot, the Islanders need to extend Tavares’ contract (but can’t before July 1) and 2. the Canadiens have a great need for a first line center, which GM (and former Islander) Marc Bergevin more or less admitted to in his post-season press conference.
Tavares, who has 235 goals and 537 points in 587 NHL games and is one of the best defensive players in hockey, is the dream acquisition. It goes without saying he’d cost an arm and a leg to acquire and the decision to meet that cost would be entirely contingent on making sure he’s willing to sign with the acquiring team. But no team should be more intrigued by the possibility — and none should be more willing to sacrifice to make it happen — than Bergevin’s Canadiens.
(BTW: The part about being “one of the best defensive players in hockey,” can be explained in his article by Engels’ Sportsnet colleague and former Eyes on the Prize editor Andrew Berkshire.)
I’m not too familiar with Engels’ work, but the few pieces of his I’ve read have always been very well researched and informed. To his credit, he makes his arguments thoughtfully and without using phrases like, “circus,” “clown show,” “zoo,” “madhouse” or any other shorthand for chaotic, unpredictable entertainment often reserved for describing the Islanders.
Engels isn’t the first to advocate another team acquire Tavares and he won’t be the last, even if the captain signs on for another eight years or so. Expect a few more of these before the summer is over.
May 8, 2017: Per an article in Newsday by Staple, Tavares had surgery on his right hand a few weeks ago and should be fine to train as usual during the summer.
The captain had the surgery a week after the Islanders’ season ended to fix an issue that lingered through much of the season. His hand is still in a cast, which is scheduled to be removed next week, giving him ample time to go through his rigorous offseason training without missing any time.
What does this have to do with a potential contract extension? Aside from being yet another concern for the team this offseason, not much. I just wanted an excuse to post this:
May 10, 2017: Bob McKenzie was on Montreal TSN690 radio this morning, where a discussion about Canadiens goalie Carey Price’s next contract was started by bringing up Tavares first. Both will be unrestricted free agents as of July 1st, 2018. The talk with host Conor McKenna didn’t reveal anything new, but it did get to an important point about how to parse and categorize information in these fast-paced, hot take-obsessed times.
When asked by McKenna about a report of the Islanders offering Tavares an eight-year, $10 million a year extension, McKenzie talked about when a “report” is and isn’t an actual report by referencing a conversation he had with colleague (and former Islander) Martin Biron discussing reports from Quebec media on Tavares. Turns out, the genesis of those reports was the article in the above (May 8th) update, in which Arthur Staple mentions the possible contract he expects the team to offer Tavares.
Via Chris Nichols at FanRag Sports:
“So we did a little digging and we found a story and it was about John Tavares undergoing surgery, and there was one paragraph where it said, ‘The Islanders are likely to make an offer of eight years at around $10 million a year.’
“So as I say, if there’s been an actual report since then… it’s interesting. And if Arthur is saying they’re likely to do it, then they are likely to do it. But I think we’ve got to be careful there just on how we frame that.”
If you’ve been reading the preceding 10,000 words of this article (Jesus Christ!), you’d know that the contract offer is Staple’s understanding as a reporter based on his sources within and around the Islanders. No offer has been made and couldn’t until July 1, anyway (I think. I might have that wrong). The subsequent reports reporting the offer are just based on that information. When an actual offer is made, it’ll be reported, probably by Staple. And it will probably be for eight-years and $10 million annually.
Everybody got that? Good. Moving on then.
Like Lord Voldemort before Ralph Fiennes had his nose CGI’d off, Tavares’ agent Pat Brisson has been talked about extensively here, but has not directly been a full character yet. The super agent made an appearance on NHL Game Day with Steve Kouleas on SiriusXM NHL radio today (that may or may not be the right title. I don’t care), and was asked where things stood with his client and the team as of now.
His answer was as noncommittal, cautious and non-bridge-burning as you would imagine, but Brisson had kind words for the Islanders new-ish owners.
Here’s the relevant part, which starts around the 5:45 mark:
Kouleas: Do you anticipate something happening vis-a-vis the Islanders as early as July the 1st? Where are things with John, yourself and the team?
Brisson: John still has a year left on his contract. We got to know the new group in place recently and, Steve, Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky, it seems like the organization is improving tremendously. We are gonna be talking to Garth Snow, probably in June and perhaps the beginning of July, continue this process and see where things will lead us. I have no timeline at this time to come in with whether John will be signed to an extension or not by July 1st. We haven’t had enough discussions. We’ll cross that bridge if and when we do.
“Perhaps the beginning of July” is a pretty ominous thing to say when Tavares can be signed starting the first of that month. As Staple and others have noted (and as common sense kinda dictates), the longer things go without an extension, the less the likely a deal becomes. Again, Brisson doesn’t want to say something that could light a fire or anything, and he did say he didn’t have a timeline right now (yeah, right), so I don’t want to read much into it.
But we’re at the point where every word is a big deal. Even when they don’t add up to much.
May 15, 2017: Not funny, dude.
May 31, 2017: The Stanley Cup final is underway, with the Nashville Predators making their first appearance in the championship series against the defending champs and the Islanders’ old rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins. June figures to be a huge month even after the Cup is awarded, with an expansion draft and entry draft soon to follow.
But before all of that, NHL.com’s Dan Rosen spent some time in his weekly mailbag column putting the mind of a concerned reader at ease in regards to this whole John Tavares contract thing.
Hypothetical: It's July 2, John Tavares hasn't re-signed with the New York Islanders. Who is he talking to and where is he headed? -- @briantodd34
He's talking to the Islanders and he's staying with the Islanders. Give this some time. If he's not signed after July 1, when he can first sign a contract extension with New York, it will be a story, but it doesn't mean he's not coming back. I think Tavares, who would be an unrestricted free agent after next season, will re-sign with the Islanders. I believe him when he says he wants to stay, and I think ownership will show him the money. I also think it helps that Doug Weight stayed on as coach. Tavares has a terrific relationship with Weight.
The irony of this enormous, unwieldy document (besides the fact that it’s nearly unreadable at this point) is that most experts agree that the likelihood of Tavares remaining with the Islanders is good, regardless of how many twists and turns the story takes. Things can change, of course, but as of now, “He stays” is the safest bet, no doubt thanks to the words and actions of the man himself.
Rosen’s answer is a little more overt than some of the others, which is nice change of pace. He does mention the Canadiens as a possible suitor, though, should Tavares actually reach free agency.
But we’ll see where it goes over the next month and change.
June 1, 2017: Good news, everyone. John Tavares is already signed!
Nope. Just kidding. Actually, it was Doug Weight doing the kidding in an appearance on NHL Game Day with Steve Kouleas and Mike Johnson on Sirius XM NHL Radio this morning. Weight was his usual honest, affable self when either breaking down the first two games of the Stanley Cup final or discussing his captain’s current contract status.
You can listen to the 12-minute interview here or read the transcript via Chris Nichols at FanRag Sports.
“Yeah, we’ve already signed him. It’s in the drawer,” joked Weight to laughter from the hosts. “No, just kidding.
“Listen, it’s a situation that a lot of players have the opportunity to walk through. John loves it here. He is an unbelievable hockey player and leader for us. It’s real important and we’re doing everything we can to show him – John wants to win Cups. He wants to have a chance to win multiple Stanley Cups. That’s what he wants. That’s what’s in his heart. That’s what drives him. That’s what makes him great. He wants to be a Hall of Fame player.
Weight put in some good words for his players, his team’s prospects and his still-evolving coaching staff, which he says, “has respect and experience and wants to work and wants to make these players better.” He also talked about the commitment to the Islanders that he made by taking the head coaching job, which should also be a sign to Tavares that things are moving in a good direction.
“There’s only one reason I’m back, is to win. It was a hard decision for me… there’s a lot going on with my family. But I want to win and I’m going to be passionate about it. I’m going to be all in and John knows that. We talk a lot.
“So I feel very confident that we’re going to do the things we have to do, and obviously it stems on winning. That’s what we’re here for.”
Weight did a second radio hit on Thursday, popping in with Toronto’s TSN 1050’s BMac, Donny And The Mooge Show (uh, I think?) to talk about where the Islanders are headed this season and beyond. Weight spoke glowingly about his team having one of the “deepest defenses” in the league (“Maybe that’s not the opinion of people on the outside, but I don’t really care.”), about the future of incoming prospect Mathew Barzal (“He’s gonna get pushed. He’s gonna get put into situations where I’m gonna test him.”) and about his way of coaching (“I’m not here to drag my feet.”).
On the subject of Tavares, Weight spoke about his otherworldly skills as well as the urgency for both of them to create a championship legacy.
“John is huge for us, he’s a wonderful leader and captain," Weight told TSN 1050's Overdrive. "He is generational. He’s that good and we’re going make him better and work with him. I want him here. Our organization wants him to be here and our owners want him to be here, and John knows we want him here. John’s a genius, but a simple genius. He wants to win, and that’s it. He wants to be a Hall of Fame player and he wants to win. And those are two great things.
"He’s been here seven, eight years and we need to put him in a position to win right now.”
In a segment not on the transcript, Weight laid out the lofty vision he has for the Islanders and what he wants to see Tavares do in the near future.
I love John. He lived with me for two years and he’s a wonderful guy. But, ya know, I want to win a Cup, too. And I want to be a team that you guys are talking about every year where it’s, like, ‘alright. It’s gonna be the Islanders, the Lightning - you know the four teams that are gonna come out of the East for sure.’ That’s what I want.
I understand the doubt and what you have to do to get the naysayers and the people that talk about the Isles... Before I played here, I felt the same thing. I want to take that out and bring it back to a franchise that’s respected and I want John to be the captain raising that Stanley Cup one day.
(Side Note: Am I hearing things or does it sound like these TSN 1050 hosts are treating Weight like he’s a visitor from another planet? Forget the - quick, but hilarious and awkward - prank Weight pulls in which he pretends like he didn’t know the Islanders had hired Scott Gomez. They seem to ask very general questions like they’re afraid Weight is going to reach through the speakers and choke them, then have no reaction when he makes jokes. It was weird. Maybe something was lost in the transmission.)
If Weight is as persuasive with Tavares as he is on the radio and has been with his coaching hires, this negotiation should be a breeze.
In other Tavares news, prolific hockey comedy pioneer Sean McIndoe (who goes by the Nom De Net “Down Goes Brown”) includes Tavares in his list of players who might star in another summer NHL blockbuster, like the Shea Weber-P.K. Subban or Taylor Hall-Adam Larsson bombshells from a year ago. While Tavares makes sense in context, even DGB isn’t buying it:
Why it's extremely unlikely: Repeat after me: Superstar players don't make it to free agency. Sure, Steven Stamkos technically made it to the window period to talk to other teams, but he quickly re-signed with the Lightning. And everyone else ends up signing long-term deals with their teams.
Tavares is a guy that any team in the league would want to bid for. That's what makes all this feel like wishful thinking from places like Toronto and Montreal, and the sort of story we'll all feel a little silly about discussing when Tavares inks a new deal on July 1.
After almost 12,000 words on the subject in just this one article, I’ll be happy to look sillier than anyone should Tavares re-sign as quickly as Stamkos did.
Additional Update: June 1, 2016: Now that’s funny.
June 3, 2017: Expect this entry to be updated before long because there’s got to be some context added, preferably by a native speaker of Quebecois French.
But for now, here are the facts: During an appearance on 91.9 Sports radio in Montreal with host Jean-Charles Lajoie, Islanders legend Mike Bossy put forth a hypothetical trade that would send Tavares to the Canadiens for forward Alex Galchenyuk, defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev, goalie prospect Charlie Lindgren and this year’s first round pick (No. 25 overall).
This info comes from TSN’s Bar Down, who found the audio on Reddit’s r/Hockey forum. Thanks to longtime LHH Europe correspondent Francesca for bringing it to my attention.
You can listen to it here. I’m not a French speaker, but at 1:41:55, you can hear the players names rolled off along with a pronunciation of “Tavares” that I have never heard before and am not sure I could even replicate with my Lawng Ilind-born and bred embouchure. From the sounds of things, the guest went into the Islanders’ current status (you can hear a couple of “Doug Weight”s in there, too), but I don’t think the conversation got very far. It was probably some simple Saturday afternoon sports radio air filler or, as Francesca put it, “HFBoards trade proposals territory.”
I’m not going to seriously entertain the idea of that trade (or any other, really), nor do I want to immediately paint Bossy - my pick for the Greatest Islander Of All Time - with the heel brush without having the slightest clue about what he actually said in a language I don’t understand. Once we can get a full translation, we’ll post it here.
That said, boy, this is a twist I didn’t see coming. Tomorrow, I expect Clark Gillies to come out in favor of moving the arena-seeking Islanders to his hometown of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
June 6, 2017: We have movement! I think. Maybe.
Darren Dreger was on TSN’s Leafs Lunch today and, in between making fun of colleagues James Duthie getting lost and Ray Ferraro ordering airport coffee, talked about where he believes Tavares and Pat Brisson are at this juncture in respect to an extension.
And the news was... good.
You can listen to the whole segment here, with the Tavares stuff happening at 5:28 (at which point host Andi Petrillo references the Mike Bossy radio trade thing from this weekend). And a sincere thanks to Maple Leafs Hot Stove for transcribing this so I don’t have. I did make some small edits to more closely follow what Dreger was saying because I think how he said the following kinda matters:
[I haven’t heard anything] in terms of trade and I actually connected with Pat Brisson, who represents John Tavares, in Pittsburgh in Game 2 during one of the intermissions. I reported probably a month or so ago that Tavares wanted a pretty clear idea of the direction of the organization from their new home to what their plans, building the team into a contending team. He wanted all of that - by now, in the month of June - so that he could make a decision. He didn’t want to enter the final year of his contract with all the uncertainty.
I think that’s shifted a little bit. I think that they’re now — they being Tavares and Brisson — are comfortable with what’s going on with the New York Islanders and they’re willing to wait. I suspect that that is good news for the Islanders. It doesn’t mean that a contract extension is imminent. But it also doesn’t mean that the New York Islanders should be looking at their trade options because they don’t think he’s going to sign long term.
After that, Gord Miller asks about the Islanders not wanting to play a season without having Tavares for the next one. Dreger segues from there to possible trade targets Jordan Eberle and Matt Duchene, and the possibility of the expansion draft causing Garth Snow to trade either Travis Hamonic or Calvin de Haan.
I don’t know what “willing to wait” is supposed to mean other than maybe, “they want to negotiate.” But as Dreger stresses, it seems like Brisson (and, by extension, his client) are in a good place with the team right now. Perhaps that means they can soon move together amicably towards a long term pact.
June 7, 2017: I’m not the first to say it, but I’m saying it now - hockey fans everywhere should be very thankful that Craig Button is no longer an NHL general manager.
The TSN talking head and former Flames GM discussed on Leafs Lunch with Gord Miller and Andi Petrillo - in a segment following the Dreger call-in bit above - where Tavares might end up, with the starting point being the Mike Bossy trade proposal from the weekend (a full translation of that is still in the works, by the way).
I won’t even try to transcribe the conversation that took place between Button, Miller and Petrillo and instead will summarize its well over a thousand words with this original picture I’m calling, “Confused Gord Miller.”
You can watch the whole thing here if you want to. Thanks to LHH reader Sab for sending this to me and ruining my entire day. This might be the one time I wished a TSN video was region locked.
Button’s argument that the Islanders should take a long, hard look at trading Tavares for Galchenyuk, et al., hinges upon the idea that they can get better in a hurry by moving a guy worth a ton in return. Which, okay, fine. That makes a certain amount of sense.
But where the segment goes off the rails into complete nonsense is Button’s (frankly arrogant) assertions that A. the Islanders will be fine without Tavares because no one goes to their games now anyway; B. The Oilers traded Wayne Gretzky and Steve Yzerman retired and both the Oilers and Red Wings continued to function.
Holy cow. Where do I even begin?
- Yes, Wayne Gretzky was traded and Edmonton won another Cup. These Islanders aren’t the 1990 Oilers.
- Yes, Steve Yzerman eventually retired. Every player eventually retires. We are not talking about a retirement, nor are we talking about the late Yzerman-era Red Wings.
- The “package” Bossy theorized about would not make the Islanders better in any way unless Mikhail Sergachev is Chris Pronger. Maybe he is. I have no idea. But I’m betting he won’t be.
- From an Islanders perspective, trading John Tavares would be a monumental kick in the groin to every man, woman, child and animal that has paid an iota of attention to this team since about 2008. The idea that, “Well, they’ll get over it,” is hindsight horseshit. There are still Islanders fans angry that Don Maloney traded Pierre Turgeon 24 years ago. How would Red Wings fans feel if the proposed Yzerman-for-Alexei Yashin deal had gone down before their team had won four Stanley Cups with him? They probably wouldn’t have just shrugged their shoulders and said, “oh well” like Button does.
- Do I really need to bring up Ottawa’s attendance during this year’s playoffs? I could but I won’t.
- I’m pretty sure Button doesn’t understand what the phrase, “in a vacuum” means.
To their credit, both Petrillo and Miller seem to understand the gravity of a move like that (hence the look on Gord’s face in the picture). But sadly, the conversation eventually gives into the type of fog often found in sports radio arguments. The hosts start out politely disagreeing, then segue into asides and random trivia, then kind of agree on some things while also forgetting that they mostly disagree on the larger issue that started them off in the first place. Then they go to commercial.
It’s also pretty clear that none of the three really has a full picture of where the Islanders are as a franchise right now or what they would even need in a trade. Miller says something about a goalie, but I don’t know if he says they need one or they have too many and frankly, I don’t care. I have absolutely no idea what the point of the Mats Sundin reference was because by that time, the conversation was in pieces.
Only a few of the items posted to this encyclopedia have gotten me as mad as this one did. I don’t expect Maple Leafs-focused media to have an inside-out knowledge of a mediocre team that plays a few hundred miles away. But for Button to not even acknowledge the damage a Tavares trade would cause the Islanders by waving it off with the deadest of dead horses in the old “well, Gretzky was traded” trope shows he’s effectively out of touch with the current state of the NHL.
(And speaking of out of touch, what’s with Button’s shirt in that clip? Looks like an engineer’s off duty wear on Deep Space Nine.)
(Sorry but that clip just put me in a really bad mood.)
Also June 7, 2017: Okay, this put me in a better mood. From Arthur Staple’s article about some of the tough decisions facing Garth Snow ahead of the expansion draft.
Snow declined to discuss trade rumors or the status of contract talks with Calvin de Haan, the most high-profile unsigned Islander (he’s a restricted free agent), or provide any update on where things stand with Tavares.
The Islanders captain still has one year left on his contract and sources outside the Islanders have been consistent the past few weeks in saying they believe Tavares will agree to an extension with the team.
We are approaching actual crunch time so those sources outside (and maybe even inside) the Islanders are probably going to start doing a lot more talking in the coming weeks. Let’s see if this sentiment remains consistent.
June 13, 2017: In an energetic read from NHL.com’s Brian Compton, Islanders coach Doug Weight covers a lot of ground as usual, talking about his new assistant coaches, his hopes for the upcoming season and, most importantly to him, getting the blessing of his predecessor, Jack Capuano, before taking the top job.
When the subject of Tavares was broached, it came from a different point of view than we’ve seen previously: How will a coach so focused on being prepared for all scenarios deal with his captain if the player is an impending free agent? In the words of Weight, Keep Calm and Carry On.
But if Tavares doesn't sign July 1 …
"I would just say don't panic," Weight said. "You come to this situation maybe twice in your career if you have a long career that works out where you're really in control of the situation. 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.
"Make no mistake, John loves it here. I'll speak for him, I don't mind. But he's earned the right to come and make a decision, an intelligent decision. He's a thinker. He's not a PR guy that wants to drag it out. But he's going to do what he sees fit. I believe we have an unbelievable opportunity to sign John. We have things to prove to him. But it's not going to affect our hockey club. I hope to sign him on July 1, but if it doesn't happen, I'm not changing my mindset or anything of that nature, and neither is he. That's the most refreshing thing. We have a big year ahead of us here and we're not going to let those things affect us personally or as a team."
Even in the face of a potentially dicey situation, Weight is straightforward and frank while also putting a positive spin on things. It’s easy to see why players would respond to him as a coach. He could probably start a side business, crafting motivational office posters.
June 15, 2017: Presenting a Twitter sportswriter play in three acts.
June 20, 2017: It’s been a hectic week, what with the expansion draft, trade freeze, entry draft, NHL awards, Adidas uniform reveal and a million other things going on. In a story about a deal Garth Snow cooked up with Vegas GM George McPhee ahead of the expansion draft, Arthur Staple included some Tavares info that’s both good and bad.
A league source told Newsday that Tavares, who is entering the final year of his contract, has indicated he is willing to wait on signing an extension and feels more confident in the direction the Islanders are headed.
When the season ended, it was believed Snow needed to get Tavares’ signature on an extension by July 1 or risk losing the team’s star and captain for nothing when his deal is up after next season. The Isles would also have likely entertained trading Tavares in the coming weeks in that scenario, had Tavares said he wasn’t interested in signing long-term.
Now, he appears willing to wait and possibly head into the final year of his deal without an extension, though not to bolster his chances of leaving the team.
In his 30 Thoughts column the night before the expansion draft, Elliotte Friedman more or less corroborated the idea of Tavares taking his time.
11. In his article about the potential Grabovski trade, one thing Staple reported that I’ve also heard: it’s very possible John Tavares goes into next season without a contract extension, and the Islanders take their chances.
So the dude wants to sign! What’s wrong with that? Nothing.
But the idea of this - either Tavares needing a new contract, the incessant yapping about Tavares needing a new contract or this actual document cataloging Tavares needing a new contract - dragging out even further makes me tired. The Islanders and Tavares might be willing to “take a chance” or sign later because there’s no rush, but the minute the Islanders lose two games in a row or some “source” reports some disagreement between the team and Barclays Center, the circus music will start up all over again.
I mean, people are still asking Islanders about the commute to Brooklyn two years later. You think that’s going to stop anytime soon, no matter how much Tavares says he likes it here? No way, pal.
As my friend Michael Leboff and I both begged for on the expansion draft episode of our Islanders Anxiety podcast, it’s imperative that Tavares sign as soon as possible, even if he’s comfortable enough to wait. No one needs this to go on any further than necessary. Get a deal you like, sign on the dotted line and let us all move on. Please.
June 26, 2017: I know I said this already, but it was a busy week. Really busy. It got even busier for Garth Snow with the addition of two trades: one to acquire forward Jordan Eberle from the Oilers (in exchange for one-time Tavares roommate Ryan Strome), and the other sending Travis Hamonic to Calgary for a load of draft picks. In the Toronto Sun over Draft weekend, writer Mike Zeisberger argues (probably not incorrectly) that the first move was made with an eye on keeping Tavares happy.
At the 2009 World Juniors, Tavares and Eberle showed outstanding chemistry as linemates with Team Canada, something they’ll look to rekindle with the Islanders.
“Obviously, John is a generational player and a guy who thinks the game at a very high level and he's obviously the leader of that team,” Eberle said. “I'm excited to hopefully get an opportunity to get a chance to play with him and hopefully bring some success to the Islanders.”
And, in the process, help sway Tavares to stick around long term.
Of course, Zeisberger also acknowledges that at no time has Tavares said he was looking towards leaving the Islanders. But that would ruin the narrative so we’ll ignore it for now.
Then on Toronto radio Monday, Elliotte Friedman continued what he said previously, believing that Tavares and the team will wait before getting his name on a new contract.
Via Chris Nichols at FanRag Sports:
“I don’t think he’s going to sign. I don’t think he signs July 1,” predicted Friedman. “I think the Islanders say, ‘We’re going to take our chances.’
“ …They’re going to take it into next year. That’s my guess as to what they’re going to do.
“Normally when a guy that good could be traded, you hear it. I have no sense that they are trading him at this time. I have every sense that they are telling people, ‘We’re going to keep him and eventually we’re going to sign him.’ “
Once again, this is an incredibly bad idea. “Taking their chances” has rarely worked out well for the Islanders, particularly under Garth Snow. Not looking into trading him is one thing (and a good one). But waiting on re-signing Tavares only opens up the possibility of more issues that could become bigger problems as time goes on.
What kind of issues? Fortunately, bullet-headed Toronto Star columnist Damien Cox has provided us with a timely prime example of what I’m taking about.
Get a load of this sweaty-palmed slash fic, entitled “NHL fun begins if Tavares wants off Island:”
As with [coach Mike] Babcock and [Steven] Stamkos, expect the Leafs to be right at the epicentre of the rumour mill with Tavares, starting this weekend if he doesn’t immediately sign a new deal.
We know the Leafs heaped riches on Babcock and were willing to do the same with Stamkos. Would they do the same with Tavares as a free agent in ’18? Or would they be willing to cough up major assets to get him from the Isles either this off-season or during next season if the Isles decide to move him?
Cox flies from, “We’ll see what happens” to “If the Leafs get Tavares...” in three seconds flat. It’s all about grabbing this superstar from the disgusting ghetto he’s stuck in now and rescuing him to the glorious ivory towers of Toronto, the place Cox calls home.
Now, imagine this exact article being re-written everyday, several times a day, for the next year by writers covering 30 other teams in the NHL. Every time the Islanders visit a team on the road, a new one will pop up. Every time they lose a game, a new one will pop up. Every time a pass from a teammate misses Tavares’ stick, a new one will be written. Every time Tavares loses a face off... you get the point.
This is beyond stupid and unnecessary. It’s dangerous. And it will be a distraction to Tavares, to the team and to fans (like me) that only want their team to give its captain and best player in over a decade a long term contract.
Don’t let the Damien Coxes of the hockey world dictate the narrative. Write the story by signing Tavares as soon as possible.
July 1st is five days from today.
June 27, 2017: Sean McIndoe (aka “Down Goes Brown”) says this season’s free agent class will most likely take a backseat to the 2018 free agents in terms of intrigue.
Guess who he’s talking about here:
It sounds like you can’t accuse the Islanders of not trying. But in hockey, just trying hard doesn’t always get it done. Talk of a trade has died down recently, and that would seem like a good sign that negotiations are going well. But if Tavares were to decide that he doesn’t want a long-term commitment, it would be a devastating blow to a franchise that’s already hit plenty of bumps in the road over the years.
Thankfully, we have Doug Weight to interject some levity into the situation as it inches towards critical mass.
Via Christian Arnold at Islanders Insight:
“Uh, John who,” Weight responded jokingly when asked by a reporter if there was any news with Tavares. The Islanders captain is eligible to sign a contract extension beginning on July 1, but his camp has been mum regarding Tavares’ plans for the future.
The topic has been at the forefront of minds across the NHL since the Islanders season ended on April 9. Weight tried to downplay the situation on Tuesday.
“John’s fine. I’m avoiding your questions,” Weight said. “There’s nothing to update, but there’s nothing to worry about. I mean we’re focused to win next year and he’s a big part of it.”
I’m glad someone’s having fun with this.
June 29, 2017: Geez, thanks a lot, Connor. Everything was going so good until you had to be the best player on the planet and earn every penny of about $13 million a year.
So what does this mean for the Islanders’ own MVP?
As for Tavares, betting it was all smiles over at CAA and some groans in #Islses FO when McDavid numbers came out. JT's price just went up.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) June 29, 2017
Feeling for months was that JT would command eight years and north of $10m AAV... Now? $12m per doesn't sound so crazy.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) June 29, 2017
Brett Cyrgalis also cover the topic in the New York Post.
We obviously have no idea how this will play out or even if McDavid’s (still unfinalized) deal affects Tavares’ negotiations with the Islanders. Both guys have the right to ask their teams for the moon considering how much they do. But, man, McDavid’s speed puts him on a level I’m not sure Tavares could ever reach (I still love you, John).
Meanwhile in Columbus, nobody told Aaron Portzline about how Staple owned him back on the 15th. Because he’s still on with this pipe dream.
Reports say Tavares will head into the final year of his contract with no extension in place. This is a potential disaster for the Islanders, who could lose him for nothing at this time next year if he remains unsigned. The greater likelihood, should Tavares decline an extension, is a midseason move. For teams that would covet Tavares — that’s a long list, and it would include the Blue Jackets — it may be wise to resist moving your best assets (prospects, picks) now for players like Duchene or Kovalchuk. It would take a truckload if the Islanders ever make Tavares available.
If things go badly enough to make the Islanders trade Tavares, it won’t be to a team in their own division. Garth Snow didn’t even want Travis Hamonic in the same conference when he traded him, let alone the Metro Division. Also, what “prospects” are we even talking about? Dude, just, like, settle down.
June 30, 2017: Clearly there’s something in the water in Columbus because Portzline’s Dispatch colleague Michael Arace also has Tavares on the mind.
If you are the Jackets’ brain trust, you can sit back and see how negotiations between Tavares and the New York Islanders go. They have a year to chat before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Given that the Islanders want him on the marquee of their yet-to-be-built new arena, one presumes that they will talk right on up to the trade deadline.
If you are the Blue Jackets, maybe you hang on to your assets and see how the Tavares talks develop. Maybe you even see if he is bent on free agency, and you continue to clear cap space, and you try to get him with an offer he can’t refuse on July 1, 2018. Does he want to come to Columbus? I don’t know. But patience is an option.
This is an awful lot of cannon balls to put in one basket.
July 2, 2017: Mike Zeisberger is back, giving the Islanders a thumbs down for not acquiring other players to entice Tavares to stay on the first day of free agency.
New York Islanders
John Tavares is a UFA next summer. You need to add more than Jordan Eberle to ensure he’ll re-sign. Sure, you received a nice cache of draft picks from Calgary for Hamonic, but how does that help you win now?
The opening of the column is, “a subtle salute to the league’s GMs for finally starting to get a clue” by not overspending this year on big signings. Apparently that salute to patience only extends to select teams and circumstances. Good to know.
July 5, 2017: We are four days into July and the Islanders still haven’t signed John Tavares to a contract extension. Uh, what the hell is going on?
Turns out, a lot is going on. But also not much is going on. Make sense now?
First was Brett Cyrgalis of The New York Post saying that while we may be in the dark about where things are right now, Tavares certainly is not.
But let’s make one thing clear: He is not being treated like another player.
Tavares has been kept abreast of all things going on with the franchise, and overall that means the owners’ likely upcoming bid to develop the site at Belmont Park. Maybe more importantly for him, Tavares was also on top of Snow’s active month, already yielding an upgrade up front in the trade that brought back Jordan Eberle from the Oilers, as well as obtaining high draft picks that are being stockpiled in the hopes of prying Matt Duchene out of the death grip of Colorado general manager Joe Sakic.
There’s also this about the still-very-hypothetical scenario in which Garth Snow would be forced to trade his captain because re-signing looks to be out of the question. With the Travis Hamonic Trade Request episode still fresh in our minds, this is already all too real:
A smart negotiator also would try to get that trade done sooner rather than later, because if it came out that Tavares was not going to sign with the Islanders, then Snow has less leverage out in the marketplace with everyone knowing he has to move him.
Later, Arthur Staple broke down the factors that might be contributing to the hold up in starting extension talks, including arena uncertainty, possible front office changes and the monster contract extension signed by fellow Pat Brisson client Connor McDavid.
This is not to say that Tavares is simply biding his time until he can leave the Isles for nothing next July 1. If that were the case, his camp would have communicated that to Snow by now and the Isles GM would have held one heck of an auction for Tavares’ services on the draft floor in Chicago.
Tavares has decided to wait and the Islanders have decided to ride it out, however long it goes. It could be a month, two months or all the way into next offseason before the captain decides he sees what he likes or decides he’s headed elsewhere.
McDavid’s deal became official today when he signed an eight-year, $100 million extension to stay in Edmonton. The $12.5 million average annual value (a.k.a AAV, or his number against the salary cap), is a little lower than the reported $13.25 number that floated around last week. Bob “Bobby Margarita” McKenzie checked in from his vacation to say that McDavid himself may have asked to have the contract lowered after word leaked out and people kinda freaked out over it.
Hey, maybe that’s good news for Snow in that he can maybe get Tavares in at between $10.5 million (the AAV of Carey Price’s new extension with the Canadiens) and $12.5 million (McDavid). But it’s never felt like this entire ordeal was about money.
If it was, this document wouldn’t have gotten any where 16,600 words.
July 9, 2017: In a mailbag article covering a bunch of subjects, Arthur Staple gets to some projections about what a - hypothetical - Tavares trade would look like and how the Islanders would survive it. He also gets to some larger, more existential questions about where we all are at the current moment in history.
Yes, Snow has to show Tavares the Isles want to win. But other than perhaps Tavares’ first couple seasons, have they been trying to lose? If so, they’ve been pretty lousy at it. If Tavares’ decision rests solely on what he sees the GM doing, then he could make up his mind any time he wants. Even with Duchene, this team has to prove itself on the ice; looking at the roster and the prospects on paper doesn’t really matter much now.
And the holdup, I suppose, is Tavares looking at everything he wants to look at. Once he signs this deal, that’s it for quite a while, so no faulting him for wanting to check every corner for information. It’s not just an arena announcement or a trade announcement or contract announcements by other players. It’s all of it and this is a fairly monumental decision — for Tavares, for the Islanders and for all of you.
We’re all just gonna have to ride this wave out.
July 13, 2017: Two articles from Sportsnet this week perfectly illustrate the wild ebb and flow of this Tavares Question, especially as the hockey world enters its silly season/dog days of summer.
Sean “Down Goes Brown” McIndoe lists Tavares as a possible candidate to spend his entire career with one team, something the Islanders captain has publicly stated he would like to do. However...
John Tavares, Islanders: 50%. Hoo boy. He still hasn’t signed that extension, and talks between the two sides have gone quiet (or maybe just private). A trade or UFA exit still seems unlikely here. But remember, we’re setting the odds for Tavares playing anywhere else at any point over the rest of his career, not just within the next season or two. Given that, those 50/50 odds might even be generous to Islanders fans, but they’ve suffered enough over the years.
Then in his actual final 30 Thoughts column for the season, Elliotte Friedman says he still thinks Tavares wants to stay with the Islanders. Although...
11. I’ve said a million times that I believe John Tavares’s first choice is to stay with the Islanders. But, if he does decide to leave, why do I have visions of him taking less money to play in Tampa Bay?
Until Tavares signs, the seeds of doubt will remain planted.
At least our own Michael Leboff, who is also the co-founder of Francesa Con and who came to the attention of ESPN for its Mike and the Mad Dog 30-for-30 documentary, used his time on the World Wide Leader to advance the cause.
Watch that ESPN Mike and the Mad Dog 30-for-30 video I just RT'd to see my good friend @TheBigLeebowski doing the Lord's work. #Isles pic.twitter.com/55o8LJdNZ2— Dan Saraceni (@cultureoflosing) July 13, 2017
Late addition: Larry “Brooksie” Brooks also wonders if Tampa’s recent new contracts for Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson aren’t paving the way for a Tavares move to the Lightning. So this is a thing now, I guess.
Am I the only one envisioning both of them being part of the package the Lightning would offer the Islanders in exchange for John Tavares at some point this season if No. 91 remains unsigned?
I know the Islanders say (and likely believe) they are committed to riding out the entire season, if necessary, in order to get the captain under contract just the way the Lightning did through 2015-16 when Steven Stamkos was on the cusp of unrestricted free agency. And of course, the Tampa Bay organization’s patience was rewarded when their No. 91 agreed to an eight-year contract extension two days before he could have hit the open market.
But remember this. The Lightning had gone to the Cup finals in 2015 and to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference finals in 2016. They were (and again appear to be) upper-echelon contenders. That is kind of where the comparison stops, doesn’t it?
I don’t agree with Brooks often, but he’s 100% correct. The Islanders aren’t the Lightning, for whom a missed playoffs is seen as more of a one-off fluke than a natural state of being.
July 20, 2017. Not even charity events and adult fantasy camps are safe from the scourge of Tavares contract questions.
On Monday, good dude Matt Martin was on hand at the NHL Store in Manhattan to present a service dog to an Army veteran on behalf of the American Humane organization. Having the former Islander back in the tri-state area opened up the chance for him to be asked about his friend’s future. Martin was diplomatic and tried not to put words in Tavares’ mouth (even if some cheeky headline writers tried to spin things a certain way)
“I think Johnny is a pretty loyal guy,” Martin said at the Midtown NHL store, where he was on hand as part of the Matt Martin Foundation, presenting a service dog to a veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. “It’s a tough decision. Obviously, this next contract is probably going to be where he essentially plays for the rest of his career and it’s something he’s got to think over and consider. I don’t think that [just because] he didn’t sign [a contract extension] on July 1 is any indication that he’s not signing with the Islanders.”
The headline is different now, but whoever wrote the original version included in this tweet certainly didn’t do Albanese any favors in the always high-intensity 24-hour pressure cooker of #IslesTwitter.
Of course, Martin would love to play with his friend on the same team again, but what he really wants is for Tavares to make the right call for him.
I think it's a process that he's got to think over and do what's best for him and his family. As a friend of mine, would it be great to have him? Absolutely. But I want him to do whatever will make him happy and wherever he feels where he can win and be successful is what you hope for. At the end of the day that's all that matters to me."
Meanwhile, back on Long Island at the Islanders’ first ever Fantasy Camp, Doug Weight was asked about Tavares by NHL Network host (and fantasy camper himself) E.J. Hradek.
Here’s the video:
Weight was his usual self, deflecting with humor (“He is?” he said about Tavares being unsigned for next season. “I’ve got to get going!”), but he also spoke about the many considerations presented to his captain at this time and used his own experience as an impending free agent to give us a clue into what Tavares might be thinking about right now.
“We’ve known Johnny for so long. He knows us,” underscored Weight. “You come up to these opportunities as a player maybe once in your career. I was traded before – I was a free agent at 35, but before that I was traded before those times for assets and I never got to go to free agency.
“Johnny wants to win championships and he wants to be in the Hall of Fame. That’s what he wants. He wants to be the best. He challenges himself. I know he has great faith in us, but it’s his decision. It’s his time. We trust that. We feel good about our position with John. We’re in no way going to put pressure on him. He knows what he means to us and what we’ll do for him. He’s our captain, our leader, our best player.
“But respect to him and make his decision and he’ll come by that the right way. He’s got a great family, a great support staff, a great agent in Pat, and they’re going to figure that out.”
And just under the wire today, Brett Cyrgalis says it’s not panic time yet and that the delay is simply Tavares Being Tavares (it’s like Manny Being Manny only way more boring. Unless you’re an Islanders fan).
Just as Tavares has stated many times, this was never going to be a quick decision. Those closest to the Islanders captain reiterated his diligent nature, and his commendable ability never to make rash decisions. It is also clear Tavares is being kept in the loop for all things that have gone on, from the pending proposal for a new arena at Belmont Park — if New York State ever gets around to releasing the Request for Proposals (RFA) — as well as all the signings and trades being executed by Snow.
July 21, 2017. Everyone take a deep breath.
Two things: 1) There is no #Isles news right now. 2) The chances of the #Isles trading John Tavares before the season are roughly 0.0001%.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) July 21, 2017
July 24, 2017. The Islanders announced a signing today! Uh, it was for Adam Pelech, who got a four year contract... yeah.
As for Tavares, Brandon Schlager at Sporting News Canada writes about the situation as it stands now. Nothing new.
What does McDavid's monster contract mean for a player of Tavares' ilk who hits the open market in his prime? The Islanders' offer has been rumored to exceed $10 million per year, but Tavares could conceivably approach $12 million in a bidding war. Is he worth the money in the salary cap era? If so, who's doing the bidding?
Schalger then runs down a list of 2018 unrestricted free agents, some of whom are very good (Kyle Turris, James van Riemsdyk), but none are Tavares. How so? For one thing, I don’t think any of them will have 18,000-word articles written about their contract statuses.
July 27, 2017. Man, I don’t know what alternate universe Down Goes Brown lives in, but over there, the Tavares Contract Situation is considered an NHL storyline that’s mostly been dropped for the offseason.
The first domino tipped over near the draft, when the Jordan Eberle trade was seen as at least partly motivated by making Tavares happy. But since then, the situation has gone quiet, at least as far as the public knows. Presumably, the two sides are still talking, but it no longer seems like a sure thing that this all gets resolved over the summer.
There’s risk involved for both sides if this all drags on into training camp and beyond, but it’s starting to seem like that’s a strong possibility.
For Islanders fans, this story has been anything but dropped and it will remain that way until Tavares’ signature is on a contract extension. Absolutely everything the team does and doesn’t do from here on out will be filtered through a John Tavares-shaped lens, coloring the outcome either positively or negatively as judged by the reader.
Maybe the storyline has been dropped among other fans, who are simply waiting in the weeds to see if their team could get their hands on Tavares. And it’s most definitely been dropped to an extent for fans of the Maple Leafs, who suddenly don’t seem to need a Tavares as much any more.
After cataloging the ups and downs of this situation for over a year now, I’d love to wake up one day, find out Tavares is staying and be able to drop this story like a bad habit. Until then, it will always be front and center.
July 29, 2017. Wait. The Canadiens didn’t re-sign defenseman Andrei Markov, opening up over $8 million in cap space. Some have speculated that they might have their eyes on acquiring Tavares. Elliotte Friedman said he thinks Habs GM Marc Bergevin is thinking about a “big” move. So...
Via Brendan Kelly in the Montreal Gazette.
The odd thing is the team has about $8 million to spend before hitting the salary cap and it doesn’t look like they have anyone to spend it on. And all this talk about the Canadiens using that cap space to pick up John Tavares is hogwash — you need to have some great players to give to the Islanders if you expect to get Tavares and the Habs have nothing to give (unless they part with Carey Price, which ain’t happening).
July 31, 2017. Dimitri Filipovic asked for questions for his next episode of the Hockey PDOcast and LHH friend Kevin Schultz stepped up to the plate with the requisite Should The Islanders Trade John Tavares inquiry. So Dimitri and guest Craig Custance of The Athletic jumped right in with both feet, making it the first topic of conversation on Monday’s show.
They discussed it for about 12 minutes, so won’t transcribe what they said because it was a lot. They both agreed that, if there was a point when Garth Snow thought that Tavares wouldn’t re-sign, trading the captain should be explored (although now isn’t the time for that). They also both feel that the Islanders’ situation isn’t exactly like the Lightning’s when Steven Stamkos was an impending UFA because Stamkos truly never wanted to leave Tampa for the reasons noted above. So stop mentioning Stamkos to them on Twitter, thanks.
Depressingly, they also wonder what could change for the Islanders between today and, say, December that would sway Tavares to finally sign. It’s a good, if frightening, question to ask and I guess the answer is, we’ll have to see what happens and find out. But I get where they’re coming from. Unless Tavares and Jordan Eberle become Bossy-Trottier 2.0 and a million things break just right for them, the Islanders aren’t exactly looking like world beaters this season. Tavares, no doubt, knows this already, which is why this hold up is so terrifying and frustrating for fans who are projecting all of their usual preseason anxieties onto the situation.
Later in the episode, someone asks what player Dimitri and Craig would “liberate” from the “terrible” team they’re stuck with. Custance’s answer - unsurprisingly - was John Tavares (although “terrible” is kind of a stretch, by their own admission).
August 1, 2017. Hey. You know who we haven’t heard from in a while? John Tavares. Here were are, living everyday in a confusing, frustrating, airless limbo while waiting for a contract extension announcement, meanwhile the guy we want the Islanders to sign hasn’t said anything since April, when the team cleared out their lockers.
Well, today, at the Power Edge Pro Camp with a bunch of other hockey luminaries, Tavares did a spot on TSN Radio and, among questions about his training and skills and stuff, was asked about his contract situation. As if reading our collective minds (and while not divulging details), the captain reiterated his desire to remain an Islander.
Here’s a link to the video. This was picked up at a few places, but we’ll go with our friend Brian Compton at NHL.com with the transcription:
"We've had great open communication. It's obviously a great place to play. I've really enjoyed my time being an Islander and I want that to continue."
Tavares, as expected, preferred to keep any negotiation updates “internal.” But his vocal backing of the team is much more meaningful than assuming, projecting and debating every excruciating detail of his life and career and how it affects his chances of re-signing.
August 2, 2017. As expected, Tavares’s latest reaffirmation of his desire to stay with the Islanders prompted some analysis, some even from within the Islanders locker room.
First was Ryan Lambert of Puck Daddy that included Tavares in his weekly Puck Daddy Countdown.
It’s a tough situation. Tavares might just want to go, and he’s obviously not gonna say that to TSN on Aug. 1. But the Islanders need to be exploring all options right now, and the second they have a firm idea one way or the other, they gotta smash either the button marked “sign” or “trade” because goofing around in the in-between might work out for a good organization like Tampa, but the Islanders don’t even have a rink, let alone a clear path to being reasonably competitive.
That’s not a rosy outlook, but Lambert’s point is essentially what was said on the PDOCast on Monday. If it looks like he won’t sign, the Islanders should trade him because living in the in-between isn’t a good situation for anyone. Of course, trading him means basically going into the tank for the next five seasons so... yeah. That’s about it.
Meanwhile at The Hockey News, Jared Clinton says Tavares might have a lot of reasons to stay with the Islanders like he says he wants to. Between the loyalty, the coach, the prospects and the cap space, the Islanders could have the goods to keep the captain happy.
And while Tavares could surely create a big-money bidding war the likes of which hasn’t been seen in the cap era, from everything he has said and everything the Islanders have seemingly done, maybe we shouldn’t expect it.
That’s... surprisingly complimentary of you, Jared. Thanks.
Finally, we have a voice coming from inside the house. The team and defenseman Calvin de Haan avoided arbitration by signing a one-year, $3.3 million deal the morning before their scheduled hearing. After the signing, de Haan went on TSN radio to talk about his new contract, the team’s outlook heading into the season and, yes, the Tavares contract thing. And de Haan, a dry humor type who is the Islanders’ Twitter MVP and who’s known Tavares since their time in Oshawa together, didn’t mince words about what he thinks will happen by next summer.
"I think John's a loyal guy," said de Haan, who avoided arbitration by agreeing to terms on a one-year contract on Wednesday. Financial terms were not released, but TSN reported the contract is worth $3.3 million.
"He's not a guy to beat around the bush with those kinds of things. He's straightforward about things like that and there's no reason why he should lie about things like that. At the end of the day it's going to be his decision but I don't see him leaving, personally. It's good he's mentioned it a few times over the course of the summer.
"You know as much as I do what goes on behind closed doors. We just have to focus on putting that little black thing in the net, defending and stuff like that."
So there you go. Trust Tavares’s words and put the puck in the net. Sounds like a good plan.
August 5, 2017. Reader Alex suggested I put the most recent updates at the top and, frankly, I should have done that about 19,000 words ago. So here you go. Thanks, Alex.
Brooksie’s back, baby, with some good news and some bad news. The good news is that it’s high time people took Tavares at his word that that he wants to stay with the Islanders, despite all of the reasons everyone and their grandmother has for him ditching them.
The bad news is, in the world of big money contracts, where a player would like to stay is just one part of the equation. Because it always comes back to the Rangers with Brooks, he used the case of Ryan Callahan as a teaching tool.
So, a few words to the wise, and to Islanders aficionados, as well: Believe in John Tavares’ sincerity when he says, as he did again a few days ago in an interview with TSN, that he wants to remain an Islander, but take nothing for granted until a contract extension is signed.
Because Callahan meant it, too, when he repeatedly said he wanted to stay in New York.
Callahan’s stumbling block was getting a no move clause. Tavares’s (we all assume) is the franchise’s longterm future. In each case, the player wanted to stay with his original team. Callahan was traded when it was clear the Rangers weren’t going to give him what he wanted.
Brooks also lays out the always popular case against New York’s taxes, in case anyone was missing that element throughout all of this.
Maybe someday soon, the stars will align to Tavares’ liking and he’ll sign an extension. But as Brooksie points out, we could be talking about an entire galaxy here.
Maybe this all works out for the Islanders. Maybe they get their rink. Maybe they get through the season in Brooklyn without anyone suffering an injury owing to poor ice conditions. Maybe the very young guys on the cusp make it. Maybe the young guys who have underachieved the past couple of seasons will thrive with Doug Weight behind the bench from beginning to end. Maybe the Jaro Halak-Thomas Greiss tandem in nets is more efficient than it was a year ago, and maybe general manager Garth Snow will be emboldened to yield a couple of assets for shorter-term help when the opportunity arises.
Maybe then, Tavares will put his signature where his heart is. The truth is, he has had five weeks to do it and has not.
And let us agree that Tavares saying that wants to stay is no longer particularly newsworthy. After all, Callahan wanted to stay, too.
August 9, 2017: Man, I totally missed this back on the 2nd. Of course, after reading and compiling this thing for over a year, I’m not sure what anything means anymore.
Anyway, here’s NHL.com’s Dan Rosen answering a letter from a reader who think Tavares makes sense for the Rangers. Rosen isn’t buyin’ it (or any place else).
If it doesn't happen, I do not think for one second he'll wind up with the Rangers. The Canadiens make the most sense, especially with Tomas Plekanec ($6 million) coming off their salary cap after this season. Tavares is going to cost $10 million plus, but at least losing Plekanec's charge would offset some of that.
Regardless, I don't think it'll matter. I think the Islanders will re-sign him.
Whoever you are, @HeyimbanuPeter, you must me new here.
Anyway, Rosen got a similar question in his August 9th mailbag, except the team looking to sign Tavares would be the Detroit Red Wings. Rosen holds to his prediction and says Detroit would need to juggle some salaries to make room for Tavares.
The Red Wings might be able to create a bit more cap space through trades, LTIR placements and buyouts.
So, Detroit is a realistic candidate, but I think Tavares will sign an eight-year contract with the Islanders, and the rest of the NHL will be disappointed.
August 10, 2017.
Point (via Down Goes Brown):
We tend to talk way too much about distractions in the sports world, but this year’s Islanders feel like a team where it could actually apply. If Tavares heads into the season without a deal and suddenly every minor thing that happens starts turning into a referendum on the team’s long-term future, things could get ugly.
Counterpoint (via Brian Compton):
Also, this made a little noise when it was posted at The Sporting News on August 4th because it combined two words guaranteed to drive web traffic: “Tavares” and “Leafs.” But for all the moves Toronto would need to make to acquire Tavares, writer Michael Auguello still says it’s far from a lock that any of them happen.
But we aren’t done those today. Man, what’s in the water this week? It’s still August, right?
Anyway, add Anders Lee to the list of Islanders folks who believe Tavares will re-sign with the club.
Via Compton at NHL.com:
"Johnny's taking his time," left wing Anders Lee told NHL.com on Wednesday. "There are few times in our careers where we have the power in the situation. I'm not worried about Johnny [returning] in the slightest. He means everything he says, and he's a great teammate and a great player and leader. He's the captain of our team and I don't expect that to change."
Lee’s 6’-3”, 228 lbs and former football player, too. I also heard he literally eats his mouth guards. I’ll believe anything he says.
Meanwhile, The Hockey News has decided to skip right over the 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons and make up projected line-ups for NHL teams in 2020. Yup, guess it’s still August.
Writer Ian Denomme also thinks Tavares will be with the Islanders three years from now, but he couldn’t resist a subtle dig at the team, too. Emphasis mine.
Tavares speculation has been rampant in the media for nearly a year, but for the purposed of this exercise – we’re predicting he will re-sign. Remaining with the Islanders gives Tavares the most possible term (eight years) and probably the most money given their cap situation (more on that below). Combine that with hockey players’ sometimes-misplaced sense of loyalty, and you can put JT down for an eight-year deal worth well over $80 million.
It’s ironic. When I think about why I occasionally still read The Hockey News, the words, “misplaced sense of loyalty” come to mind, too.
August 12, 2017. Our own Steve Smith, writing for The Unbalanced, dares Islanders fans to fathom the unfathomable because it is a possibility (and, in a lot of ways, also a practicality).
We can all list the reasons the team might lose Tavares, either by trade or free agency, off the tops of our heads. It’s reasons to stay that are difficult to nail down.
Why He Might Stay
Hope. Blind faith. Powerful loyalty. Because honestly, all the actual evidence points against it. There is no really convincing argument that Tavares should stay an Islander. They haven’t proven they’re going to help him win a Stanley Cup, and they can’t even guarantee that the location he signs his contract in will be the location where his contract ends.
Like Steve says about himself, I suspect none of us will be comfortable until that extension is signed.
August 16, 2017. The always straightforward Tavares gives Arthur Staple some straight straight talk to set the record straight on his contract situation heading into this season.
“For me, there’s really no rush,” Tavares told Newsday in a phone interview Wednesday morning. “I’m trying to determine things, let the process run its course, keep the lines of communication open, keep it all internal and it’s been good so far … In terms of signing a new contract, there’s a lot that goes into it. To really dive into all the details, get into all the conversations I’ve had with Garth [Snow], the team and Doug [Weight], I don’t think it’s productive to the situation and the negotiating. I prefer to keep it all internal, that’s the best way to keep it all open, honest and healthy.”
Uh, yeah, okay, that’s great dude. But, like, what are we waiting for exactly?
Staple gets right to point also, getting Tavares on record saying that he, like us, is awaiting the results how things shake out with a potential new arena at Belmont Park.
Tavares said he is waiting to see what comes of the Request For Proposals issued July 30 by New York state regarding the Belmont Park development. The Islanders, along with the owners of the Mets and a Madison Square Garden-backed sports arena consortium Oak View Group, are expected to pitch building an arena on the 43-acre lot.
Of course, the RFP is just the first of many potentially fraught steps in getting a new arena actually built. So it’s probably more about knowing where the future lays, rather than actually being there.
Tavares also said that any distraction talk is probably media-driven, because that’s their job. He’s just focused on being ready for the season, despite the trades of two long-time friends, Ryan Strome and Travis Hamonic.
To be honest, I got a little depressed reading that. Any time I see, “I’m just looking at all of my options,” I get very nervous. But, like always, Tavares knows how to finish a play:
While Tavares waits to see what happens on many fronts with the Islanders, he didn’t hesitate when asked if he feels the Islanders are legitimate Cup contenders now.
“Yeah, absolutely,” he said. “We missed the playoffs by a point after a poor start. We were about as resilient as we could’ve been — there’s not much reward for that, but I think just knowing the group we have, even after losing some good players and strong personalities that were there a long time, that we have a lot of talent and a lot of character.
“We’re right there. We’ve just got to find a way to get over the hump, figure out what it takes on a daily basis. For sure, I believe we’re a contender.”
In a perfect world, this straight dope straight from the horse’s mouth would be the final word on the subject and we can all just get on with the season. But this isn’t a perfect world, and it won’t be. Not by a long shot.
All alliteration aside, Tavares was slightly more explicit in a similar interview with the New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis:
“I think if I’m signing just to stop the conversation, I don’t think it’s really the right way of going about things. All I can do is control what I can control, be the best player I can be, work as hard as I can and try to be the best captain I can be.”
Although he says he felt that Garth Snow and Doug Weight should worry about other items on their agendas besides himself, Tavares again said he’s waiting for the arena business to shake out and taking his time.
“Obviously with my situation and making a decision for possibly another eight years, you want to have an idea of things viewed in the long term and the short term,” Tavares said. “I think you want to know everything, not just about the arena situation, but I think everything.”
I can understand wanting to take his time and decide and I can appreciate the team keeping him up-to-date on all the things he wants to know. But none of that will make waiting any easier.
One last tidbit, this time from Allan Kreda in the New York Times.
But Tavares said he hoped his contract situation could be settled before the Islanders open their season on Oct. 6 at Columbus.
“I can’t say that’s what will happen, though,” Tavares said by telephone from Toronto, where he trains during the off-season. “You can’t predict how things will go. Sometimes the process takes a little bit longer than maybe people expect. You just kind of allow it to happen.”
Combined with yet another reassurance of his love for and commitment to the Islanders and his praise for the passion of owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin, the Times piece is probably the most positive-sounding of the three, but your mileage my vary.
August 17, 2017. Canada decided to double-down on the hot takes today, with both Sportsnet and TSN going all-in on Tavares.
First at Sportsnet, in an article titled, “John Tavares isn’t stressed; but Islanders fans should be,” Luke Fox took yesterday’s quotes and a few earlier Tavares missives (no doubt pilfered from this very encyclopedia) and spun them in a way that would sew doubt in the minds of Islanders fans (as if it wasn’t there already).
The star player — if you take him at his forever plainspoken word — may be able to compartmentalize. Tavares says he’ll focus on playing, on trying to haul his bubble team through the sport’s most talent-blessed division and into the post-season and, ultimately, sip from Phil Kessel’s portable hot dog stand.
But us media types and us fan types, well, we’ll be wondering about the business side of things, which, contrary to athlete cliché, doesn’t just take care of itself.
I generally enjoy Fox’s slightly off-beat work, but this comes off as cruel fear-mongering. By attempting to gaslight Islanders fans with Tavares’ own words, basically saying, “Don’t believe him. Believe me; He’s leaving,” Fox is playing to his base of Canadian hockey fans that love kicking the little Long Island team when they’re down. Honestly, it makes me mad. You’re better than this, dude.
But it’s a damn sight better than whatever was going on at TSN, where Craig Button apparently went off his meds again. Put your solar eclipse glasses on and take a look at this:
Fortunately, the video is region locked for those trying to watch in the United States. Just imagine the dumbest possible rationale and I think you’ll be close enough.
Beyond the facts that A. Any premier player in his prime wouldn’t be looking for just a one-year deal; B. Arthur Staple already said in January that Tavares, as a staunch NHLPA backer, would most likely not sign a short deal that wouldn’t further his brothers’ cause; C. Even a guy who says the contract thing doesn’t bother him would probably not want to go through two full seasons as an impending UFA; and D. contradicts literally everything we know about John Tavares, this would be bonkers.
Even more than Fox’s article, Button is probably playing to his base, which is Toronto-based fans of Toronto’s hockey team who want one of Toronto’s best products to come home at any cost. And to hell with us, right?
yeah, it’s gonna be a great season...
Bonus Day After Update: Apparently, Americans aren’t the only ones sick of this pattern. The irritation extends to Edmonton shills, too.
After a year of "Stamkos to Leafs" hype, now it's "Tavares to Leafs" for another year? Yeesh. A new Ont-born guy each year til McDavid's up?— Mark Spector (@SportsnetSpec) August 18, 2017
August 18, 2017. After yesterday’s (scroll waaaaay down to the bottom) fear-mongering from the north, it’s weird to see another Canadian insider say he thinks the Tavares situation is trending in the Islanders’ direction.
I haven’t been very complimentary to TSN’s Darren Dreger in the past, but because I am a weak-minded person who devotes far too much energy to his favorite hockey team and the retaining of its best player, I like what he said yesterday on Buffalo radio. Transcription via Chris Nichols at FanRag Sports.
I think that that’s a comfort between John Tavares and the new ownership of the New York Islanders. Not to mention that I think he has a great relationship with Garth Snow, who did a lot of positive things to better the Islanders as a team during the offseason and around the NHL draft with the moves that he made.”
Later, Dreger relayed some insight from his conversations with Tavares’ inner circle:
“So there doesn’t appear to be a sense of urgency. And according to John Tavares’ agent, Pat Brisson, they’re okay with that. It’s a little surprising to me, because again, no different than other high-level contract negotiations, some players don’t like going into the final year of the deal because of the distraction that comes along with it.
“But this one is a little bit different because again, you’re talking about a cornerstone piece. What are the New York Islanders without John Tavares – well, they’re not much. And John Tavares is a very loyal hockey player. He likes the New York Islanders. He likes the environment that’s being developed there. So I suggest that this is more of a timing thing than it is a fear of John Tavares just waiting it out until the end of the year.
“That can change, but that’s the sense I’m getting.”
And so the pendulum swings in yet another direction. Watching it is exhausting.
August 20, 2017. One last (I hope) thing on Craig Button’s wet dream of Tavares signing a one-year deal with the Leafs next season. Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy isn’t buying it, either.
When an NHL insider puts forth an outlandish notion, it’s usually born from one of two places: Their own attention-seeking imagination, or from a seed planted by someone else, perhaps during an informal chat or a over beer in Toronto.
Craig Button is an NHL insider for TSN, and recently proffered a whopper: What if New York Islanders star John Tavares hit unrestricted free agency, opted not to sign a long-term deal with anyone and instead went home to Ontario on a one-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs in an all-in attempt to win a Stanley Cup before the Leafs salary cap blows up?
OK, maybe outlandish didn’t do it justice. This was bat [expletive] crazy.
He said it.
Update: August 21, 2017. Josh Ho-Sang has always got interesting things to say about many subjects and John Tavares is just one of them. Ho-Sang was a popular man at BioSteel camp, doing a ton of interviews on the first day. Of course, people wanted to ask his thoughts about the Islanders captain and Ho-Sang didn’t hold back.
From an interview with Luke Fox at Sportsnet:
John Tavares says he’s in “no rush” to sign a contract. As a teammate, how does that make you feel?I respect what John is doing. He has every right to take his time. He still has a year on his contract. He’s not going anywhere. He’s not disrespecting anyone. He’s taking the length of his contract, and I don’t see a problem with that. I know for fans it’s unsettling because there’s no security. If Johnny’s gonna stay, he’ll stay and be great. If Johnny wants to leave, that’s up to him, and I’m sure he has very good reasons as to why. As an outsider, as a fan, you want to feel attached to the decision, but at the end of the day, if you’re attached to John Tavares the person, whatever he does is for him. You have to be happy for him. I’m really happy to hopefully play a full season with Johnny and learn as much as I can because I don’t know what’s going to happen with him.
And two more. He hates the Leafs as much as we do. Ho-Sang also told McCarthy, “"It's because (the media wants) him to go to Toronto, that's why.”
Josh Ho-sang does not feel John Tavares' contract situation will be distraction for him this season. Feels whole narrative is media-driven pic.twitter.com/T8aY3DCPYO— Dave McCarthy (@DaveAMcCarthy) August 21, 2017
But, for what it’s worth, like his teammates Anders Lee and Calvin de Haan, he sees things trending in the Islanders’ direction.
#Isles’ Josh Ho-Sang spoke about the John Tavares contract situation at the BioSteel #Camp today: pic.twitter.com/HruUaYBG6b— Dhiren Mahiban (@dcmahiban) August 21, 2017
Seriously, Ho-Sang is The Most Interesting Man in Hockey and all of his interviews from today are worth your time, Tavares or not.
I’m a few days late on this, but Arthur Staple was on TSN 1050 with host Mike Hogan on the 18th. For whatever reason, the player won’t let me pause, which means I can’t transcribe the nine-minute interview because I can’t type that fast.
But Staple said that Tavares let the Islanders know early that he wants assurances on a few things, especially the team’s future home rink. Lots of Barclays talk followed about the issues between team and arena, the differences between Uniondale and Brooklyn and the likelihood of a new building at Belmont Park.
Staple also talked about Tavares the person and how he acts when not on the ice. He says in talking with he and his family, it seems Tavares is “wary” of the media attention playing in a bigger market would bring and he likes the suburban lifestyle Long Island affords him.
Hey, maybe they can give him a side job with the tourism board.
In an impromptu Twitter Q&A today, Staple put the odds of Tavares re-signing at 65 percent. Maybe that’s just Sardonic Staple selling low or it’s a vision of how much this thing hinges upon getting that new arena.
August 23, 2017. Here’s Ryan Lambert’s take on the Tavares-Toronto thing I can’t believe we’re still talking about.
There’s no such thing as having too many elite players, but this particular issue is getting silly. I’m sure the Toronto media goobers will move the goalposts on this once again in the near future.
That’s one thing we can be sure of.
August 29, 2017: Hey, remember back in June when Mike Bossy said on Montreal sports radio that the Islanders should consider trading John Tavares to the Canadiens for Alex Galchenyuk, Mikhail Sergachev, a first round pick and a few buckets of Quebecois KFC? Sure you do. Don’t lie.
Well, he’s at it again, this time saying that not only were the Islanders indeed offered Galchenyuk in a trade by the Habs, but that Tavares, alarmingly, turned down an extension offer worth upwards of $84 million. Bossy also said that losing Tavares for nothing at the end of the season would set the Islanders back 10 years. No shit, Boss. But you’re supposed to be on our side, man.
Update to the Update: There was more to the Bossy segment, as noted by Eyes on Isles. Bossy’s comments weren’t quite what they were represented as, with one one of his on-air colleagues saying he had heard about not one but two extensions getting rejected. Bossy said that wasn’t the case and also defended Barclays Center a little to his co-hosts.
So, what’s really going on here? Apparently, not much, according to Arthur Staple, who not only shuts down that extension rumor but brings it all back to Belmont.
According to sources around #Isles and Tavares, he did not turn down $84 million. Sides have barely talked numbers.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) August 29, 2017
Everyone I've talked to maintains this is not about $. All about wanting to see how things progress with arena/team before committing.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) August 29, 2017
If/when Tavares sees what he wants to see from org, guessing the negotiations would be quick. JT has all the leverage there.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) August 29, 2017
Simple, right? Is it ever with this team?
The deadline for proposals for the Belmont property is September 28th. The time for the state to make a decision is... who the hell knows. The estimated time of constructing a new arena (assuming the Islanders’ plan even gets selected) is years and years from now. Meanwhile, the team and Barclays Center need to make a decision this coming January regarding a continuation or ending of their lease agreement, which brings its own expansive field of potential landmines.
I joked on Twitter that this was kind of a Field of Dreams scenario, but it’s more than that. Beyond building a... building, Tavares probably also wants to see what kind of players he’s going to be working with in the future, too.
I get that Tavares and Doug Weight and probably a few players are already sick of the distraction question, and being asked whether the captain’s contract status will affect the team’s play this season. While it might not be a distraction to him (calling Tavares “focused” is like calling water wet), it - and everything tiny detail surrounding it real or imagined - sure as hell is a distraction to literally everyone else.
Anybody - from Joe Hockey Fan to John Q. Sportswriter to Mike Goddamn Bossy can come up with a million reasons why Tavares could and should leave the Islanders. Everyday until he signs, there will be more. Having that decision tied to a new arena - something the Islanders have been trying to secure for half of my lifetime - doesn’t make things any easier than if it was just about what was on the ice or how much dough was involved.
August 30, 2017. Just a couple of follow-ups to yesterday’s non-story about a contract extension that was never offered to Tavares, and which he never turned down.
Arthur Staple was on TSN 1260 in Edmonton, catching the hosts up on where the Tavares thing is. The best part is right in the beginning, when Staple lays out the situation and one of the hosts completely ignores him and asks how likely the Islanders are to trade Tavares. Ah, the joys of covering the Islanders...
And here are some NHL Network guys - including NHL.com’s Dan Rosen and former player Alex Tanguay - talking Tavares.
"It hasn't really been about the money yet." - @drosennhl, @TonyLuftman & Alex Tanguay talk about the latest @91Tavares report. @NYIslanders pic.twitter.com/UBKe9lLRfG— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) August 30, 2017
Meanwhile at Yahoo, Ryan Lambert writes about Tavares for the second time in two weeks and third time this month (so it must be important) and basically says the Islanders will have the cap space to sign him, but it’s all that other stuff that might get in the way.
Everything about the Islanders is a mess right now. No rink, no particularly good depth. No defense. Maybe no goaltending (certainly, no guarantee of stable goaltending). So why would a player want to stick around for that?
Man, tell me something I don’t know.
As of August 5, 2017, the most recent updates will appear at the top of the article.
To be continued...
Appendix A: SB Nation Blogs Attempting to Acquire John Tavares
- St. Louis Game Time, March 24, 2017: Future Moves for the St. Louis Blues
- SB Nation NHL, June 13, 2017: Here are some way-too-early predictions for the 2017-18 NHL season
- The Cannon, June 14, 2017: Let’s make a deal: Should Columbus trade for John Tavares?
- Raw Charge, June 19, 2017: What would it take for Tampa Bay Lightning to afford John Tavares?
- Winging It In Motown, August 5, 2017: Should the Red Wings Have their Eyes on John Tavares?
Appendix B: Non-SB Nation Blogs on Tavares
- Canadiens: A Winning Habit
- Canucks: The Canuck Way
- Maple Leafs: Editor in Leaf; Editor in Leaf and Tip of the Tower on Button’s August nonsense.
- Sharks: The Hockey Writers