For the video challenged:
THE ENCYCLOPEDIA STRIKES BACK
It is a dark time for New York Islanders fans. Although he remains the team’s loyal captain,
26-27-year-old center John Tavares is without a contract extension that would keep him on the team beyond 2018.
After amassing over 25,000 words of analysis and opinions about his impending free agency from the dreaded sports media fleet during the previous season, a group of freedom fighters at Lighthouse Hockey have established a new John Tavares Contract Encyclopedia for this year.
The evil sportswriter lords of Toronto, obsessed with the Maple Leafs acquiring young Tavares and returning him to his hometown team, have dispatched thousands of surly, snobbish mittenstringers into the far reaches of the NHL...
April 8, 2018 With one game left in their schedules, Saturday night’s Islanders-Red Wings game was mostly academic, save for a few percentage points for the draft lottery, coming on April 28th.
Before the game, Tavares was asked if he felt this could be his final game in an Islanders uniform. His answer was given in the same flat monotone which he has used to answer the same question, every time it was asked this season.
In case you fell asleep during that video, the relevant sentence was: “I’ve never said I’m expecting to leave or looking to leave. I’ve always wanted it to work out.”
So, how did the actual final game of the season that could be Tavares’s final game as an Islander actually work out? Good, unless you were rooting for a better draft position.
Down 3-1 in the third period, Anders Lee scored his 40th goal of the season, Ryan Pulock tied the game with 30 seconds left and the game-winner was scored on a beautiful deke move by one John Tavares. This is vintage, and poetic on multiple levels.
After the game, Tavares talked mostly about the win and the milestones a few of his teammates reached. He said there weren’t any extra emotions for him, other than that it’s good to win.
Exit interviews for the Islanders started on Sunday, but a few players including Tavares and Mathew Barzal will take place on Monday. It’s doubtful that we get a resolution to the free agency issue on that day, or even this week, and there more than 80 days between the end of the Islanders season and July 1st, the day Tavares can officially become a free agent.
Which means, the John Tavares Free Agency Encyclopedia Volume 3 will immediately follow this one, and be dedicated to the final act of this exhausting, endless play. Hang on. The ride’s almost over.
April 6, 2018 The Islanders won their final home game of the season, 2-1 over the Rangers, and while the goals might not have been plentiful, the Tavares takes sure as hell were.
Let’s start in the morning before the game, when an NHL Network crew - comprised of former Islanders Kevin Weekes and Mike Rupp - both said they expect Tavares to re-sign with the Islanders but sound as exhausted as the rest of us are about the subject.
On the 31 Thoughts podcast, Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek discussed again the possibility of Tavares signing with other clubs as well as the issue of taxes. Could Vegas be a factor because Nevada has no sales tax? Who knows. It’s just another reason to bring up the Montreal Canadiens again.
But as always, it boils down to what Tavares wants. Transcription via Chris Nichols at FanRag Sports:
“You get into a dicey area because it’s always tough. Do you ask your player, ‘Okay, are you happy with the organization? If you’re not happy with the organization, what changes would you like to make?’ That’s a tough spot for a player to be.
“Mats Sundin was one guy who absolutely did not believe he should be involved in it. And sometimes I think it was to the frustration of his agents and some of his teammates who wish he would flex a bit more muscle, but he didn’t believe that. It’s a tough one though.
Meanwhile, ol’ Brooksie goes right for the gut, saying that as unlikely as it would be for Tavares to sign with the Rangers, what if he signed with the Rangers. It’s the kind of impressive piece of high-minded meta fluff only Brooksie could weave.
What if — after nine years of pledging his heart, soul and loyalty to the Islanders only to be repaid with unvarnished organizational incompetence — John Tavares decides that, yes, indeed, he wants to see life from the other side?
What if No. 91 takes the route never traveled and signs as a free agent on July 1 with the Rangers?
The New York Times had two Islanders articles on Thursday; one a Style Section piece on the fashion sense of young stud Mathew Barzal and Tavares possibly playing his final games as an Islander. Give you one guess which one was picked up by other outlets across Canada.
“I said early in the season I would try to give everything I had to this group as long as it goes,” said Tavares, the first overall pick by the Islanders in 2009, “I just try to handle myself the way I believe is right and be the best captain I can be. I worry about my own game and what I can control.”
The game might not be Tavares’s final game as an Islander, but was also the final home game for Stan Fischler, as The Hockey Maven retires after 60-something years in the business. He was rightfully feted all evening with a video tribute and some time in the booth with Butch and Brendan. Although he couldn’t get an answer out of Tavares, he did get something equally as rare from him - a smile.
The end of the game was one of mixed emotions, even for the normally stoic Tavares.
Tavares asked if it felt like just another game.— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) April 6, 2018
More Tavares: "I'm not trying to look at it as it's the end, because obviously that hasn't been determined. I've always wanted it to work out and stay, so that's still what I hope transpires." #Isles— Brian Compton (@BComptonNHL) April 6, 2018
The fans chanted his name during the game and throughout the third period, which obviously caught his ear.
JT: "Obviously I heard some of the chants at the end of the game, which is really nice of our fans. It's been amazing being here for as long as I have been. I've been treated great. Some of the most proud and passionate fans in our league. Just really appreciate that." #Isles— Brian Compton (@BComptonNHL) April 6, 2018
And from Andrew Gross’s recap in Newsday:
“I’ve always been treated, since Day 1, very well,” said Tavares, the Islanders’ captain since 2013. “They’ve always stuck by me and have been really proud to have me here. It’s made it a lot easier for me to just kind of grow into the kind of player and person I am. I’m just appreciative of that.
Following the game, the reality of the Islanders situation is coming into more focus, as Doug Weight put in very vivid and, uh, strange detail in this Brett Cyrgalis story:
“People say it’s like a marriage, and that’s B.S. I know my wife controls pretty much everything I do and we don’t control anything with John,” coach Doug Weight said in his own unique analogy. “But no, I don’t have nervousness. Anxiety is probably a closer word. But you have to do what you have to do as an organization no matter what. With or without him, we’re going to move forward and try to win. We’d like him here.”
Elliotte Friedman was on Sportsnet 590 radio on Friday, and sensed those feelings of anxiety from the Islanders fans from the night before. And what might be a bad feeling for them is like cat nip to a salacious Canadian audience that’s already wound up about the possibility of Tavares signing elsewhere.
Again via Chris Nichols:
“As for Tavares – if you listen to their crowd last night, that’s a crowd that’s worried he’s leaving,” said the Insider. “And I think if you looked at it this morning, the way that this season finished up and the way that Tavares looked, I think you’d have to be leaning in that direction.
“I do think, though, that the New York Islanders are going to sit down with him and his representation – maybe even more than once – and the Islanders are going to say, ‘What’s it going to take?’ What do we have to do to make sure that he stays.’ And I still think that’s the last advantage that they have is they’re going to have this last meeting and this conversation and they could ask him what he wants to stay.
“But I think that if you watched the Islanders fans last night and the way the last month and a bit have played out – you’re worried if you’re New York, that’s for sure.”
The article also covers a second radio hit Friedman did in Calgary the same day. And while he again mentioned the vibe from the game and how things don’t look very positive for Islanders fans, he did in a way stick up for team management and their mostly hands-off approach on negotiating with the captain this season.
“I think they have tried. I think that decision was mainly Tavares (saying) ‘I don’t want to talk about it very much.’
“I do believe the ownership there has met with them last season, this season about, ‘We want to keep you. What’s it going to take.’ I don’t believe the Islanders have not negotiated or not tried to negotiate. I think they’ve tried to be respectful of the process that Tavares wants.
“To me, the issue is not the Islanders haven’t tried to sign him. I don’t think that’s fair.”
But the definitive reveal of the negotiating process - and the most detailed and brutal summation of this entire season - comes from Arthur Staple at The Athletic. Staple spared no one, including Tavares himself, in his dissection of the 12 biggest mistakes the team made over the last 12 months. In the section on the owners, Staple laid out how things have gone behind the scenes between the player, his agent, the owners and the GM.
From the time owner Scott Malkin invited Pat Brisson, Tavares’ agent, to Barclays Center for the first of at least half a dozen meetings midway through the 2016-17 season, the negotiation — if you can call it that, since there have been no formal offers exchanged — has run through the highest level of the Islanders structure. GM Garth Snow (more on him to come) has a good relationship with both Tavares and Brisson, but Malkin and co-owner Jon Ledecky have been the point people with Tavares’ agent for over a year now.
According to numerous sources around the league, it has been Malkin who kept Brisson and, by extension, Tavares, apprised of the arena situation as it unfolded towards the Dec. 20 announcement. Malkin brought Brisson along to meet with Gary Bettman last offseason and Malkin has continued to make trips to Brisson’s office in Los Angeles.
So it’s clear that ownership has given Tavares and his camp all the latitude from the time last offseason that Tavares told the Isles he wasn’t interested in talking about an extension prior to this season — the Islanders acquiesced to Tavares’ desire to not be traded and not talk contract at all throughout the year, even as the team tumbled down the standings.
The whole thing is worth reading multiple times to understand exactly why the franchise imploded this year beyond simply the Tavares issue. I want to copy and paste the entire article, but I don’t think The Athletic’s lawyers would like that. So for purposes of tying up this entry in an encyclopedia about his free agency, I’ll also include the emotional stinger to the Tavares section of the article.
Tavares could have gone to the coach, the GM or ownership at any time and said, “I’ve made up my mind.” He could have asked to talk contract and resolve this thing or told them all he’s leaving and it’s best to make a move to get something for him to allow the franchise he says has been so great to him to start building towards a future without No. 91.
Tavares made some big demands and they were all granted. If he walks away now and points the finger at poor ownership, a bad GM and lousy coaching, what does that say about him?
The Islanders’ final game of the season is tomorrow in Detroit. But this train will no doubt roll on afterwards.
April 4, 2018 When Erik Karlsson grabbed the puck at the end of the Senators’ final home game this season, it forced Ottawa fans - and really everybody - to confront the idea that this great player may shortly be moving on from the only team he’s ever played for.
When John Tavares plays on Thursday night against the Rangers in the Islanders’ final home game of this playoff-free season, we… wait. No. I’m not gonna say it.
And based on his answers from a media scrum at today’s practice, Tavares didn’t seem to want to talk about it either. The same quotes made the rounds to three stories, and each one has a headline that seems to want take readers in a different direction.
From Andrew Gross at Newsday comes the positively-tinged, “Tavares: No assurances but hopes ‘it all works out’ with Isles”
Tavares, entering what could be his final home game with the franchise that selected him first overall in 2009, is not offering any assurances.
“The fan base has been tremendous since I got here,” Tavares said on Wednesday as the Islanders prepared to face the Rangers on Thursday night at Barclays Center. “People say certain things. I hope it all works out, too, and I’m back as well. I just want to focus one game at a time and finishing the season strong and in the days and weeks ahead there will be plenty of time to think about it and start looking at the future and move forward.”
From Brian Compton at NHL.com comes the slightly more questioning, “Tavares remains unsure if he’ll stay with Islanders”
”I haven’t even thought about that, but now that you bring it up … I don’t know,” Tavares said Wednesday. “I’m just going to try to go about my business the same way.
”I don’t want to signal it as the end. I’m not approaching it that way, so I’m just trying to play one game at a time and focus on finishing strong and worry about my situation in the days and weeks that come after the season and take some time to decompress from the year, and then start to look forward.”
And from Arthur Staple at The Athletic comes the non-committal, “John Tavares provides few hints at his future before what could be his last Islanders home game”
He said the contract situation did not make this season tougher. “I would just say being where we are makes it tough,” he said. “Missing the playoffs makes it tough. It sucks. We’re going to be watching again. It’s another missed opportunity.”
One thing all of them agree on is that Tavares’s best move this season (besides his 36 goals and 83 points) was deleting the Twitter app from his phone so he didn’t have to read a large portion of the nonsense that’s been written about him this season.
I asked Tavares how he’s handled social media this year. “I deleted Twitter from my phone.” #Isles— Brian Compton (@BComptonNHL) April 4, 2018
Gross spoke with Compton on today’s edition of the Isleseat podcast and the two laughed about how the most difficult part of this from a reporter’s point of view is the fact that Tavares’s face and voice betray so little about what he’s thinking. Gross calls it his, “usual even-keel monotone” in his story and the fact that Tavares has sustained that robotic Cyberdyne Systems T-800 model Terminator countenance all this time is both extremely impressive and incredibly frustrating. Despite that, Compton says he’s still 90-percent sure Tavares will remain with the Islanders.
There was a fourth interpretation of the quotes, courtesy of TSN’s Darren Dreger, who reported it on the pre-game show on NBCSN. Dreger immediately went for the negative, highlighting that no negotiations have taken place between agent Pat Brisson and GM Garth Snow and relaying what he’s “heard” around the league. But he also reiterated that the player’s first choice is probably still to remain with the Islanders.
Transcription via Chris Nichols at FanRag Sports:
“So there are many around the National Hockey League who believe that it is unlikely that John Tavares returns and extends and stays long term as captain of the New York Islanders. That is the default though for John Tavares, depending on what Garth Snow sells his way or Islanders ownership sells his way.
“But here’s what’s going to happen for the foreseeable future: John Tavares is going to leave the club at the end of the regular season. He is going to have to digest the mammoth disappointment of another heartbreaking year for the Islanders. At some point in the near future, likely toward the end of this month, then he’ll re-engage with Pat Brisson and they’ll map out a plan as early as May.”
In his story, Staple says it’s likely that Tavares sits down with management on Sunday or Monday after the season ends and at least has some kind of conversation with them before heading home for the offseason.
As much as I don’t want to think of Thursday night’s game against the Rangers as Tavares’s final home game as an Islander (and how the crowd will react to it), I definitely don’t want to think about him going home for the summer without having signed an extension. I’ve avoided freakouts for the most part throughout the season, but I think that reality might finally do it. I’ll have to wait until Monday to find out.
But if I’m gonna freak out, I guess the best place to do it will be Twitter, where at least Tavares won’t see it.
April 3, 2018 Okay, you know what? Enough ominous doom and gloom from the Tavares front. How about something uplifting? Something straight from the man himself?
In speaking with Newsday’s Andrew Gross about Mathew Barzal, Tavares said something that a lot of people could take as a sign he’s going to stay with the Islanders.
Probably means nothing but John Tavares was asked about Mathew Barzal today and JT finished his comment with this, "I'm excited to finish the season with him and looking forward to the future."#IslesTwitter can now spend the day dissecting that.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) April 2, 2018
Here’s the full story, which includes this similar sentiment:
“I think we’re just trying to build shift to shift, period to period. That’s all we can really do,” Tavares said. “Hopefully, we’ll try to get some wins and get some good feelings after the last three games and end on a good note. There’s plenty of time in the offseason and in the coming days and weeks to assess how things went as a team and personally and try to find ways to be better.”
Here’s about some video of the scrum, courtesy of local news outlet News12 Long Island. Judge for yourself by reading the very lines on Tavares’s face and staring directing into his eyes.
Am I projecting, hoping for a ray of sunshine in his dark, shit show of a season? You bet. But at least there are tons and tons of Canadian bloggers and veteran writers and often extremely loud talking heads out there to bring me right back down to Earth.
Not today, fellas. Come back tomorrow.
April 1, 2018 With the Islanders playing the Maple Leafs on Friday (a game that finished 5-4 in favor of Toronto), I expected a lot more Tavares free agency drooling coming from up north. But I guess the talking Canadian heads decided to wait a week for his regular season to finally end before going whole hog on Tavares’s potential last days as Islanders property.
So let’s go back before the game, in which two of the most trusted NHL insiders gave their opinions about where they think this thing is going. “Opinions” is the operative word there, because neither Elliotte Friedman nor Bob McKenzie offered any concrete news about the situation, only what they’re feeling about it. Both guys are often concerned about being “radioed” by having their conversations with radio hosts turned into actual “reports” by wrongly worded repeaters.
So, remember, these aren’t reports. It’s just people talking. Still, what they say is worth nothing here and they paint a pretty bleak picture of where things stand as the Islanders end another playoff-free regular season.
First there was Friedman, who told Sportsnet 590 radio what he hears around the hockey world and what he feels the talk between the captain and the team might sound like.
Via Chris Nichols at FanRag Sports:
“I think Tavares was disappointed they didn’t make moves at the deadline. But I think the organization will tell him that they felt handcuffed, that they didn’t know what he was going to do and they had to keep their assets. Look, if John Tavares leaves they’re going to need those two first-rounders and they’re both lottery picks. I think it’s going to be a difficult conversation.
“The rumor around hockey is that he’s not happy with the way everything was handled. But until John Tavares says it for himself, we’re all guessing. But there is certainly a feeling that it’s less optimistic for them than before. However, I’ve learned over the years until the athlete speaks for himself or the agent comes right out and says it, you’re still guessing.
“And I’m sure the Islanders are going to go to him and say, ‘John, what do we have to do to make this work.’ “
McKenzie feels the situation is trending towards Tavares exploring free agency, but again, is careful to say he - and really nobody - knows for sure.
Also via Nichols:
“I guess the first thing we need to say is we don’t know. Not really. I do not know. If John Tavares knows, he hasn’t told me. I don’t think he’s told anybody else. So we’re all kind of just whistling in the dark here in terms of what we think. So let’s make it clear that this is opinion-based as opposed to fact-based.
“My sense of it is that it’s more likely than not that he’s going to go market. That’s my sense. And I think a lot of people feel that way. Now, if you’re a New York Islanders fan you’re predisposed to not want to think like that and you get angry if anybody like myself suggests that that’s a possibility. Of course it’s a possibility, and whether it happens or not remains to be seen.”
Okay, that’s a lot to take in, and not much of it good for Islanders fans. Especially that whole, “not happy” thing.
As of today, we’re a week away from the Islanders season coming to an end and ownership being looked at to make many big decisions. That includes to futures of not only John Tavares but GM Garth Snow and coach Doug Weight, both of whom have known Tavares since he was an 18-year-old rookie.
No one has any idea what will be said in those exit interviews. And after the kind of season the Islanders will be finishing, anything is possible.
No one also could have predicted that the last two seasons of Tavares’s contract would go this poorly, leaving us to question every single thing about the franchise. Tavares talk would have happened even if the Islanders had been a winner this season. But by having their most pathetic, ineffective and embarrassing season since his rookie year (they’re 3-12-4 since February 16th and 17-30-8 since December 1st), they have, in the eyes of most, all but printed their captain a personalized goodbye letter.
So feelings and rumors and thinking like this will be common until the situation is resolved. It’s a crying shame this is the world we have to live in now, and it’s all the fault of the people in charge of the team. I know how I and other fans feel about it. I know how media around the NHL feels about it. How John Tavares feels about it will be the deciding factor.
I don’t speak French (and Google Translate doesn’t really, either), but I’m assuming that’s what this list of potential Tavares destinations from TVA says.
Hey, at least the Islanders are still on it. For now.
But let’s not end on a depressing note. He’s a more fun Tavares anecdote:
With Tavares I don’t know if he’s all about the money or what. But years ago I was at Reebok/CCM doing a show, Tavares & Victor Hedman were to appear. Hedman rolls up in a baller SUV with an entourage of 8 people including 2 agents. Tavares, rolls in via diamond taxi, alone #Habs— Shaun Starr (@Starr690) March 31, 2018
March 29, 2018 Man, four updates this week? C’mon already. But with the Leafs in Brooklyn tomorrow, I might as well get this lead-up stuff out of the way first.
Let’s start with a tasty bit of Canadian sportstalk radio porn, courtesy of TSN and play-by-play man Gord Miller, who believes there’s a “40/60” chance Tavares leaves the Islanders and that Montreal is the “leading contender” for his services (the bit starts at the 7:20 mark).
I won’t transcribe it because I might end up driving my fingers clean through the keys on my laptop and directly into the motherboard and I’ll be out another $800 bucks. Suffice it to say, ol’ Gord is playing to the crowd and telling them what they want to hear. Doesn’t sound like he’s talked to Tavares at all, but that doesn’t matter. The Islanders are a loser, so why wouldn’t Tavares want to join the Canadiens, a team with a worse record than the Islanders this season and which hasn’t won a Stanley Cup in 25 years? I mean, it’s like totally a no-brainer.
A day earlier on TSN radio, Miller’s TSN colleague Pierre Lebrun floated Vegas as a Tavares possibility and also outlined a plan, first suggested by Arpon Basu of The Athletic, for the Canadians (or any team) to recruit Tavares using their incumbent stars.
Transcription via Chris Nichols at FanRag Sports:
“I think it was Arpon who mentioned this last night, and I think he’s bang-on: Montreal’s best chance on John Tavares is to have Carey Price and Shea Weber involved, which is what teams do. Those guys have Olympic memories together, World Cup of Hockey. Shea Weber remains that guy that every player in the league looks up to, as we know from NHL people. That’s I think your best play.
“That started in Tampa at All-Star. I mean, players were going up to Tavares and you could just see it – everyone is in his ear. Every player in the league has been trying to lure him.”
Ryan Lambert mentioned Tavares in a second article at Puck Daddy this week, so you know this must be a big deal.
I’m just gonna throw this out there for Tavares: You know who has at least $14 million to spend next season, no one of any real consequence to re-sign (maybe you say Ryan Hartman and that’s fine with me!), and a penchant for getting great players on sweetheart contracts? Nashville! Just something to think about.
On the 31 Thoughts podcast, Jeff Marek says he feels Tavares is leaving and he and Elliotte Friedman mention San Jose and St. Louis as potential destinations (at about the 1:22:20 mark).
[whoops. forgot this] At NHL.com, Dan Rosen answers a question from an impartial reader about the chances of Tavares joining one particular team:
John Tavares to the New York Rangers a possibility? -- @ChaddyRangers99
Sure. Why not? Fans of the New York Islanders might choke on their breakfast reading this, and I do think it’s a long shot, but Tavares to the Rangers makes sense on a lot of levels for the team and player. It’s something the Rangers must explore if the Islanders can’t get Tavares signed before June 25, which is when the five-day window for potential unrestricted free agents to talk to other teams begins. This is, frankly, a no-brainer for the Rangers. But let’s also remember that it’s a no-brainer for a lot of teams.
Finally, Andrew Gross of Newsday brought up a question I honestly hadn’t thought of. An annual tradition among players whose teams have missed the NHL playoffs is to play in the IIHF World Championships. But without a contract for next season, would Tavares suit up for team Canada and risk injury?
“I don’t have a contract for next year so I’ve just got to determine what is the right thing to do,” Tavares said on Thursday. “I’ve always enjoyed playing for my country. It’s disappointing not being in the playoffs, but sometimes this gives you a chance, if circumstances are right, to continue your season and finish on a good note.”
That sounds like a yes, but, as he has been with his contract status all season, Tavares remains respectfully non-committal. I’d ask if Team Canada honchos are sweating his decision like Islanders fans are, but I doubt it.
March 27, 2018 The Islanders had back-to-back games to start the week against Florida and Ottawa, respectively. One guy who has done play-by-play for both teams is Islanders legend Denis Potvin, who opined about John Tavares’s free agency on the Panthers broadcast. Nothing crazy, but it seems like if you’re a color commentator for a team playing against the Islanders, it’s just something you have to do.
The Islanders were shutout 3-0 by the Panthers that night to finally, mercifully, be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Afterwards, Tavares wasn’t in the mood to talk about next season.
Tavares wasn't talking future tonight. "I'm just focused on playing." #Isles— Brian Compton (@BComptonNHL) March 27, 2018
Two years ago #Isles beat #FlaPanthers in first round for first playoff series win since '93. Now, 2nd year out of playoffs.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) March 27, 2018
Said Tavares: "You didn’t think about two years ago being in this position. You never think about being here. You don’t want to be here. It is what it is."
But it was immediately off to Canada and a game against the Senators, who have been basically eliminated from the playoffs since Christmas. While the game might not be Hockey Night in Canada-worthy, Pierre Lebrun must have felt his Spidey Sense tingling and threw in a little Tavares tidbit on TSN’s Insider Trading.
In a segment adding Washington defenseman John Carlson to the potential sign-and-trade list, Lebrun again mentioned the “remote” possibility of Tavares being the subject of one, and added that his “camp is examining that.”
You can watch it here. The Tavares bit is at the 3:20 mark.
The Islanders actually ended up beating Ottawa 4-3, after a wild turn of events late in the third period. Ironically, that probably gave the Senators a few extra lottery balls for the end of the season.
Meanwhile next up is the Maple Leafs, who roll into Brooklyn on Friday night. I’m sure it’ll be a quiet one...
March 26, 2018 In his weekly What We Learned weekend wrap-up, Puck Daddy’s Ryan Lambert goes all in on Garth Snow (and Edmonton GM Peter Chiarelli) for failing to build a winning team around an elite center.
Snow’s love of throwing long-term deals at guys who either help nominally or not at all is well-established, but he’s had almost nine months to get the same done for Tavares and can’t make it happen. Maybe this becomes a Stamkos thing, where he comes back at the last minute anyway, but if he doesn’t, this is suddenly a team with very little to look forward to.
Much like the Oilers with McDavid, any success the Islanders have had this season has run through Tavares and Eberle. The latter is eligible to re-sign on July 1. Think he stays if Taraves goes?
Snow has so horribly, comically, unconscionably whiffed on not just this season but the previous one too, that it’s clear he shouldn’t be the guy to re-sign Tavares. Arthur Staple has noted that owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky are the leads in the negotiations, but the call to give Tavares the entire season before seeing an offer may end up backfiring on the them all. Fans have clearly had it with Snow, and the owners don’t need billboards to tell them.
As much as we follow the ups-and-downs of Tavares’s status, it’ll be equally as interesting to see if Snow is with the Islanders next season. Give you one guess which one I’m hoping stays.
March 25, 2018 The Islanders lost to the Blackhawks 3-1 on Saturday night, but before the game, Sam from Faxes from Uncle Dale sized up the Tavares derby that could be taking over half the NHL very shortly.
The Canadiens desperately need a #1 center and a turnaround. But they’re getting old in a hurry, and Tavares might not want to put up with all the bullshit of playing in Montreal. Really, who does? While every Leafs fan is under the impression that every Ontario born NHL-er secretly wants to come home and play for the Leafs and have Steve Simmons insult their entire family, the Leafs won’t have the space and have their own players to re-sign.
Sam throws the Panthers and Avalanche into the mix as well, just for fun. At least someone is having some...
March 21, 2018 Don Meehan is an agent with Newport Sports, and his client list contains some of the biggest names in the NHL. In speaking with Sportsnet 590 on the 19th, he gave some insight into what Steven Stamkos went through with his free agency, which in turn could tell us what John Tavares might be feeling right now.
Transcript via Chris Nichols at FanRag Sports:
“He’s loyal and yet really wanted – without any disrespect to anybody – really consider what he wanted to do. No disrespect to Tampa in any respect, but then if you have to make a decision as to where your future is going to be… he’s the kind of individual, Steven, who wouldn’t make a snap decision, who would really want to sit down and say, ‘Where do we stand vis-a-vis ownership. Where do we stand really in terms of the status of the team. Are we competitive. Where do we stand in terms of every other aspect of the industry.’ And really took his time to do that.
How does that affect Tavares? Who knows. But phrases like “loyalty” and “character” get thrown around a lot by Meehan, and those also pop up when talking about Tavares, who we know is close with Stamkos. Hey, we’re all just grasping at straws here.
Even Tavares’ teammate Josh Bailey doesn’t know what’s going to happen with the captain, according to the kicker on this Q&A with The Athletic’s Arthur Staple:
Athletic: John is a good friend of yours and now your future is set and his is uncertain. How has that been in your conversations with him?
JB: It doesn’t affect what we talk about, anything like that. Selfishly, we all want him to stay. As a friend, you just want what’s best for him and we’ll all support him no matter what the situation is.
Okay, fine. Let’s ask the Man himself. True to form, the Man is fully focused on the season, even as it spiraled out of control and straight onto the golf course. Tavares talked to Andrew Gross of Newsday and said what he’s been saying for months.
To me, it’s separate, the season and my contract situation. I don’t really see them going hand in hand or having an effect on one another.
“I just try to approach everything the same. It’s mostly been trying to fight to get into the playoffs and get out of the rut we’ve been in for a little while. You just invest so much into each and every day and every game. That’s the priority, not so much with what’s going on with my future.”
By the time this is over, an address like this is either going to be etched on a statue of Tavares outside of the impending Belmont arena or tattooed on the psyches of Islanders fans for decades and a trigger for some form of acute free agency phobia.
So, what would keep Tavares on Long Island? According to Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post, the answer is found somewhere between loyalty and guilt.
But John Tavares cannot let guilt influence him one bit while making the biggest decision of his professional life in the next few months. Just because the Islanders have bent over backwards to try to accommodate their captain and keep him from reaching unrestricted free agency on July 1, he shouldn’t feel bad about that.
We joke about Tavares being a Terminator, but after nine seasons with the same team, most as captain and all as face of the franchise, some conflicting feelings should be expected. At least, I hope there are some because with two straight seasons out of the playoffs, those feelings might be the Islanders best hope for re-signing him.
You know who doesn’t have any conflicting feelings about this? Opposing fans who either want Tavares to fix their own teams ills or just want him the hell out of the Metro Division.
This is from Penguins fan Ryan Wilson at Hockey Buzz ahead of Tuesday night’s game between the two old rivals.
Tonight’s game will be against the New York Islanders and for John Tavares’ sake I sure hope it is the last time the Penguins play the Islanders with him on it. Tavares’ situation is not like the Steven Stamkos’ one from a couple of summers ago. Steven Stamkos was deliberating between staying with one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference and another team of his personal choosing. John Tavares would be deciding to stay in a dumpster fire situation or entertaining another team of his own personal choosing. The only possible thing keeping Tavares on the Island would be loyalty. There is nothing about the arena situation (still three years away), GM, and current roster that screams, yes stay here. Islander fans won’t want to hear that. I wouldn’t either, but facts are facts. It speaks to how poorly run the franchise has been. They have missed the playoffs six out of his nine seasons (including 2017-18) with only one playoff series win over the Florida Panthers. Get out, John. You owe it to yourself to make money and play in an organization that is competent. You’re one of the best in the league. You are 27 years old. You only have so many years of your best hockey left.
The Islanders won the game 4-1. Tavares had two assists, extinguishing the dumpster fire for at least one night.
But as we see from a vacation tanned Bob McKenzie on NBCSN, the Islanders concerns going into the offseason are many:
March 19, 2018 Via Down Goes Brown’s weekend wrap. Oof.
With their playoff hunt all but over, the Islanders are going to experiment with John Tavares on the wing. That makes sense. It’s probably good for him to get some practice at moving.
March 18, 2018 Okay, so I may have lost my composure while considering Pierre Lebrun’s John Tavares sign-and-trade speculation. I believe I may have also thrown around the words “garbage” and talked about how I had lost a lot of respect for Lebrun. This is why you shouldn’t blog while angry.
But regardless of my thoughts about it, it feels like the missives might be the start of the true open season on Tavares. With the Islanders all but eliminated from the playoffs (and Doug Weight trying out Tavares on Mathew Barzal’s wing just for the hell of it), a resolution is coming. And that’s terrifying.
Let’s start from the beginning, right after the first sign-and-trade outline. Lebrun’s TSN colleague Darren Dreger said on Buffalo radio the next day that he had spoken to a club with another pending UFA and the subject of Garth Snow allowing Tavares the space he wanted during the season and not negotiating on a new contract. According to Dreger, this other GM would have done things differently than Snow did.
Transcription via Chris Nichols at FanRag Sports:
“And the general manager of the club said, ‘Yeah, guess what – that’s not your call. I’m going to hit you with 15 proposals and contract extension options and if you choose to dismiss them, well, that’s your call. That’s up to you. You don’t have to negotiate. But I’m going to make sure I damn well do my job as a general manager to give you every reason to entice out of your mode of silence.’
“And I think if you want to be critical of Snow and the Islanders, maybe they’ve been too patient and appreciative of John Tavares and giving him his space. Maybe what they should have done along the way is hit Pat Brisson with a contract extension offer every week since the beginning of the season or back to July 1 when they can talk extension to try and get him to sign long term.
Another Lebrun colleague, writer, former player and Islanders legacy Justin Bourne was asked in a mailbag article what he thinks Tavares will do.
He’s loyal, he’s connected to Long Island, he likes the amount of media scrutiny (pretty minimal), he just … doesn’t love attention. And he wants to win, and the Isles do have some pieces, so maybe they can sell him on the team? I’ve honestly got no idea what he’s going to do.
Then it was on to Chicago, where a new team takes up the Make Room for Tavares plan, courtesy of longtime Blackhawks blogger Sam Fels at Faxes from Uncle Dale (formerly known as The Committed Indian)
“But Sam,” you’re saying out there, “there’s no way the Hawks could do that!” Well, actually there is.
Right now, the Hawks will have about $12 million in cap space if the cap goes up to $80 million as has been rumored. And that’s if they don’t find a way to shuffle off Hossa’s hit to some hinterland hockey landfill. Or they could do what they didn’t do last summer and just use it in the summer and white-knuckle it through the season. Again, if you’re Stan Bowman, you need results next season or you’re toast. It’s time for risk. So either moving Hossa’s contract or just using his LTIR gives the Hawks damn near $18 million to play with. Fuck and yes. It could be more if you can flog Artem Anisimov to some destination without taking too much money back.
Sam’s a good dude and a very good writer and you can tell by the piece that he already knows exactly what Blackhawks fans are thinking about the idea of bringing Tavares in. I don’t see it happening and don’t agree that money is an issue for Tavares, but I appreciate the creativity.
While you were celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with the adult beverage of your choice, a few talking heads were dining out on Tavares takes. Brooksie doesn’t buy Tavares leaving one rebuilding club for another, even a rich one close to home.
I’m sorry, but I cannot conceive of a reason John Tavares would sign as a free agent with the Rangers. Even if No. 91 can be inscrutable, everyone agrees loyalty is one of the Islanders captain’s fundamental bedrocks.
In Toronto, gaping, festering, recurring pustule Steve Simmons breathlessly writes that teams will be losing bodily fluids over Tavares as if it’s a grand revelation only he has finally enlightened the rest of the world with.
The worse the Islanders play, the more drooling there seems to be over the possibility of John Tavares hitting the free-agent market in July.
And teams are already beginning to put together considered pitches should Tavares become the rare star free agent on the move in the National Hockey League.
Steve, the only drooling happening here is by the people that still think you have something to contribute to the hockey world at large. Have another hot dog.
And on Hockey Night in Canada, Nick Kypreos closed the Headlines segment by saying things with Tavares may be “snowballing” out of the Islanders control, thanks in part to a quiet trade deadline.
I’m not saying Kypreos is wrong (since I have no idea) but he definitely seems to revel in being Sportsnet’s resident drama king, and he’s probably going to attack this Tavares thing and make it his own like Hugh Jackman did with Wolverine.
That brings us to today and The Athletic’s Arthur Staple, who spoke with Tavares, Weight and other sources about where things stand today. Tavares, as usual, doesn’t say much and Weight, also as usual, opines vociferously with just the slightest provocation and admits he’s pretty in-tune with what’s going on outside of the organization.
As to whether it’s been a distraction for Tavares, Weight didn’t see that.
“You’ve really got to ask John that,” Weight told The Athletic. “You knew at the beginning – he says the right things, he handles it well, we say the right things – but you know at some point, whether it’s adversity for our team, whether it’s his play, whether it’s the media saying, ‘Oh my god, five teams want to give him $15 million!’ Whatever it was, there’s something that was going to create a stir, create some more commotion and possibly more in his head.
“He’s done as much as he could to keep it away. I don’t think it’s been a topic of discussion. It’s probably been a lot less than I thought it would be. I told you guys I didn’t think it would be, but honestly in my head I was like, ‘Oh boy.’ Maybe it’s because we are where we are, I’ve got my own things to worry about.
A few people we don’t hear from in the piece, however, are Snow and Islanders co-owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin. Staple reports that Malkin has had regular meetings with Tavares’ agent Pat Brisson for a while and as recently as a few weeks ago, and that ownership has been as committed to signing Tavares as they were to getting an agreement on a new arena, which they did back in December. Losing Tavares would reflect as poorly on owners looking to establish their team in a new (albeit old) place, as it would on Snow, who hasn’t been as big a part of this process as it may have seemed and who may have screwed his own team by having too much patience.
As for Tavares, he’s just out here being John Tavares.
“It’s out of my control,” Tavares said regarding Snow’s job status. “I’m here to play hockey, be the best player I can be for the Islanders. Those things are above my head. I just try to have the right attitude every day, not take this for granted, enjoy the group we have, the staff we have. Ever since I’ve been here I’ve been treated great, just tried to come out and give everything I can. We wish we’d have more success, but anything that happens, anything that has happened is out of my control.”
phew! That’s a lot to take in. And it’s enough to drive already anxious Islanders fans to the brink of quitting altogether. At least, that’s where I’m at. Even the most optimistic of us - like actor/director/celebrity Islanders fan Kevin Connolly - start to fret about the future.
Hopefully he stays right where he is.... But.... I’m starting to wonder https://t.co/pG19cpZPas— Kevin Connolly (@mrkevinconnolly) March 16, 2018
More to come, I’m sure.
March 15, 2018 I have a couple of podcast mentions to add, but I’ll get to them this weekend. In the meantime, we have a report from TSN’s Insider Trading, which hadn’t had Tavares news in some time.
And they still don’t. Unfortunately, Canadian audiences must have demanded some kind of update, forcing Pierre Lebrun to come to air with one of the biggest piles of speculative horse turds we’ve seen in months.
At least, I want to think Lebrun was somehow coerced into saying what he said. But that would be a reasonable explanation for what amounts to an HF Boards fever dream broadcast out to a few million viewers.
But that’s just my opinion, which neither a Canadian sports network nor Islanders management cares about. So go ahead and watch for yourself.
Here it is:
If he does decide to leave the Islanders, and he hasn’t made that decision yet, a sign and trade - we haven’t had one in the cap era, this would be exciting - it’s a possibility. I’m not saying it’s gonna happen for sure but I can tell you this.
This is why it would make sense under certain conditions. One, it would be about John Tavares wanting the eighth year on that contract, which he can only get by signing with the New York Islanders and being flipped to another team. Kinda like what we had speculated on two years ago when Stamkos was deciding whether or not to re-sign with Tampa Bay. Newport ad Tampa Bay had looked at that with Stamkos had he left Tampa Bay.
Number two is, if you’re the team acquiring him, the eighth year would lower the AAV, lower the cap hit on what you’re paying John Tavares. And obviously, the most obvious appeal is you would get something back for a guy who’s exiting.
A lot of moving parts, it’s complicated, there’s a reason we haven’t had one, but it’s certainly a possibility.
Colleague Darren Dreger followed up by saying that Tavares and his agent Pat Brisson will meet with Islanders ownership before the draft to let them know where they stand, and determine whether or not the team will do what it takes to win a Stanley Cup in the near future.
Woo boy. Where do I even begin? This is a bit of Canadian sports talk masturbation binge by a veteran writer who knows exactly what he’s doing and should know better. A Tavares sign and trade is “certainly a possibility” in the sense that getting struck by lightning or winning the lottery or getting a Dick Tracy sequel are all “certainly a possibility.” It’s never happened in the NHL, a league in which the salary cap acts as a sword of Damocles hanging over every franchise. Why would a team trade for Tavares after he signs a contract, rather than try to sign him as a free agent? Because the Islanders want to? The amount of hoops that would have to be jumped through to get to this scenario are incalculable.
But now it’s out there, because Pierre Lebrun and TSN put it on TV. On his Bobcast, fellow Insider Trader Bob McKenzie often calls the month after the trade deadline, “Mail-It-In March” because all that’s left to do is watch the playoff races play out and gear up for the post-season. With little else to talk about, Lebrun and TSN went ahead and created a story they can now milk for a few days until something else of note happens.
Meanwhile, the Islanders lost 7-3 to the Capitals tonight, the latest indignity to be suffered by this lost franchise in the last two seasons. As embarrassing as TSN’s Insider Trading was tonight, the Islanders have been ten times as embarrassing in the run-up to their captain becoming a free agent.
It’s unfathomable that the situation has gotten to this point, but nobody does unfathomable as often as the New York Islanders.
Update to the Update: On March 16, Lebrun doubled down on the idea at The Athletic.
Why would any of the parties involved even look at this?
As one exec said to me Thursday, why would the acquiring team want to pay any asset when it’s trying to win the Cup and can simply sign Tavares for no acquisition cost on July 1?
The answer? Because if you’re a contending team where every salary cap dollar counts, the eighth year of a deal would help bring down the average salary number. So for example, if we’re talking $12 million a season for Tavares over seven years, that cap number will dip if you tack on a lower salary in Year 8.
It also includes a reminiscence of a Steven Stamkos sign-and-trade that didn’t happen.
Lebrun ends by saying, “all this might be completely moot if he decides to re-sign with the Islanders and never speak to other teams.” But it’s too late now. The can of worms has been opened and it won’t be closed until a deal is signed. It’s now a topic of conversation, which was the whole point of the exercise. So spare me the patronizing bet-hedging, Pierre.
March 13, 2018 Newsday’s new Islanders beatwriter is veteran Andrew Gross, who has covered the Rangers and the Devils for the Bergen Record. He officially joined the paper while the Islanders were on a long road trip, so he actually hasn’t covered a game at this point. But that’s no reason he can’t be asked for his take on THE BIG QUESTION.
His answer is very diplomatic and zen.
Here's the thing. I am hesitant to give a reply because opinions can be twisted into "facts" on Twitter.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) March 14, 2018
My honest response though is, I don't believe JT knows at this point. Therefore, I don't think anybody can know.
Sorry, that's the best I've got for now. https://t.co/psSxjbCK4d
Fair enough. But he had an interesting idea about other off-season Islanders moves.
We’ll have to wait and see who, if anybody, leaves the organization this summer. My podcast partner Mike Leboff and I have our own feelings about this and we can’t envision a scenario in which Garth Snow is fired before John Tavares is re-signed, but who knows.
One thing we know for sure: if you’re stuck on a commute for an hour and a half longer than you expect, this Encyclopedia could be used as lengthy time-passing material.
March 12, 2018 Hey, remember that headline about Tavares “not having fun” during a prolonged losing streak that deep thinkers across the internet extrapolated into him expressing his desire to not re-sign with the Islanders? Well, if you don’t, scroll down.
Having written the story (that clearly few people read beyond the headline), Neil Best also got Tavares to clarify the remarks, and say - once again, for everyone in the back - that that wasn’t what he meant. And, because he doesn’t waste half of life on Twitter like the rest of us idiots, he didn’t even realize that he needed to clarify himself.
Was Tavares having so little fun that he might look elsewhere for some this summer? Hmm.
He said after practice on Friday that he was not aware that anyone had taken his comment that way, and was surprised to hear anyone had.
“I’m sure when people look at the way our team’s going, they want to speculate,” he said. “They speculate on teams that have won eight in a row, too. I just control what I control. It’s just other people talking.”
Tavares again states his commitment to the organization and how he tries to come to the rink with a positive attitude like the leader he is. Can we move on now? No. Well, too bad, we’re moving on anyway.
While everyone was talking about his fun level, Tavares and the Islanders were having trouble on the ice, going eight games without a win. Jared Clinton of The Hockey News wondered how that would affect the chances of Tavares re-signing, in that reductive, knee-jerk way in which The Hockey News sees a lot of things.
Oh good. The “fun” thing again.
“And when the team, despite the play of Barzal and Bailey, has accumulated the fourth-fewest points since Dec. 1, hasn’t shown signs of life in any of the advanced statistical areas and has a prospect pool that’s fairly average, what indication is there that things are going to get a whole lot more fun in the near future?”
The Islanders eventually snapped that slump with a win in Calgary on Sunday night, thanks to 50 saves from goalie Christopher Gibson. Two thousand something miles away in Montreal (because it’s always Montreal these days), Tavares is seen as the magic pill that will fix the Canadiens organization once and for all.
Back during the slump, Darren Dreger was doing his best to convince the entire province of Quebec that this dream could be a reality.
“So where do they begin to fix it? I mean, this seems like an age-old story with the New York Islanders. But you’re right, it seemed like they were on the cusp of turning that corner a year ago and yet here they are again. And the uncertainty around John Tavares has to feel like it’s almost crippling for that organization.”
Dang, Dregs. Settle down.
One guy who never settles down in Montreal Gazette columnist Jack Todd, who once equated hockey analytics watchers to ISIS, says that Tavares might be the only man who can keep Habs owner Geoff Molson and his close friend and general manager Marc Bergevin from not being drawn and quartered at center ice at Bell Centre. That doesn’t mean he expects it to happen, though.
Bergevin’s Get Out of Jail Free card is John Tavares. If the superstar could be pried out of Long Island, it would be a game changer. But why would that happen? Tavares will get money wherever he goes. There are plenty of NHL destinations where he will get to keep more of that money with infinitely less pressure than he would face in Montreal.
The Islanders are eight points out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 13 games remaining. In other words, they’re cooked. And in wondering whether Tavares will re-sign or not, we haven’t really discussed whether or not it was a good idea for the Islanders in the long run, what with the amount of cap space he’s surely to command.
Matt Di Giacomo of Elite Sports NY doesn’t really have an answer, but doesn’t exactly want to see Tavares leave, either.
Tavares is so much more to the Islanders than a point-getter. He has been the face of the franchise since he was drafted, and it’s hard to think of the modern-day Islanders without Tavares at the forefront of that picture.
Okay, good talk everyone.
March 7, 2018 The title of this Neil Best report (“Tavares: ‘This isn’t a whole lot of fun right now’”) following the Islanders’ disappointing overtime loss in Vancouver sure sounds like an update on Tavares’s contract status. Turns out that the actual content of the article never broaches the subject, and is instead a lamentation of the team’s dire standings situation and life on a long road trip.
But that didn’t stop it from making the rounds like any other John Tavares-centered story, so we might as well make it the opening of our latest update.
Let’s back up a bit and return to Montreal, where the Islanders dropped one of two games last week. RDS reporter Renaud Levoie, he of the SHOUTING OF THE WAIVERS every day on Twitter, wrote a very nice article en francais about what a leader Tavares is.
Via Google Translate (so get your grains of salt ready)
Tavares is an outstanding soldier: he must be very frustrated with the situation but he does not let it appear. His worries or frustrations, he keeps them to himself and he never made negative remarks about the leaders of his team when he had conversations with teammates. Tavares behaves like a real pro.
And as for the enormous pressure he puts on his shoulders, obviously his teammates are trying to make sure he is not the only one responsible for the team’s failure. “We have a lot of fun with him,” says Anthony Beauvillier. When you’re at the arena, he puts a lot of pressure on his shoulders and is serious about everything he does. We sometimes think that he could have a little more fun but we all love him. “
Moving on, it was to the podcasts. Speaking with Hockey Night in New York, Arthur Staple (starting around 6:45) was asked if Tavares and Garth Snow are kind of a package deal to return (or not return) this summer. Although it’s hard to know at this point, it seems as if owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin decided to double down on keeping Snow and coach Doug Weight because they thought it would help their chances of re-signing their captain. Whether that remains the same now as it did last summer, we don’t know. It’s possible they could bring in a president to oversee Garth (remember that whole thing?) but there’s nothing on the table right now.
Then today we have the IsleSeat podcast, in which Brian Compton talked with The Hockey Maven Stan Fischler, who will be walking away from his TV work at the end of the season after 40-something years on the air. So, what does Stan, who has forgotten more about hockey in his 60-years in the business than most people will ever know, think will happen with Tavares this summer?
Quote The Maven (34:15):
That question defies a thousand ouija boads, ten thousand crystal balls. I tell you this, because of course the question comes up everyday, I have no idea.
It’s a lot funnier when Stan says it. Islanders games won’t be the same without him
Match 4, 2018 In a minor tour de force, Larry “Brooksie” Brooks takes issue with how the Islanders, including their captain, do business after a mostly stagnant trade deadline with his contract status up in the air.
This for a player, albeit wondrous without dispute, whose first eight years have featured one playoff series victory and three postseason appearances and whose record in that regard probably won’t need an update.
And, deep down, wouldn’t you have to wonder about Tavares if he does indeed opt to remain with this outfit? Seriously, does anyone think that Ernie Banks would have remained a Cub for life had Major League Baseball free agency existed in 1963?
Nobody straddles the line between crazy conspiracy theory and, “you know, he might be right” better than ol’ Brooksie.
March 3, 2018 A couple of final bits from the Islanders incredibly unsuccessful home-at-home series against the Canadiens that brought 48 straight hours of Tavares talk to Montreal sports radio.
Insider Pierre LeBrun jumped on to TSN690 with Mitch Melnick (man, does this guy’s show last day?), and was asked how he expected Tavares’ saga to end up. The money quote was, “Don’t confuse the fact that he hasn’t talked contract yet, and it looks like he’s gonna wait til the end of the year, to assume that he’s gone.” Lebrun says he learned from the Steven Stamkos negotiations and also that, generally, number one centers don’t go to unrestricted free agency. That said, he was clear that he expects San Jose and St. Louis to be players should Tavares go UFA. In other words, the usual. Melnick calling him Pierre McGuire instead of Lebrun were the highlights.
Over on 101.3 ESPN, Matthew Ross of TSN690, threw a big old bucket of water on any Tavares to the Habs talks, saying a source close to the Islanders captain told him the play of Mathew Barzal has opened Tavares eyes. He still goes into a Habs pipe dreaming, but says he puts the chances he stays at “90-95 percent.”
But if both of those reports are too positive for you, we have old pal Steve Simmons, who opened a window at his Toronto-based ivory tower to leak a stream of good old fashioned piss on the Islanders season-long parade of errors.
If John Tavares never wants to play on a contending team that matters, he’ll re-sign with the New York Islanders. But if he has any kind of Stanley Cup aspirations or ambitions, any inner belief that winning is the ultimate goal, then he has to leave the Islanders as a free agent at the end of the season.
Wow. Steve. That’s, like, so edgy man.
March 1, 2018 A week after the Islanders game in Toronto, they were back in the giant, gaping maw of the Great White North for a game against the Canadiens. This one went about as well as the last one, with the Islanders losing 3-1 to the Habs thanks to a couple of defensive breakdowns and vaguely soft goals.
We joke about the Leafs, but the reality is that Montreal has taken over the lead in terms of shameless drooling over John Tavares. What do I mean by “shameless drooling?” This:
And this (region locked) video about said tweet and how “Talk of Tavares continues to consume Montreal.”
Tavares was the main topic of conversation on the city’s sportstalk radio apparently, too. On TSN 590, play-by-play man Gord Miller told host Mitch Melnick (starting at 8:19) about how much he admires Tavares for the kind of person and player that he’s become. He expects him to re-sign with the Islanders because of the loyalty he’s shown to them already.
Later, Melnick had Pierre McGuire on for an unhinged appearance in which the vociferous rinkside reporter, who himself is sort of a walking encyclopedia, talks up all the ways the Canadiens and Red Wings can recruit Tavares (Draft picks! Larkin! Athanasiou! Price! Weber! Original Six!). McGuire’s not wrong that the Islanders’ front office has overrated their defense, but it’s funny how he mentions all of these players and assets without mentioning that the Islanders have Barzal, Lee, Bailey and two first round picks of their own, both of which could be lottery picks.
Detroit is about the miss the playoffs again this season and will have about $14 in cap space next season but sure, I guess they’re a possibility. Must be nice being an Original Six team. He also mentions Buffalo as a team to watch but doesn’t give any reasoning.
In that same McGuire spot, Melnick played some of Tavares’s comments from his media scrum. He reiterated that he’s never thought about playing for any team other than the Islanders (which McGuire isn’t buying) and that he’s thankful for the opportunities he’s been given to play in the NHL. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that Tavares’s actual words don’t matter when there are hours of airtime to fill. Hilariously, both guys feel Tavares will re-sign with the Islanders.
The Tavares talk continued on Thursday. On Edmonton’s TSN 1260, Darren Dreger gave his usual spiel about Tavares wanting to win and how he doubts the Islanders, once again on playoff life support, fit the bill.
Via Chris Nichols at FanRag Sports:
“If it weren’t for Stamkos last year, I would say that now it feels more likely that Tavares is going to go to free agency. Why wouldn’t he? He’s gotten to this point. He’s earned his right to test the market to see what’s available to him. And you know that pretty much every team in the league is going to inquire or make a presentation if he’s willing to listen to it. Why wouldn’t you consider that option? I mean, that’s what most of us would do.
“But then you look at what Stamkos did – I mean, he took it right down to the wire. In the end, he ended up signing with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The difference, of course though, is Stamkos knew that if he left the Lightning, he was leaving a great opportunity to hoist that Stanley Cup. And Tavares can’t say the same thing about the Islanders.
On another region locked video from TSN’s TV arm, analyst (and former Islander) Jaime McLennan said he can’t see Tavares returning to the Islanders should they miss the playoffs. Where would he go? Why, Montreal, of course, because of their better defense and goaltending.
To be blunt, this is all exhausting and a little confusing to piece together. Suffice it to say, Montreal is desperate to get their hands on Tavares because he could be the number one center they haven’t had in forever. When healthy, Carey Price is an excellent goalie. When healthy, Shea Weber is still an effective defensemen. Both teams aren’t particularly good this season, but I wonder what the Islanders record would be with Claude Julien rather than Doug Weight.
It’s also worth noting that when not talking about Tavares, the entire Montreal hockey media is actively trying to run the team’s current captain, Max Pacioretty, out of town because of a season long slump for him and his club. Think Tavares, who’s in a hellacious slump of his own, doesn’t know that if he were the Habs captain, the minute he goes two games without scoring, the media will turn on him? I doubt it.
But let’s indulge the fantasy and say he goes to the Habs. At The Athletic, Melnick did just that, writing a fanciful Elseworlds tale about an alternate dimension in which the Montreal and Brooklyn switched captains and saw life on the other side.
· John Tavares: Beauty of a wraparound for the game-winning goal. He becomes the first full-time Montreal centre to hit the 30-goal mark in a season since Pierre Turgeon scored 38 in 1995-96. Might have had a hat trick if not for the work of Carter Hutton in goal. Still tough to watch for Islanders fans. It’s almost as difficult as watching their blue line. Jordie Benn led all Islanders skaters in ice time at 20:33.
My patience might be coming to an end with the condescension and open desire for Tavares that oozes out of Montreal and the NHL in general these days, but I can at least appreciate a little extra creativity.
At least it’s not just another lazy Photoshop.
lol good one brodie...
(thanks to Kerry for bringing that to my attention and to Peter for the McGuire tip)
February 27, 2018 Another NHL trade deadline has come and gone and the Islanders basically stood pat, acquiring only depth players Brandon Davidson, for a third round pick, and Chris Wagner, in exchange for the decaying husk of Jason Chimera.
Why so little movement? Because, according to the team’s very own GM, their performance this season didn’t really warrant a big splash.
Via Arthur Staple in The Athletic:
Even with John Tavares’ decision looming, Snow didn’t see a team that was one move away from contending. And that’s an indictment of everyone, from the GM to Doug Weight and his coaching staff to Tavares and his locker room.
“That’s the mindset with everyone in the organization, from players to coaches to management. No one is happy where we are,” Snow told The Athletic a couple of hours after the deadline. “We’re in the situation we’re in, like several other teams we’re trying to get in the playoffs and compete for a Stanley Cup. We knew where the market was going in regards to cost, with high draft picks being asked for players. It wasn’t worth it for us to make those moves now.”
Well that’s a ringing endorsement…
With all of the moves going on around the rest of the NHL, the Tavares angle mostly fell by the wayside, save for people tangentially wondering why the Islanders sat things out with their best player an impending UFA. If I were to include all of those winners/losers articles and podcast here, this encyclopedia would be eight million words long, so just take my word for it.
But what did Tavares think of his team’s inactivity? For that, we go back to Staple:
“If they feel we need to make an upgrade or acquire a certain type of asset, obviously it’s the intention of the best of the hockey team,” he said. “I know that’s the way Garth and management approach it so I don’t really try to question whether we need to make a move or not.”
Snow declined to answer when asked if he considered making such a move to try and appease his captain.
“I know he likes his team,” the GM said.
But on the subject of his future that same day, while speaking with Newsday’s Steven Marcus, Tavares gave an answer I’m not sure anyone was expecting:
Asked if he will decline to re-sign before the conclusion of this season, Tavares said, “I wouldn’t say it’s a foregone conclusion. There’s no question my focus mostly right now is to help the team get to the playoffs. And obviously, we’re right in the thick of things.”
The Islanders are four points behind the Blue Jackets for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference, and Tavares was asked if failing to reach the playoffs would trigger his departure. “No. No,” he said. “Things happen and change so quickly with the standings and how tight it is for us and where we stand right now. I’m never going to close the door on anything, but at the same time, the priority is to help this team get to the playoffs . . . Whether anything [contract-wise] happens between now and then, we’ll see.”
Wellwellwell… that’s certainly something different. Tavares has never specifically said he was going to wait until the season was over, but it was reported from elsewhere last week.
When Josh Bailey finalized his new six-year contract extension, Sportsnet’s John Shannon bucked the trend of Canadian hockey analysts by saying that, yes, players do actually enjoy playing on Long Island. He also added that Bailey’s signing wouldn’t impact Tavares too much, and that the captain has plans to meet with the Islanders honchos when the dust settles.
I’m told the Josh Bailey signing will not have any effect on NYI re-signing John Tavares. JT has told all involved he wants the wait until the end of the season to meet with Owner Scott Malkin.— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) February 23, 2018
So will Tavares sign tomorrow or at the end of the season? Sooner would be great, but it’s doubtful. His goal all season has been to play the best he can and get the team into the playoffs. Unfortunately, his team is four points out as of this writing and he himself is in one of the - if not the single - worst slump of his career right now. Sometimes you’re hot and sometimes you’re not, and the captain has gone cold at the worst possible time for his club.
How will that affect his chances of signing? Who the hell knows. People from outside (and some extremely depressed Islanders fans) will assume he’s just biding his time before checking out. Some teams, like the Blues and (barf) the Rangers, may even be counting on it.
But from what I know about Tavares, he’ll take this season’s problems so personally that he’ll play the next eight seasons for free.
February 23, 2018 Any Islanders-Maple Leafs game featuring John Tavares is a hot ticket, but the games themselves are often a forgotten element. This time around, the Islanders were mostly acknowledged as being the better team for 60 minutes, but an unlucky goal with three minutes left and a Tyler Bozek shootout goal left them with only one point at the end of the night instead of the two they desperately needed. Tavares and his linemates finished the game with no points and a somewhat confusing and overly long OT shift.
So most of the Tavares in Toronto stories came out before the game. On Tuesday, a panel of Sportsnet’s finest agreed that it’s most likely Tavares re-signs eventually, with Elliotte Friedman sounding slightly irritated (in his always polite and respectful way) that he didn’t really have anything new to say on the subject. Can’t be easy to tell a country dying for info that they’re just gonna have to wait like everyone else.
In two audio appearances of the afternoon, Arthur Staple of The Athletic discussed the captain, first on a short Sportsnet Radio hit and next on an entertaining in-depth episode of the Hockey PDOcast. Neither had any new information but Staple is always a good listen.
In the radio hit (complete with the expected Toronto radio host condescension), Staple talked about how Tavares could view the Islanders big picture outlook and how making a trade just to make the playoffs, only to get blown out, might not be something Tavares would want.
With PDOCast host and honorary Islanders fan Dimitri Filipovic, Staple went much further into the team’s many, many issues beyond simply the Tavares Question. Again, nothing new, but the section in which Staple talks about how Tavares will undoubtedly listen to a few teams once he hits free agency will cause the visceral feelings of revulsion among fans that it should. Those feelings will only be magnified if/when we actually reach that time.
As for Canadian media outlets, TSN’s Mark Masters admits upfront in this (surprisingly non-region locked) video that it’s “tough to get a read on the stoic Islanders captain,” and basically, he still wasn’t talking free agency while his team is scrambling to make the playoffs. The unquestioned highlight is Doug Weight saying his players like coming back to Toronto… on the road. Words can’t really do Doug’s body language justice, so just watch it before TSN remembers to lock it again.
At the Toronto Sun, the headline on this Michael Traikos story is “Future plans of captain John Tavares propping up Islanders season,” even though the real propping up is done by Traikos, who speaks about this year’s talented but green Leafs team as if they’re the 1983 Edmonton Oilers, poised for a dynasty.
You may remember Traikos from our last volume, in which - at this same time last season - he lamented Tavares having to slog it out, “playing on a line with a sixth round pick and a winger who in his eighth season has never scored more than 41 points.” Anders Lee, (aka that sixth round pick) already has 30 goals for the second straight season and Josh Bailey (aka the winger) is third on the team in points with 62, eighth in the NHL in assists with 47 and reportedly about to sign a five year extension with the Islanders. Traikos sure seems to know who they are now.
So, basically, there wasn’t a lot going on despite all the build-up. At least these three guys made some new friends, bonding over the questionable ways in which they choose to spend their disposable income.
February 22, 2018 *sniff* *sniff* Can you smell that? Sure you can. That smell of maple syrup, beer, polite gluttony and flatulence can only come from one place: Toronto, Ontario, Canada, home of the NHL’s most pretentious and condescending fanbase and media contingent. The Islanders are in town to play the Maple Leafs tonight, and James Mirtle’s article in The Athletic, featured in our last update, was just the appetizer to what’s sure to be a full smorgasbord of Tavares takes for an insatiable clientele.
We’ll try to keep it brief. On a Tuesday edition of Sportsnet’s Hockey Central at Noon, Nick Kypreos breathed a heavy sigh and declared that the Islanders must trade their captain since, obviously, he’s not going to sign there and he wants to win, which gets to the points brought up in our February 21st update.
I won’t transcribe it, but you can hear it here. The segment start around the 12:45 mark. Kypreos’ Tavares stuff starts around two minutes later.
A day later and on a different show, Kypreos apparently had changed his his mind and thought that A. Tavares coming to the Maple Leafs wouldn’t happen because of all of the other contracts they’ll need to sign soon and B. he’ll probably just end up staying with the Islanders. Again, no transcription but here’s the segment.
Over on TSN radio, Darren Dreger again floated the idea of the Montreal Canadiens clearing their runway to land Tavares this summer. Transcription here via Chris Nichols at FanRag Sports, who adds a bit of dramatic licence to the bit.
“I still kind of think even though the days continue to drift by and it seems more likely Tavares tests the open market, if he gets to the open market I think that has to be the all-in game plan of Marc Bergevin. And that’s what Geoff Molson might be counting on.”
Without missing a beat, 690 show host Conor McKenna quipped, “Well, I hope they have a backup plan.”
On Thursday morning, Mirtle’s Athletic colleague Pierre LeBrun had a note about Tavares’s talks (or lack thereof) with the Islanders, but his agent Pat Brisson says it’s all good.
the star player’s agent confirmed to The Athletic on Wednesday night that the plan obviously is to wait until after the season to get into all that. Tavares wants to focus on hockey, and Pat Brisson said that they’ve had with the Isles “an open dialogue but contract talk isn’t a priority at least for now from our standpoint.’’ Which again, I wouldn’t read as a signal either way as far as Tavares’ future.
Through it all, Tavares has dealt with the Toronto media crush in the same way he always has, with grace and quiet dignity, which is the point of this Chris Botta article from Islanders Point Blank:
Tavares has always said the right things, going back to when a few Canadian reporters refused to believe he’d sign with the Islanders if they drafted him first overall in 2009. He will again on Thursday.
Botta also says that missing the playoffs (which is a real possibility this season given the Islanders ever-changing and always precarious spot in the standings), might not be a dealbreaker for Tavares, who might feel he would leave the team that drafted him with “unfinished business.”
The Islanders’ next game after the stop in Toronto is back in the New York metro area, when they face the Devils in Newark on Saturday night. The Devils will be retiring the number of Patrik Elias, the team’s all-time leading scorer and one of the most underrated offensive players of his era.
So what does Elias, a career Devil who nearly signed a free agent contract with the Rangers in 2006, think of the whole Tavares thing?
Patrik Elias on @WFANmornings: “John Tavares is a tremendous hockey player and great person. I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes the route of going to a championship team and have a chance to win a cup.” #Isles— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) February 20, 2018
C’mon, man. I just said all those nice thing about you.
Okay, that’s cool.
February 21, 2018 “At The Athletic this week” should probably just be a recurring feature. Jeremy Rutherford, our own Art Staple, and now James Mirtle have joined the Tavares-to-Toronto Chorus.
Mirtle’s piece is somewhat different, inasmuch as it moves beyond the humdrum “gee whiz wouldn’t it be great for Tavares to be a Maple Leaf eh?” and goes straight to brass tacks, talking about how Toronto would afford signing their hometown guy and whom they might have to move to make such a contract work once all their ELC guys also need raises.
Not that there isn’t some gee whizzery in there too:
The Islanders are here in Toronto on Thursday. ... One wonders if, when coming home, he’ll [Tavares, duh] look up the standings - and across the ice at the Leafs’ considerable young talent - and ponder what could be.
Knowing his personality a little and his ties to Long Island, I won’t be shocked if he opts to stay. If he leaves, however, Toronto is likely his top choice as a destination.
Add to that a quoted compliment from former teammate Matt Martin that Mirtle begins the article with, talking about the one thing that nobody has to speculate or dispute: John Tavares is a driven player: “He wants to win. He wants to win Cups. He wants to be known as one of the greatest players.”
So, can he get that with the New York/Brooklyn/Belmont/occasionally Nassau Islanders? THAT is the endless question - one that, to be honest, probably wouldn’t resolve even if an extension was announced tonight. (“What should Toronto offer in trade to obtain Tavares???”) Mirtle again:
If he comes home, it’ll be to one of the best teams in the league - a franchise that is clearly better-positioned than the one he is with now.
Tavares is ... a marvelous player, too. Over the last seven seasons, he trails only Alex Ovechkin, Stamkos, and Evgeni Malkin in goals per game. He’s sixth in points per game. And he’s rarely had a great cast around him to maximize his talents. (He’s played beyond the first round just once in his career.)
That’s the elephant in the room, right? The article doesn’t spell it out, but the implication is quite legible between the lines - would Tavares feel better-placed to find greatness and Cups in a franchise run by Mike Babcock, Lou Lamoriello, and Brendan Shanahan, or one run by the current Islanders’ management? Even if they are the same people who drafted and developed him, who played alongside him and eventually moved up to coach him - are they best-positioned to give him and the franchise what is needed today, to get them over the wall and on to the summit of the sport?
Update: February 17, 2018 At The Athletic this week, instead of asking Garth Snow, Doug Weight or John Tavares about his free agency for the thousandth time, Arthur Staple went to some of the captain’s friends around the league to get their takes on what they think he might do.
The whole article is pretty fascinating and I could post the entire thing, but I don’t think The Athletic’s lawyers would appreciate it (if you haven’t subscribed already, you should). I’ve read it a few times and it’s a really neat look into the psyche of one of the most focused players in the NHL. Either all five of these guys (three NHLers on separate teams, one current AHLer and one retired NHLer.) had a strategy meeting and coordinated their efforts, or it truly is an honest, sincere description of a guy they all played with and respect tremendously.
There’s the usual praising of how much Tavares wants to win a Stanley Cup and how much he likes Long Island, and how he’s just taking his time, but I want to highlight one part that kinda gets to the heart of why I’ve been keeping this encyclopedia and why the Tavares issue is such a hot button topic for Islanders fans.
There was a time not long ago when we believed Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen would be core members of the Islanders future. Now they’re playing elsewhere and it can happen in the blink of an eye.
“That week teams can talk to you… It’s different,” Okposo said. “You spend your whole career with one organization and all of a sudden you can start talking to other teams. I hadn’t thought about any other team from after my draft until right then. The first GM who called me, I remember getting that call, I was up in Toronto seeing my trainer and it just caught me off guard. I called my agent and I said, ‘What do I do? Do I call him back?’ You just don’t know how to handle it. Who knows what’s going to happen with Johnny, if he’ll even get to that point. But if he does, he might reach out, sure.”
I believe Tavares loves Long Island. I believe he wants to bring a Stanley Cup here. I don’t trust Islanders management to get it done. Seems like I’m not alone, either.
Whether you or I think Okposo and Nielsen should have been re-signed is irrelevant. The Islanders didn’t, or didn’t do enough, and they’re gone. The list of players that didn’t want to leave Long Island and are now playing someplace else is a long one.
As Mark Streit says in the piece, everybody’s story is different. None of the interviewed players say they believe Tavares is leaving for sure. But that unknown is what makes the Tavares situation so harrowing for many of us.
In an appearance on the Isle Seat podcast, Staple talked about the article and said he’d put the odds of Tavares staying at 60-40. That might just be Altruistic Art hedging his bets for his loyal readers. It also sums up the situation pretty well to this point.
February 15, 2018 Happy no-longer-Valentine’s Day! Enough of all that mushy stuff, let’s talk some more about this long-rumored breakup between John Tavares and the New York Islanders, courtesy of Sean McIndoe, in an article all about superstars who nearly became Maple Leafs:
Burke didn’t just miss out on the Sedins during the 2009 off-season. He’d also set his sights on Tavares, the presumptive No. 1 pick in the draft. Never one for subtlety, Burke publicly called his shot: He was going to trade up and get the Islanders’ first-overall pick and use it on Tavares. ...
By the way, Burke wasn’t even the first Leafs GM to try to bring Tavares to Toronto. Way back in 2007, two years before he was even draft eligible, John Ferguson Jr. reportedly tried to sign the teenaged star to an AHL contract to suit up for the Marlies. The league shot the idea down, and Tavares never did sign with the Leafs organization. (Well, at least until this summer.)
McIndoe does at least admit at the outset that it’s meant tongue-in-cheek, because Toronto’s fanbase - and what’s more, the hockey media empire in general - links just about every human being who can skate to the Leafs. (I’m pretty sure that Brian Boitano was on their must-visit list during free agency in 1988.) The current article is talking about near-misses of the past, not necessarily of the future. That being said, well, he comes right out and talks about the future at the end there, so comedy or not, here it is in the Encyclopedia.
Update: February 12, 2018 Another quick update after a weekend in which the Islanders mounted a comeback for the ages and also threw away a win with a bad third period in which Mathew Barzal was benched for a little while. The rollercoaster continues.
Before Friday’s game against the Red Wings, Brett Cyrgalis said that Garth Snow’s measured (and probably prudent) plan to not use draft picks to acquire rentals at the deadline could end up being a gamble he ultimately loses:
Tavares surely wants to come back to the Islanders, and has made that abundantly clear. But his situation is far more unstable, far more liquid than maybe Snow is willing to admit. Asked in early October how he felt about the situation, and Snow said, “Excellent.” Every time he gets a chance, he’ll remind people that the Islanders drafted Tavares when he was 18 years old, and that they want him to retire with the Islanders. Co-owner Jon Ledecky will say the same thing. It’s as if saying it over and over will guilt Tavares into staying with the only team he has known.
Being a Leafs fan is always a rollercoaster and our friends at Pension Plan Puppets know that better than anyone. Writer Acting the Fulemin (As in Nikolay Kulemin. Maybe they’re a closet Islanders fan?) works through the yin and yang of Toronto acquiring Tavares. It’s a long and winding read but it’s emblematic of a very good team looking to bolster its lineup for a run at the Stanley Cup in the near future. As opposed to a mediocre team that’s always scratching and clawing for a sniff of eight place…
Optimism: Tavares has every reason to want to come here, the Leafs have every reason to want to sign him, and they have an excellent chance to make it work.
Pessimist: He’s going to sign an eight-year extension in Long Island the last week of June, and you’ll move on to swooning over Drew Doughty in 2019. Who won’t come here either.
Never stop dreaming, kids.
February 9, 2018 I like Elliotte Friedman. Smart, trustworthy, hard worker, seems like a nice guy.
Why he would choose to roundhouse kick me straight in the feelings like this, I may never know.
At this point, the suggestion was made to Friedman on [Sportsnet] 590 [Radio] that the Rangers would call John Tavares during free agency this summer in that scenario.
“Absolutely,” agreed Friedman. “You know what. I wouldn’t be surprised – if he doesn’t sign with the Islanders, and I’ve said a lot that’s my No. 1 option of what I think he wants to do – if he doesn’t sign with the Islanders, the Devils have a lot of cap room too. Don’t you think both the Rangers and the Devils are going to say, ‘If you don’t want to move, we’re right here.’”
That’s via Chris Nichols at FanRag Sports.
In fairness (and all seriousness), Friedman has in the past lamented the days when radio interviews were thought of as a few pals shooting the shit at a bar, thinking aloud about sports topics. Now, in the age of social media and instant viral sharing, folks like us hang on their every word like it’s gospel. Here, he’s clearly just throwing a possibility out there, while also saying he believes Tavares will still prefer to remain an Islander and basing those thoughts on what he knows as a hockey insider. In other words, it’s just a conversation.
That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t make we want to puke. Because it does. But let’s just stay calm and keep things civil.
(Why Friedge? wHhHHhYyyYYYyy?!)
February 8, 2018 It’s been a slow week around the John Tavares Free Agency Factory, so here are some random bits and pieces we’ve come across.
We’ll start back on February 3rd, where Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic St. Louis took questions from Blues fans that want them some Tavares. A sampling for non-subscribers:
Do they have a realistic chance if it gets that far? I think so. Tavares and Alex Pietrangelo are friends, so he can get the lay of the land. He knows they’ve got some good talent on the roster, including a right winger in Vladimir Tarasenko who could explode for 50 if he had an elite No. 1 center. So I think there’s a chance, even if it is a slim one.
[insert Jim Carrey Dumb and Dumber gif here]
A day later, our old pal Darren Dreger said he expects Garth Snow to be aggressive at the trade deadline as a way to show Tavares that wheels are in motion.
Via Chris Nichols at FanRag Sports:
There are many who believe that he’s already decided he’s going to wait. Why not now. You might as well have a look at what the market presents and your default option is to go back to the Islanders. But maybe he’s tired of watching good players go out. So he maybe wants to see if they can get Bailey signed, and Anders Lee isn’t that far behind. And if goaltending is in question, what’s Garth going to do there.
“So the Islanders – and I say this because I like the work that Garth Snow does from time to time. He’s shown signs of a willingness to be very aggressive and I don’t doubt that he’ll try and be as aggressive as he can between now and the deadline.
Then we have The Hockey News podcast, in which Ken Campbell, Matt Larkin and Ryan Kennedy give the situation a little lip service. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be, but not essential, either. Campbell says he won’t be surprised if Tavares takes all of the time available to him only to re-sign. Doesn’t sound like they have ton of insight into the Islanders but there it is.
In Newsday, Garth Snow reiterated to Steve Marcus that he won’t be trading Tavares and is keeping any discussions between he, his captain and agent Pat Brisson under wraps.
In strange exercise I never expected to practice here, Arthur Staple stopped by our own Islanders Anxiety podcast and enlightened us with some Tavares knowledge that should be included. Starting around the 32:00 mark, Art tells us about Tavares’ innate desire to prove doubters wrong and how this season’s results might not matter as much as we might think they do.
If the Islanders don’t make any significant moves by the deadline and they miss the playoffs, obviously people will freak out and say, “Clearly, he’s leaving.” They’re still going to have the draft or leading up to the draft to move some of those assets, whether it’s for a goalie or a defenseman, or a goalie and a defenseman. And that’s still before he needs to decide. So, the end of the season to me is not the end of the line.
For a little extra corroboration, Elliotte Friedman said something similar in the 31 Thoughts podcast with Jeff Marek (starting around the 1:21:30 mark).
I gotta tell you, somebody said to me this week, you have assumed the whole way through that [if] they don’t make the playoffs, he’s gonna leave. Somebody said to me that they thought that Tavares is so loyal, it doesn’t necessarily matter. Like I don’t know what to believe any more, but it made me think. This is a guy with decent contacts.
Both Marek and Friedman aren’t sure they’d think the same way Tavares might, and that’s fair. They’re also not sure what defenseman Snow might target with yet another injury on his blueline.
So things seem to be shifting. Or not. Maybe? I don’t know. So we’ll leave with some sage words from former Tavares teammate and all around honorable man Kyle Okposo before the Islanders’ game tonight in Buffalo.
Okposo on JT dealing w contract situation: 'He's got laser-like focus. It's in the back of his mind, but not the forefront'— Mark Herrmann (@markpherrmann) February 8, 2018
February 2, 2018 A quick update is a nice change of pace. Following up with last night’s report that Garth Snow won’t be trading Tavares, reporters asked the man himself what he thought of his GM’s words.
Mark Herrman of Arthur Staple’s former paper Newsday, had some additional quotes:
“It’s nice to hear that,” Tavares said, “but I had a good sense of that already. For me, I’m just trying to do my best to help this team. Everything else is out of my control. The goal is to get to the playoffs and compete for the Stanley Cup.”
As much as it shouldn’t have been a surprise that Snow isn’t interesting in trading his star, the same goes for Tavares pledging his loyalty to the Islanders. In a long notes column, Sportsnet’s Luke Fox included some Tavares quotes cut from his article that ran earlier in the week. One of them sheds some light on how Tavares views the only team he’s know since he was 18.
• On critics who take shots at the Islanders organization: “I don’t take it personally. I think sometimes people aren’t as well informed as us being there on a daily basis.”
Speaking of people that aren’t as well informed, here’s a line from St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Jeff Gordon, who apparently still gets his hockey news from The Pony Express.
Speaking of Tavares, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun believes Islanders GM Garth Snow will hang on to him at the trade deadline in hopes of re-signing him. That could change if Tavares gives up on the Islanders completely and asks to be traded...
Sure thing, Gordo. See you at the livery stables.
February 1, 2018 John Tavares playing in Toronto already means a media blitz. Playing in Toronto and having your lunch handed to you 5-0 by the Maple Leafs cranks up the blitz to the strength of 11 video game Ray Lewises. The Islanders embarrassing performance (which some saw coming a mile away) put a little extra spice onto the online Tavares Free Agency takes but, more than anything, it got the ball rolling strong as the final month before the trade deadline begins.
Let’s start before the game. How about a full day before the game? Sportsnet’s Luke Fox takes an usual tack for a Canadian reporter and actual lists all of the reasons why Tavares might stay with the Islanders. The quotes are interesting, but this bit about Doug Weight might be the personal one Tavares has ever given:
3. The way he lavishes praise on head coach Doug Weight, who was still a player when Tavares was a rookie: “We got to know each other when I came in as a rookie, and he really helped me out as a young player. I really trust him a lot. I tried to soak in as much information as I can about how he approached the game. Now, there’s a standard he sets for our hockey club and each player individually. I know what he expects of me. I try to reach that every day, and possibly more if I can. His door’s always open. I can go to him about anything, not even about the game. It’s nice to have that personal relationship. His understanding of the game and his commitment to win and passion is second to none, so I’m very thankful to have him as a coach, as a friend, and someone to lean on.
(Side Note: That’s a lovely sentiment Tavares has for his coach. But Weight needs to start pulling some different strings right now if the Islanders want to be the last team standing when the playoff schedule is set.)
Over at the Toronto Star, Kevin McGran stuck with the “Tavares is focused on hockey” line on Monday, but on the day of the game, he was asking Leafs forward Nazim Kadri if he would put a sell job on his former Junior teammate. Sounds like he already has.
I might have to give him my two cents,” Kadri said of the Mississauga native. “He already understands how I feel about this city and this organization. He’s from around here. He knows how it is. I don’t think it would take much preaching. He understands what playing in Toronto means, and to be close by to his family.
Meanwhile, Craig Custance of The Athletic says that Tavares’ status is holding up a lot of potential deals around the league. Even if he doesn’t get traded (more on that in a minute), teams could be making room in the event Tavares goes UFA, which means they’ll be less likely to take on salary at the deadline.
Tavares Watch impacts the sellers, too. Ottawa’s best assets all have term on their deals, which limits the flexibility of the buyers. There are a number of buyers looking for top six scoring help on the wing and the Detroit Red Wings have candidates, but all of them come with term on their contracts. In a normal year, players like Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar might be a solution for San Jose, but not if the Sharks are eager to keep salary flexibility.
There are those dang Sharks again. This place suddenly has more fish than Petland Discounts.
Okay, so then the game happens and boy howdy did it not go well for the Islanders. Dom’s recap is more of a State of the Team address and, quite frankly, things aren’t great right now. But how it affects Tavares’s decision is still very much up in the air.
To be honest, I thought more knives would be out after the game, but the focus seemed on how good the young Leafs looked rather than how bad the still inconsistent Islanders looked. Mike Zeisberger of NHL.com wrote about the frenzy that Tavares is generating in Toronto, but the captain has a very rational take on the madness.
As for again being asked Wednesday about what lies ahead for him this offseason, he said he has no issues with such queries.
”I don’t see letting the questions be the reason I’ll make a decision,” he said. “We’re all professionals.”
It comes as no surprise that Leafs fans seem to be ready to argue about the best way to make a good team even better, because Leafs fans are always arguing about something. Back in the States, The Washington Post’s Neil Greenberg, of Housebound Agoraphobe fame, lists Tavares as the NHL’s No. 1 free agent of 2018, and David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period says the Islanders have a ton of tough decisions to make (no shit, man).
Ken Campbell of The Hockey News, who usually has his knives out for the Islanders more often than Wolverine does for the Sentinels, parsed the post-game comments of both Tavares and Weight and found contradictions that made him wonder things.
Now to the really important stuff. Are the Islanders and Tavares on the same page when it comes to his future with the organization? In case you’ve spent the past little while cut off from the rest of the world, Tavares is due to become an unrestricted free agent July 1 and a cottage industry has sprouted up amidst the speculation surrounding what Tavares will ultimately do. There are more moving parts here than a Swiss watch, from where exactly the vagabond Islanders will play for the next couple of years while their new arena is being built to the roster construction and whether or not Tavares sees a championship-calibre team on the horizon.
Campbell predicts Tavares could still remain loyal to the Islanders, but will take a peek into free agency, where things might get dicey. Maybe by July, Ken will get the news that the Islanders are playing at Barclays Center and Nassau Coliseum until the Belmont arena is done.
Wait. We’re not done yet. On Wednesday evening, the TSN insider crew discussed Tavares, with Pierre LeBrun saying he got a text message from Garth Snow himself saying flat out, “I’m not trading John Tavares.” LeBrun also wrote about the message for The Athletic.
There are two schools of thought on this — those who feel the Isles — if they fall out of the playoff picture — should absolutely get as much as they can for the pending UFA if he’s not signed by Feb. 26. But the majority of people around the league I’ve talked to prefer the notion of keeping the asset as long as possible if one thinks there’s a chance to re-sign him. Use every single day you have owning his rights exclusively to get it done before July 1.
In the video segment, which you can watch here, Darren Dreger also says that Tavares could take a glance at what offers are out there, but could also be watching to see how the Islanders deal with fellow potential free agent Josh Bailey.
So if you’re a team hoping to pick up John Tavares at the deadline and were holding onto that tiny sliver of hope that he might be available, you can now let it go, per Garth Snow’s phone. Now, will he use that phone to help get Tavares and company into the playoffs? Stay tuned.
January 29, 2018 All things considered, Tavares seemed to make it out of the All Star Game without too much hubbub about his contract.
Technically, things started a day early, with reports that the Islanders could be returning to Nassau Coliseum for a few games next season. Elliotte Friedman told Sportsnet 590 radio that, “There’s a reason that John Tavares is still a New York Islander and it’s because the team believes they can keep him.” He mentioned the arena stuff but specified that missing the playoffs could be a very bad thing for the Islanders in Tavares’s eyes.
On All Star Saturday, before the Skill Competition, Tavares more or less made his statement during his mandatory availability, sitting next to Islanders teammate and fellow All Star Josh Bailey. Here’s the gist of it, via NHL.com’s John Kreiser:
“I’ve always stated that I’ve really enjoyed being there,” the 27-year-old said. “I haven’t thought about anything but mostly focusing on this season and taking my time and being patient. When the time is right, I’ll make my decision. Anything that we’ve talked about, I prefer to keep it internally between me and the organization. Talks are always open and they’ve been great so far. I’m not going to get into specific details.
”The way I look at is anything that affects my daily life, whether it’s at the rink or not at the rink, will go into my decision. Obviously you want to play for a team that’s doing everything it can to win, and the Islanders are certainly doing that. You can see a lot of the potential and the young talent we have, as well as guys who’ve been there for a while, like Josh, Anders [Lee], Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk, the veteran guys we have. We’ve got a solid foundation there.”
You’re not experiencing deja vu. Tavares has basically being saying the same thing for months now. I guess with writers from every hockey market all in one place, he can say it again for those who didn’t hear it the first time.
Of course, some might hear things a little differently. Whoever wrote this headline for TSN conveniently skipped the second part of the sentence that Tavares says right in the very video they posted above it.
Other than that, the only time Tavares’s contract came up again was in this piece from Newsday’s Mark Herrmann, who was on the scene to ask Steven Stamkos of the host Lightning how he thought his pal was doing so far:
“If he ever asked me, I’d give him my opinion but he is obviously having an unbelievable season and is probably doing a better job of not letting it affect him than maybe I did,” Stamkos said. “It’s in the back of your head, for sure, but for him to have the season that he has had under the circumstances probably goes to show you the type of character that I know he has. I think that is what has impressed me the most. He has been able, whenever he has been asked about it, to give the right response and just go out and play the game.”
After the festivities were over (Tavares and Bailey each finished the All Star Game with one assist, and the Metro Division team was eliminated in its first game), Tavares returned to New York and was at the official announcement of the Islanders’ plan to play 12 games at Nassau Coliseum next season.
Not surprisingly, his response was a positive one. Via NHL.com:
“I think it’s exciting,” said Tavares, the No. 1 pick by the Islanders at the 2009 NHL Draft. “Obviously, this place means a lot to the organization and our fans, and to us as players, including myself. So many great memories here. It’ll be great to be able to come back here. No doubt, I think it’s a positive thing for everybody.”
“It’ll be great to come back here” can be interpreted a few different ways. Does he mean coming back as an Islander? As a visiting player? For his teammates? Who knows.
But he certainly looked and sounded like he was in a good mood:
“It’s exciting. Obviously the place means a lot to the organization & our fans & to us as players, including myself. So many great memories here, it will be great to come back. No doubt it think it’s a positive thing for everybody.” -@91Tavares on the #Isles playing at @NYCBLive pic.twitter.com/IO0IDndS3O— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) January 29, 2018
More JT: "This is a great place. We practice across the street now. There’s so many great things about the Coliseum. I know everyone involved is excited.” #Isles— Brian Compton (@BComptonNHL) January 29, 2018
Islanders owner Jon Ledecky also reiterated the team’s desire to re-sign their captain, while also giving him what he needs.
“We love John Tavares,” Ledecky said. “We want John Tavares to remain here for his entire career as an Islander, and we want him lifting that fifth Cup. The ball really is in John’s court. He’s being very contemplative about it, he’s thinking about it. It’s a huge decision in a young man’s life.
“We want him to take his time and we want him to come to the decision that’s best for him and his family.”
Fan reaction to the move is mixed, to say the least. I’m personally not keen on the idea, especially after the press conference didn’t really answer any of the many, many questions the situation brings up. And, of course, the assumption is that Tavares wouldn’t want to sign on with a team that’s going to shuttle between buildings during the regular season. My Islanders Anxiety co-host Michael Leboff is among the doubters and I wonder myself. And if you’re a team that’s circling Tavares - like the suddenly hungry San Jose Sharks - you’re hoping the split arena deal is a turn off.
But, as usual, Tavares isn’t giving anything away. If anything, he seems really into playing at the Coliseum again, which is much closer to his home and the Islanders practice facility. If this ends up being a plus for him, the strangeness of it would be worth it.
Then maybe we won’t have to actually live this drama Mike posted to Twitter last week:
'Leaving Long Island'— Michael Leboff (@TheBigLeebowski) January 25, 2018
A short film by Michael Leboff.
Based on a true story. pic.twitter.com/DF6qKSyyNN
Update: In his 10 Storylines to Watch in the second half of the season article, TSN’s Frank Servalli offers a new potential consideration. Under the heading, “JT’s Big Decision,” he writes:
Tavares has reportedly not yet discussed terms on an extension with the Isles, who desperately want to re-sign the face of their franchise. Their arena situation in Belmont is finally settled, but the belief is Tavares wants to also see a commitment to keep fellow free agent teammates Josh Bailey, RFA Brock Nelson and eventually Anders Lee in the fold.
We’ll see what happens when the Islanders play in Toronto this week. I’m sure Leafs writers will have something to say about the arrangement.
January 24, 2018 I swear, if it’s not one thing it’s another with this team. So they’re gonna need someplace to play while the Belmont arena is built. And in their grand tradition of always finding the most complicated solution to any problem that arises, the chance exists that the Islanders could play games at both Barclays Center and Nassau Coliseum in the coming seasons.
If this sounds stupid to you, you’re not alone. I think it’s stupid, too. And, for once, me and Larry “Brooksie” Brooks are simpatico. Among the many questions he has, he wonders most of all how it will affect The Big Guy.
And, most critically, because every Islanders issue is distilled through only one prism: How will this affect John Tavares’ decision as he weighs his options coming up on July 1 unrestricted free agency?
Is this honestly what No. 91 is going to sign up for: three seasons in the prime of his extraordinary hockey life commuting between home rinks, with neither one a first-class major league home?
While out in Las Vegas for the game against the NHL-leading Golden Knights (huh?), Arthur Staple straight up asked Tavares what he thought of the news in what will be one of his final stories for Newsday (WHAA??). Yeah, things are all upside down. But Tavares, as always, is a rock.
“Like anybody would be, everything that goes into this decision, I’ll think about,” he said. “Obviously where you’re going to play is an important part of that. I don’t think anything’s been finalized or come out officially, so when the time’s right, that news of what’s going to happen will come out and will just be part of my thought process at some point. We’ll see what happens, I guess.”
The stance of taking everything into consideration when the time was right was all we heard from the captain for the first three months of the season, before last week’s trip to Montreal. Because I believe him, I wouldn’t say, as the kids say these days, that Tavares is just back on his bullshit. Unfortunately, by examining insane solutions to loony problems only they have, the Islanders definitely are.
January 21, 2018: Life tends to get in the way of things, even encyclopedias. Although it’s only been about a week since our last update, we have about a month’s worth of articles and emotions to parse through and it took me a few days to find the time.
Let’s get these out of the way first. On the 13th, Bruce Garrioch doubled-down on his unsourced claims about the inner workings of the Islanders by proclaiming there will be “heat at the deadline” if Tavares still isn’t signed. Where and who that heat will be coming from is anyone’s guess. Judging by the weather in New York this month, no one is in any danger of feeling any heat of any kind.
Meanwhile out west, Sportsnet’s Mark Spector says the team is seeking goaltending help in their quest to keep Tavares, which suggests that Islanders games are broadcast in Edmonton about a month after they actually happen.
A big breakthrough came on Monday the 15th, when the Islanders played in Montreal, which brought out a platoon of writers looking to ask Tavares about his contract. After months of “I’m happy here, but I’m focused on the games and will evaluate all factors at the end of the season,” we got a steep change in direction few saw coming.
Asked what his priority is in making a decision, Tavares said: “I want to stay on Long Island... I haven’t thought about being anywhere except with the Islanders.” #Isles— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) January 15, 2018
The full quote from Staple’s story mentions the moves the Islanders have made recently as giving Tavares a positive outlook.
“I hope to stay in Long Island,” Tavares told reporters questioning him on his plans. “There’s a lot of positive things going forward with the organization and the team here. I haven’t thought about being anywhere else but with the Islanders.”
Here’s a whole video about via Sportsnet:
The money quote was widely circulated across the various hockey outlets, and prior to the game against the Habs, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported again that no talks had been had so far between the Islanders and Tavares, which has been preference of the captain himself. Johnston suggests that the lack of negotiation speaks to questions Tavares might still have about the organization.
What’s happening behind the scenes suggests John Tavares still has questions about the direction of this organization,” Johnston said. “We thought some of them would be answered, or a lot of them, when they arranged the arena deal which was completed a couple weeks back. But at this time there is still no dialogue. And as we get closer to the trade deadline there will be more discussion and certainly if we get beyond that time the likelihood of him testing free agency grows higher.
Ironically, in a radio hit earlier in the day, Bob McKenzie essentially reported the same thing, although he acknowledged that the way you process that information sorta depends on your personal outlook on it.
And good or bad, that’s just what it is. People have predispositions to say if you want Tavares to go to market then the Islanders are playing with fire here. And if you are an Islander fan, you just say to yourself, ‘Nah, he likes it here. He likes his teammates. Everything is going to be okay because he’s a solid guy and we’ll get this sorted out.’
Uncle Bob said a lot more about the many ways to look at the situation, but that’s the gist of it. He mentioned the low ball offer that the Lightning sent Steven Stamkos in December of his free agency season that fueled the fire of a move that never happened. He also said he can’t envision a scenario in which Tavares becomes a trade chip Garth Snow intends to play.
That’s from TVA, one of the French language sports outlets in Montreal, which dove into Tavares with both feet, not only asking people on the street about the Habs’ chances of acquiring Tavares, but also posting this column that wonders what his real intentions are. All I can do as a non-Quebecois person is have it Google translated which reveals amazingly mangled bits like this:
The Islanders have to make bug blood.
Right on, man.
In a Pro Hockey Talk Q&A published after the Habs game, Tavares linemate Anders Lee was asked about his outlook on his center’s free agency.
Q. You guys have heard all the rumblings about Tavares and how he can become a free agent this summer, but what does he mean to this franchise?
“Johnny has the best character and work ethic. He’s the leader of this team and he’s been the head of this franchise since as long as he’s been here. He’s not just a great hockey player, he’s a great person, and guys care about him and he cares about us. So, he means a tremendous amount. He’s taken his time and thankfully it hasn’t been a distraction at all. I think both sides have handled it well. For us, as a team, it hasn’t been an issue at all. We just hope it goes the right way for us.”
While Lee sticking up for his buddy was expected, he might have also inadvertently revealed his master plan to have Tavares pick up a few more dinner tabs after he signs. Nice one, Anders.
Darren Dreger referred to Tavares in two separate radio hits on two different days. A day after the win over Montreal, he told that city’s TSN 690 that although he expects Tavares to re-sign with the Islanders, this is still a business and a strong Canadian market could still be a draw for him.
Again, via Chris Nichols:
“But I still believe he’s going to stay with the Islanders. In saying that, this guy is a hockey player. And he plays the game for all of the right reasons. If there was an opportunity where it didn’t make sense for him to stay with the Islanders, I think he’d consider a lot of centers, and that includes strong Canadian markets like Montreal and Toronto.
He then goes on to talk about high taxes being a deterrent for free agents, but the larger point is essentially made: Dreger thinks Tavares will re-sign with the Islanders but Dreger also has a Canadian audience to feed with hopes that their teams can land him. It’s a neat trick that a lot of hockey insiders have been pulling off for a while now. They’re like The Alliance of Magicians from Arrested Development. The question is, which one is going be Gob Bluth?
Dreger was back on the radio on Thursday to estimate that Tavares could command upwards of $15 million a season should he become a free agent, which again brought the conversation back to Montreal because the Canadiens do have a lot of cap space to play with.
“I had an NHL executive tell me earlier this week that he believes that someone, if Tavares goes to market, is going to offer a seven-year term and $15 million per. 7 X 15.
Like I said up top, lot happened this week. I haven’t even mentioned the game the Islanders lost to the New Jersey Devils the next night after beating the Habs, or the game they lost to the Bruins two nights later or the game they won in Chicago on Saturday, with Tavares collecting a goal and a highlight reel assist on Lee’s breakaway score in the third period.
The Islanders are still in the fight of their lives for the playoffs, still trying to find ways to tighten up defensively and still trying to make this season a good one. As notable as it is that Tavares hasn’t talked contract with the Islanders yet, I do believe him when he says he’s focused on the season. I wouldn’t expect anything else from him, honestly.
His second best quote to reporters this week, sorta drives that idea home.
From the stinger of Staple’s story:
“The only time [the future] comes up is when you guys ask me about it.”
And with Tavares attending another All Star Game next week, you can bet he’ll get more than a few questions about it.
January 12, 2018: The Islanders entered their CBA-mandated bye week tied with Carolina and Philadelphia for ninth place in the Eastern Conference, one point behind Pittsburgh. Considering how awful they’ve been for the last month, things could have been worse.
Larry “Brooksie” Brooks wondered how the Islanders’ floundering could affect their plans for their captain.
Maybe the owners know more they’re not telling, maybe there’s somehow an agreement to agree in place that will be publicly unveiled for maximum effect — though no time like the present would seem to apply — at a later date.
But if not, I’d be a little bit nervous about this if I were Jon Ledecky or Scott Malkin, and I might want to look at establishing Feb. 26 as a double deadline here, if you know what I mean. This is a player who simply cannot be permitted to walk for free when a bounty could be expected in return for his rental rights.
The struggles put the focus on Garth Snow, who Arthur Staple says is on solid ground with the owners for now. With Belmont all but settled (again, for now), what about the next item on Snow’s to-do list?
They have achieved their biggest goal, which is the Isles’ new home at Belmont. Their next goal, a Tavares extension, still is up in the air and likely will be until the summer, but the captain has not told the team anything about his future.
Matt Larkin of The Hockey News leads with Tavares in his article about storylines to look forward to in the second half of the season:
Tavares, set to become the most significant UFA in NHL history should he go to market this summer, openly expressed excitement over the team returning “where it belongs.” If he chooses to re-sign with the Islanders, it will almost certainly be for the max term of eight years, and with new arena’s completion date projected at 2020, Tavares might only have to play two of eight seasons of his next deal in Brooklyn. The arena move was just one influencer on his future, but the odds of him re-signing earned a nice boost with the news.
The break not only allowed the players to rest but allowed some folks around the hockey sphere to craft some future scenarios for John Tavares. Here are some in no particular order:
Ottawa’s Bruce Garrioch uses the “there’s talk” qualifier not once but twice in this blurb in his weekly column. Does that make this “double talk?”
There’s talk the New York Islanders are getting more and more nervous about the future of captain John Tavares, who has a cap hit of $5.5 million in the final year of his contract. There is talk Tavares’ camp isn’t keen on talking about a deal during the season, which doesn’t help if the Isles are listening to trade offers.
There’s talk that Garrioch is also the guy that was adamant that Evgeni Malkin would be traded to the Kings and has been sowing Tavares discontentment stories since before the guy was even drafted. Oh wait. That was us doing the talking. Never mind.
Another noted shit disturber from up north is the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons, who checks in with this bit of twisted empathy:
You’re John Tavares. You’re just about the best player in the NHL right now. You’re going to get huge money no matter where you play next season. Why would you sign on to stay with the Islanders, the worst defensive team in hockey with less than ordinary goaltending?
Good question, Steve. Hey, while we’re asking questions, where can a guy get a good hot dog in Hogtown these days?
We’re also able more names to the list of teams trying to get a piece of Tavares. Defending Big D, the absolutely fantastic and prolific SBN blog for the Dallas Stars, acknowledges that signing Tavares to play with Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and the high-scoring Stars is a pipe dream, but hey, they dream big in Texas.
Think about it: If, somehow, the Stars could sign Tavares—and again, this is probably insane and I know it and you know, so don’t act like I’m a naive idiot for throwing it out there during a veritable desert of Stars hockey to watch—then Seguin either becomes someone playing with a chip on his shoulder for a huge contract in the offseason (from Dallas or elsewhere), or, worst-case, he becomes a gold-plated trade chip at the deadline (or before). Yes, it would be weird, and even somewhat unprecedented. But imagine that lineup, eh?
(dang, that’s a lot of words. Almost as many as this volume of the Encyclopedia)
How about Las Vegas? The new kids on the block have had an outstanding season, and old friend Damien Cox, a calcified sweat sock that fell behind the washing machine and is now a condominium for silverfish, wonders if Golden Knights GM George McPhee might make an even bigger splash in Year 2.
If John Tavares, say, goes the unrestricted free agent market, why wouldn’t he see Vegas as a very attractive choice now? Ditto for James van Riemsdyk. If Ottawa decides at the end of the season to trade Erik Karlsson, Vegas might be one of the franchises he’d be willing to accept a deal to. The Strip is certainly a lot more hospitable in January than Kanata.
Cox is right. Only one of those places has Cher and Penn & Teller. Advantage: Vegas.
Finally, we have Ken Campbell, that screeching mother hen of The Hockey News, shaking his wrinkled fist to the sky and asking if Tavares might take his talents to the tropical climes of... Winnipeg, Manitoba. Forget next season, Campbell wants Tavares on a plane to Portage and Main right freakin’ now.
Meanwhile, nobody is talking about Winnipeg as a destination if the possible crown jewel of free agency, John Tavares, doesn’t re-sign with the Islanders. Although, come to think of it, that would be awesome. Tavares would be part of a team that has a real chance to win a Stanley Cup and the Jets would have a center ice corps of Scheifele, Tavares, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little. Set aside $84 million and a block heater and make it happen, Jets. And if the Islanders are out of it and in a selling mood at the trade deadline, put in your dibs. Who knows? Perhaps you’ll get him there and convince him to stay.
Campbell and The Hockey News recently published their Money and Power issue*, and named Tavares the holder of all of the power in the NHL, capable of wielding his free agency the way Thor wields the mystical hammer Mjölnir.
I’d make a joke connecting Winnipeg with the Frost Giants of Jotunhiem, but the folks out there are feeling a little sensitive these days. Believe me, after reading all this Tavares stuff for over 18 months now, I understand completely.
January 5, 2018: Tavares news had gotten pretty quiet over the holidays, but with the Islanders having lost an unbearable five straight to drop from a wild card berth to last place in the Metropolitan Division, business is probably about to pick up.
While the man himself hasn’t said anything not related to the current season, Sportsnet’s Luke Fox talked to former teammate Matt Martin, who gave his thoughts on what Tavares might be thinking. Martin’s “thoughtful” response included a focus on the recent news about the plans to build an arena at Belmont Park.
Martin winters in Toronto but still spends his off-seasons on Long Island. He believes the Belmont Park arena deal was of utmost importance to the community and the hockey business.
“For players signing, knowing there’s a permanent home is only going to help,” Martin explained.
“Getting an arena back on Long Island is big for the fan base, big for the organization, and big for the players. I think they make a bigger deal of the commute to Brooklyn [than necessary], but there was always a rift: Fans want the team in Long Island. It’s important they have a home, and people can be confident they won’t end up elsewhere.
“The new ownership has done everything they can to make it a first-class organization, and it sounds like this Belmont rink won’t be any different.”
Before the new year, Darren Dreger was asked for the millionth time about connections between Tavares and the Montreal Canadiens. While the Habs have cap space and a gaping need for a No. 1 center, brand new John Tavareses aren’t something you can just pick up at the local store.
“So what you’re left with is a pretty decent collection of players, frankly, a world-class elite-level goaltender, and a lot of holes. So filling those holes, even though Bergevin and the Montreal Canadiens have an enormous amount of cap space, isn’t going to be easy. There’s no magic wand that is going to put some sort of hex on John Tavares to get him to push away from the New York Islanders and gleefully join the Montreal Canadiens as an unrestricted free agent.
“It could happen, but there’s no magic formula to make that happen.”
Not that that will stop any Canadian sports talk radio hosts from asking Dreger this same question for the next seven months.
Finally, a turn of the calendar means looking towards the trade deadline, which Pierre Lebrun did for The Athletic this week. Even in that context, ol’ sneaky Pete cheats a little and envisions the always circling San Jose Sharks hoping to talk to Tavares this summer.
The question, however, is whether [Sharks GM Doug Wilson would] be better served keeping that cap space for the summer when there would be bigger fish to land compared to the trade deadline. For example, if John Tavares does indeed dip his toes, I would be absolutely stunned if the Sharks aren’t among the lost list of teams who don’t try to land an audience with his camp. Remember that the Sharks were one of four teams who landed an audience with Steven Stamkos two years ago. It’s their style.
But whether it’s Tavares or somebody else, the summer looks to have a deeper list of options compared to now.
With the Islanders season having taken the sad turn that it has and with a bye week coming, I expect more updates, with more teams and writers wondering what Tavares’s future holds. And I’m not looking forward to them.
December 26, 2017 Last week was a busy one for both the Islanders and the chronicler in charge of this document. So here’s one large update encompassing everything (or, at least, as much as possible).
On Wednesday the 20th, the Islanders were officially awarded the rights to be build a one billion dollar arena complex on the site of Belmont Park. A lot can and will be written about this latest (and, frankly, best) chance at getting a brand new building of their own, but we’ll focus on its effect on the Islanders re-signing John Tavares.
The captain was on hand for the announcement at the race track, sitting next to New York governor Andrew Cuomo, who himself was sitting next to Long Island music institution Billy Joel, who himself was sitting next to Islanders winger Cal Clutterbuck. Tavares wasn’t running around the place with a pen looking to sign an extension, like a lot of us had hoped. Instead, he spoke about how meaningful the move back to Long Island proper would be to the organization and how it’s one more thing for him to consider when then time is right to think about his next contract.
“As time goes on and you take time to think about things, look at the big picture, it’s very positive for the organization, for us, for the fans,” Tavares said after the news conference at Belmont Park. “For my situation it’s really exciting news. I’m not going to say it’s going to change or ultimately make my decision, but everything that’s involved in my daily life plays into it and going to the rink, playing games is a big part of that.”
“We’ll continue the way things have been going, keeping the communication open and taking it one day at a time,” he said. “A lot of focus on the ice, on getting us to the playoffs. I’ve always stated how much I enjoy being here, playing here and wanting it to work out here.”
“If John Tavares thinks he can win the Stanley Cup with the New York Islanders, he’s going to re-sign,” Ledecky said. “We’re trying to provide him with every reason to do so — beautiful new practice facility, moving the team back to Long Island, re-embracing our fans on Long Island . . . John’s going to make up his mind on his timetable and the last thing I’m going to do as a co-owner of the New York Islanders is put any pressure on my great player.”
Okay, so nothing out of the ordinary, right? Big announcement, measured player response, confident owner response. Pretty much what you’d expect.
Then a funny thing happened.
The general feeling from around the hockey world was that the Belmont announcement was a good thing for the Islanders. In his 31 Thoughts column, Elliotte Friedman led with the news and called it a “massive victory” for the franchise. He quoted a rival GM saying that it didn’t exactly help his team’s chances of having a shot at signing Tavares after the season. He reiterated those thoughts in a video segment on NHL Network, saying that Belmont certainly wouldn’t hurt Tavares’s chances of re-signing.
A busy week for the Islanders means a busy week for Arthur Staple, who appeared on a bunch of podcasts and radio shows talking about Belmont and Tavares. He echoed the “certainly can’t hurt” idea on Don’t Ask Me Why with former Islanders beatwriter Stephen Lorenzo and said the arena announcement would probably tick things a few percentage points closer in the direction of him staying. On The Pulp Hockey Show, co-hosted by Islanders legend with Ray Ferraro, Staple mentioned that Tavares wants to keep his focus on the ice and might make his decision an “after the season thing.” Staple’s feeling is that Tavares wants the most consideration time as possible, which could mean getting to the point of hearing other offers, which will stress fans out. None of that is out of line from what we’ve heard and read so far.
And yet, somehow, when some of Friedman’s insider colleagues discussed the Belmont news with other outlets, a different feeling emerged. Darren Dreger went from “that bodes well for Tavares potentially staying there long term” just at the time the news was breaking to saying “maybe Tavares would be okay being No. 2 center for the Toronto Maple Leafs” to millions of listeners and three astonished hosts on Leafs Lunch. On TSN’s Overdrive radio show on the same day, Dreger said his feeling is that, “I think that Tavares would like to play for the Montreal Canadiens.”
Oh. This, too:
Dreger: Tavares has earned the right to unrestricted free agency. And the longer this thing drifts into this regular season, July 1 gets closer; and many believe that he's pushing towards fully investigating being a UFA. #Isles— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) December 21, 2017
Now, before you grab your torches and head to Dreger’s famous backyard rink, he was clear that he still believes Tavares will most likely stay with the Islanders. But Dreger is also a person that’s done literally a million radio hits in his career. He knows what’s going to get people talking. And pulling Canada’s top two markets into a conversation about Tavares - on a day in which his team’s future took a giant leap towards finally being settled - comes of as desperate at best and dangerously irresponsible at worst.
Even Bob McKenzie, the longest-serving and most trusted hockey insider on the planet, cut loose a little, openly wondering if Tavares and linemate Josh Bailey, who are both among the league leaders in scoring and both free agents after this season, wouldn’t package themselves as a duo a ‘la Zach Parise and Ryan Suter did when they signed with the Wild.
Like Dreger, McKenzie doesn’t come out and say that the Islanders are boned. In fact, he says “The enormous potential for the Islanders to re-sign these guys and have two front-line players on your first line like that along with Anders Lee, that’s fantastic.” But still, it’s an interesting tack to take given the much bigger news of the week.
But a few days later, on Saturday night, Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos basically did come out and say that the Islanders are boned. During the intermission-based-based “Headlines” segment, Kypreos reported that no contracts talks have occurred and none are coming in the forseeable future, which, if you’re an Islanders fan, should be seen as bad news. Yes, he used the specific phrase “bad news.” Whether or not Kypreos realizes that no talks have happened all season so far, isn’t clear.
Kypreos also says that “the real feeling now” is that Tavares may wait until the end of the season to see what other offers are out there. The bit starts at 3:15.
At the other end of the same table, Friedman re-reiterated that winning games with young talent - which the Islanders have done for the most part this season - could still be the best thing for them in terms of re-signing Tavares. Boston based writer/rumor monger Jimmy Murphy then threw his two cents into the conversation a little while later on Twitter.
While I don't doubt @RealKyper and his sources, I can say a source close to #JohnTaveres has told me not only does the arena deal play a role but his relationship with #DougWeight as a mentor, coach and former billet parent so to speak is playing and will play major role! #Isles— Jimmy Murphy (@MurphysLaw74) December 24, 2017
Murphy doesn’t want to say it, but I will: I do doubt Kypreos and his sources the same way I doubt Darren Dreger and his gut.
My feelings on Tavares signing and re-signing change with the weather. But one thing I don’t doubt is that Tavares’s focus has and always will be on playing hockey. I’m only half joking when I say he’s really a Cyberdyne Systems T-800 model Terminator. This man’s life is playing hockey and getting consistently better at it. It has been since he was a child and it’s taken him from being an exception junior player, to a No. 1 overall pick, to a two-time Hart Trophy finalist and to being one of the very best players in the world.
I don’t like that he hasn’t had any discussions yet any more than any other Islanders fans do, but I have not for a moment doubted Tavares’s sincerity in wanting all of his energy and brain power working on the ice, not on a new contract. That might be naive on my part, but based on what I’ve known about this man as a fan and what I’ve observed about him since he was 18 years old, I’m going with that until proven otherwise.
I’ll also take the word of Tavares’s friend Steven Stamkos from an interview he did with Pierre LeBrun for The Athletic just prior to all of the Belmont stuff happening. Emphasis and editing mine:
Now that the [unrestricted free agency] shoe is on the other foot and you’re watching Tavares go through the year here, what are your observations? Obviously, a big decision ahead of him.
STAMKOS: Yeah it’s definitely a big decision and a decision that he’s earned every right to make on his own time and on his own terms. He’s such a smart guy and has such a great supporting cast with his family and friends, I’m sure very similar to mine; it’s just been impressive how well he’s played and how well he’s dealt with the so-called distraction of going through a contract year. Especially for such a high-profile player and playing in New York. It wasn’t easy for me. I have no regrets in how I made my decision. But when you’re going through that, it’s definitely in the back of your mind and it weighs on you a little bit. But it just looks like he’s going out and playing hockey, having fun, and playing extremely well. It’s been impressive for me to see. Because I know exactly how he’s feeling. He’s done a great job of leaving that stuff at home and coming to the rink and playing hockey.
And that continues, even as the franchise comes very close to getting a new rink for him to come to everyday for the next eight years.
December 17, 2017 From today’s Bits post, Arthur Staple reports that an answer on the Belmont Park RFP could be made, “possibly before the calendar flips to 2018.” That will have a great impact on John Tavares among many others.
There may be some clarity coming soon on one of Tavares’ key issues. New York State may be nearing an announcement on the winning proposal to develop the parcel of land at Belmont Park, according to several league sources, possibly before the calendar flips to 2018.
The Islanders’ main priority is to start building their new arena as soon as possible if their proposal is selected. Their close-second priority is getting Tavares signed to a long-term contract.
Islanders co-owner Scott Malkin visited last week with Pat Brisson, Tavares’ agent, in Los Angeles. Malkin and Brisson have kept in constant contact since last season, when the Islanders turned their focus to a new arena.
Staple notes that a Belmont decision doesn’t necessarily mean Tavares will sign during the season. But it will mean a big piece of the puzzle will fall into place.
December 16, 2017 Another week, another Top Free Agents of 2018 article that’s about seven months early. At least USA Today’s Kevin Allen opens with Tavares avoiding the topic and focusing on playing.
Tavares is so focused on the hockey season that he even hasn’t talked contract with his agent Pat Brisson. At least, that’s what Google Translate tells us from this Journal de Montreal article, originally written en français.
Regarding the future of John Tavares, Pat Brisson ensures that his client focuses on his work with the Islanders.
"At some point we will meet John and my team, we will look at the pros and cons and we will make decisions.
Both Tavares and Brisson have maintained for months that communication between the team, player and agent have been very good. I know I assumed that Tavares and his agent would talk about the contract amongst themselves. But it seems (and, again, take Google Translate with much salt), that the captain is really just here to play and will figure the rest out later.
He might not have to wait much longer for one important piece of information.
December 14, 2017 My computer could crash at any moment, so I’m just going to plagiarize myself from this morning’s Bits post.
What is John Tavares’s actual worth? It’s a good question and Rob Vollman at ESPN takes a very thorough and objective look at it. I’m sure most of us would say the answer is, “Whatever the hell he wants,” but the real answer is a little more complex than that.
The subjective opinion appears to be that Tavares will land on the upper end of this estimate and possibly even higher. Based on a recent Twitter poll, the most popular expectation is that his cap hit will be $9.5 million, with far more respondents taking the over than the under on that benchmark.
While Vollman, the author of the annual StatShot analytical handbook, looks at the question based on Tavares’s output and projected scoring rates, even he admits that’s not solely what Tavares’s next contract will be based on. Considering all he’s meant to the Islanders since being drafted first overall in 2009, it’s hard to guess exactly what he’ll make once he eventually signs with whoever he signs with (please re-sign, John).
December 12, 2017 And now for something… slightly different. Possibly bored with Tavares simply playing hockey and barely talking about his free agency so far this season, some attention is starting to turn to 2019 marquee unrestricted free agent defensemen Drew Doughty and Erik Karlsson. In the latter’s case, the wheels have completely come off his Ottawa Senators in the last few weeks, leading some to speculate if the two-time Norris Trophy winner should be traded or not.
What does this have to do with John Tavares? Here’s Pierre LeBrun talking on TSN 1040 Radio Vancouver, with a transcription by Chris Nichols of FanRag Sports.
“As it goes back to Karlsson though, just to sort of finish the point on that, the one thing we do know with the Erik Karlsson situation is that that situation pretty much has to come to a head this summer. He’ll have one year left on his deal as of July 1. In a Canadian market, I just don’t think that you can allow a superstar to enter his walk year at training camp without an extension done. It’s one thing for the Islanders to manage that with John Tavares right now where they essentially have one terrific beat writer in Arthur Staple, but not an army of media. And he doesn’t get asked about it every day. I was just there a couple of weeks ago and chatted about it with Tavares. But people leave him alone. It’s a whole different fish here in Canada.”
There’s probably a lot more that can be said on this point, but we’ll can just let this stand on its own for now.
December 10, 2017 I’m a few days late on this, but even writer Dave Lozo isn’t taking it too seriously. What are the chances of free agent starts Tavares, Drew Doughty and Erik Karlsson creating some kind of NBA-style super team?
Tavares is a free agent July 1 so he will have to play the role of brave explorer, setting out ahead of Karlsson and Doughty to claim the new world in the name of the super team. That will require some trust between the trio, something they can build this weekend after they all read this and fall in love with the idea.
tl;dr I wouldn’t hold my breath. But at least someone’s having fun with this.
December 8, 2017 In a story about Mathew Barzal for CBC, the subject still turns to Tavares before long. In a bit of wishful thinking (that every Islanders fan has probably already thought about already), the story proposes that Barzal could become the Evgeni Malkin to Tavares’s Sidney Crosby, with the added bonus of Tavares also tutoring the young center. As usual, Doug Weight comes right out and says what he thinks of that idea.
And Weight hopes Barzal will not only be able to watch Tavares raise the Stanley Cup, but be there alongside him.
"John Tavares is our captain and I'm not comfortable not having John Tavares back," Weight said. "He's our engine, he's our leader, he's a tremendous pro and everything I said about Mat Barzal's work ethic, he's learning from John, he feeds off John, so this conversation, to be blunt, wouldn't be happening without John Tavares supporting Mat, being a good teammate for Mat, being a leader for Mat and teaching Mat."
“So it's integral for us to have John back in our organization because he's John and because we need him, but Mat will do nothing but benefit from having John as a leader ... as a player, as a person."
December 6, 2017 I generally don’t like to rehash my own jokes, but perhaps in the spirit of this particular update, it’s warranted.
Even with Tuesday night’s 6-2 loss in Tampa, the Islanders have, to this point in the season, three forwards (Tavares, Anders Lee and Josh Bailey) and one defenceman (Nick Leddy) near the top of the league in scoring, an all world rookie in Mathew Barzal, two goalies who can’t make a save and, potentially, a new arena. But sure, let’s do another Tavares free agency article.
That’s what made the rounds this morning via ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski. The graphics on the article are very neat - scroll down to see Tavares model various uniforms throughout the NHL - but the content within was nothing new or insightful. In fact, some of the reasons Wyshynski gave for Tavares signing on with different clubs were the same ones he cited in a roundtable article back on October 30th, which is also listed in this encyclopedia. Believe it or not, they still have golf in places other than Tampa, and a short term mercenary deal would still be a very un-Tavares like thing to do. Wyshynski puts the Islanders at the top of the list but all anyone will care about are the Photoshops of him in Maple Leafs and Rangers colors.
My feelings from a few weeks ago regarding a Craig Custance Top Free Agents of 2018 article haven’t changed. The season is barely a quarter of the way finished. Everything - including the entire Metro Division - is up in the air. The entire hockey world knows Tavares is a free agent in July. He says and has said repeatedly that he wants to stay. I can’t imagine there’s a huge clamor for stuff like this unless you’ve go some cool graphics to attach to it.
Instead, for something new and different related to the Islanders, there’s a profile on coach Doug Weight by writer Alex Prewitt, who delivers these interesting in-depth character pieces weekly. Of course the subject of Tavares came up, but it was just one question in a long Q&A that covered Weight’s transition into assistant coaching and then head coaching, his ferocious note taking, his personal communication tactics with his players and his love of Detroit sports.
SI: After Steven Stamkos decided to return to Tampa Bay, what stood out to me was his process. He was very meticulous—folders of notes, always asking questions, doing research. What do you know about John that informs how he approaches the next step with his contract?
DW: He’s detailed. Whether it’s buying a car or what he’s going to have for dinner or signing a contract, he’s going to investigate. He’s going to ask questions. He’s going to make sure he feels 100 percent like he’s doing the right thing. I wouldn’t expect anything else. I’m not overly concerned by it … He’s got integrity, so when he says he wants to stay and he wants to win here, I believe him. I know he’s being honest. But he also wants to make sure he’s making the right decision and asking all those questions. I’m sure he’s going to have the same notes as Stamkos did, the same things that he wants to go over as a checklist. That’s his right. We’re here to make it as easy as we can on everybody involved, make sure we’re focused on hockey as a group and being prepared for every single game.
Weight’s answer is still mostly comprised of standard talking points, but at least it gives way to him talking about the ‘84 Detroit Tigers and his hatred for morning skates. Between this and pieces on Josh Bailey’s fishing habits and Brock Nelson’s family tree, Prewitt is dangerously close to swerving out of the national hockey writer’s designated Islanders lane.
Finally, in a mailbag article from the road, Arthur Staple has to include at least one Tavares question.
@andersIee: Tavares said he hasn’t ruled out signing during the season, if the Isles win belmont before the season is over... do you see him signing before the season is over?
I don’t, but it’s certainly more of an option if the Isles definitely are headed to Belmont before the season ends. Knowing what I know of Tavares, I get the sense his only focus is the season and that even taking a day or two away to announce a deal might not be what he wants.
Tavares hasn’t let anything slip, so he could be itching to sign and get it over with. But he doesn’t seem the type, so my best guess is it all waits until after the season.
As far as these things go, this inquiry seems almost quant.
November 30, 2017 Pierre LeBrun, formerly of ESPN and now of The Athletic, stopped by the Islanders shiny new practice facility at Northwell Health Ice Center to talk to... Mathew Barzal, about this exciting first season. But, while he was around, ol’ Pierre figured he might as well talk to Tavares, too.
It’s mostly well-rehearsed stuff from the captain, about wanting all the information he can gather, not being in a rush and wanting to focus on the season.
“I think anybody, whether it’s a hockey player or any big life decision … when you consider all the factors that are involved, I think you want to take your time and be diligent,” Tavares said Wednesday. “I think that’s my personality anyways. I’ve always stated how much I enjoy it here and how well I’ve always been treated. We just want to have more success. Coming into the year, I never felt any pressure to have to sign right away, I have a year left on my contract, just keep communication open with myself and the organization.
“Once the season starts, I think it’s a lot easier, you just focus on playing every day. You get so involved in the day-to-day process of being better and trying to be at our best; me personally trying to play to the level I want to play at to help this team get to the playoffs. It’s been good so far, just keep trucking along.’’
You can read the whole thing here, but you’ll need a subscription to The Athletic to do so. Here’s Tavares talking about how the arena situation will be one factor in his decision:
“I think that’s the way any player would approach it. Everything will get factored in,” Tavares said. “I’m not going to say it’s the No. 1 or it’s ultimately going to make the decision, obviously you want to know where you’re going to play and ownership’s been tremendous trying to be clear-cut not just to me but to all of our players, all the guys’ families, everyone that’s involved with the Islanders, our fan base, not just myself. I know how hungry and anxious they are to hopefully get the project at Belmont.’’
LeBrun says that his impression is that Tavares is a guy who’s looking for reasons (his word was, “excuses.” Same difference) to stay rather than leave. He also pressed Tavares on whether or not he was determined to wait until the season was over before signing. Surprisingly, he got some push back and talked about it both in the article and later on Thursday night on TSN’s Insider Trading:
“The one thing he told me is that he needs more time to make the biggest decision in his career. And the more he talked, the more he sounded like a guy who wanted to wait until after the season. And yet when I made that point to him, he said “Not necessarily. I’m keeping all options open, including a conversation during the season.”
It’s possible to read stories like this - with quotes we’ve seen 100 times already - and get the impression that it’s all scripted boilerplate designed to give reporters something to report so they’ll go away. But saying he wants to focus on the season and that talking about the contract would be unfair to his teammates are very Tavares things to do. I don’t know if I’m supposed to feel better or worse every time he reiterates the same stuff. If I’m being honest, it kinda depends on the day.
November 29, 2017 Speaking in separate radio hits this week, both Bob McKenzie and Elliotte Friedman said that the Islanders aren’t in a rush to trade Tavares, what with the team currently in second place in the Metro Division and scoring goals in bunches this season.
That might be disappointing for fans outside of Brooklyn, but that’s how it is. As for why he isn’t signed yet, nothing has changed. The captain still wants to know what the arena situation will be going forward and is mainly focused on winning games.
Via Chris Nichols at FanRag Sports, here’s McKenzie:
“But as I’ve said before, if you talk to a player on the New York Islanders, they don’t seem at all worried at the prospect of John Tavares leaving. Now whether that’s blind faith or whether they get a vibe that we don’t get…
“But I think for now, even though he hasn’t signed an extension, I kind of operate on the assumption this still could get done, and John Tavares just wants more information like the arena situation and a longer sample size than 20-odd games to make sure that the team is trending in the right direction.
“And if all of those pieces are in place, I don’t think it’s difficult to do a contract. I think they basically say, ‘Here you go. Eight years and pick some double-digit number between $10-12 million,’ and away we go. It’s not rocket science on that front. It’s just a matter of John Tavares being fully comfortable, and at this point I don’t think he is fully comfortable; but that shouldn’t be construed as, ‘Oh, he’s leaving.’
and here’s Friedman:
“To me, at the end of the day, what does that guy want to do more than anything else – he wants to win,” continued Friedman. “I believe that his future in New York was tied up in two things: No. 1, the arena. And No. 2, does he honestly believe he can win there.
“The better the Islanders do, I think the better the chances are that they convince him to stay. And maybe he looks around at Barzal and Bailey, who’s having a great year, and what does he think about what’s going on around him. If he believes this is for real, I think that’s a real feather in the Islanders’ cap.
“But obviously the arena is the big question. Somebody asked me this week, ‘What happens if that goes beyond the trade deadline?’ I think the Islanders are going to look at it like, ‘Unless he says no before the deadline, he’s not getting traded.’ I think they’ll hold him as long as they can, and they’ll take their chances.”
There’s a lot more to what both guys said, which you can read at the link above. Friedman was also asked about the possibility of Tavares taking a bargain deal to join the Most High Exalted Maple Leafs of Southern Ontario and all Surrounding Kingdoms, which was the focus of our first volume. Somewhere in there, Arthur Staple put a stop to that idea by saying that staunch pro-union guy Tavares would be unlikely to do that because of the implications it might have on his NHLPA brothers.
Kevin Allen of USA Today also said that winning is a good way to keep Tavares from leaving.
Winning is exactly what the Islanders have been doing for the most part this season, which suggests that this whole contract thing hasn’t adversely affected them
Via Arthur Staple, Cal Clutterbuck doesn’t mince words:
“It’s hard to leave a team that is expecting to win every night and is being successful,” Cal Clutterbuck said. “It’s just a different feeling from the last couple years . . . There’s a certain amount of ease as far as the group is with Johnny. There’s a clear desire for him to want to stick around with these guys and there’s a checklist of things he wants done and honestly probably those are things that a lot of the guys in this room want done. So we just let him do his thing. That’s his decision. We’re not gonna miss out on the playoffs because we’re so worried about what he’s going to do.”
So, basically, there’s nothing new to report. Meanwhile at an NHL event at Manhattan’s Paley Center for media, Bryan Trottier offered feelings about Tavares on behalf of all Islanders alumni that were blunt and just a tiny bit on the morbid side.
Via the venerable Neil Best at Newsday:
“We hope [John] Tavares stays with us forever and dies an Islander.”
Trottier’s own grandkids wanted to meet Tavares after a recent Wild-Islanders game so if he wants to stay the cool grampa for a good long time, Tavares re-signing would be very helpful.
November 26, 2017 Playing in Ottawa on a Saturday night means being featured on Hockey Night in Canada, and being on Hockey Night in Canada means the Sportsnet crew is going to talk about you during their Headlines segment. And when you’re the Islanders, that can only mean talking about John Tavares.
There’s nothing new in this discussion aside from the fanciful headline about the Islanders “deciding what to do” with their captain and Nick Kypreos’s vague, off-hand and probably bullshit aside that ”some may be suggesting that [Tavares] maybe might not be willing to wait” three years for a new arena to be built. Yo, Kyper: Jon Ledecky says construction will take 20 months, which basically means just two more seasons in Brooklyn.
In any event, here it is:
So, uh, everybody’s waiting. Thanks guys. We know.
November 19, 2017 With the Islanders in Tampa to play (and beat) the league-leading Lightning, we have another opportunity to compare and contrast Tavares’s contract situation with Steven Stamkos’s from a year ago.
Stamkos entertained other offers during the contact window prior to July 1, 2016, but ultimately signed an eight-year deal worth an average of $8.5 million per season that June 29 to stay in Tampa. He entered Saturday’s game with Tavares’ Islanders leading the NHL with 35 points.
“If I had to do it all over again, would I? That’s a good question,” Stamkos said. “But you get to a point in your career where you’ve earned the right to make that choice and that’s where I was and that’s where John is now.”
Of course, Tavares being Tavares, he looks at questions about his free agency in terms of how they affect his Islanders teammates and the franchise as a whole.
“Before the season there’s plenty of questions and talk about it, but I always knew once the season started there would be a lot more to focus on,” Tavares said. “To worry about that stuff isn’t fair to the organization or the guys in this room.”
This guy is amazing.
November 18, 2017 I’ve already been called out for one rant this week, so I might as well go on another. The word “clickbait” gets thrown around online to mean any article with a provocative headline and little substance, meant only to increase the traffic to a site. But there’s another kind of clickbait, that might be less lazy but nonetheless still unnecessary.
It’s the third week of November. The season is, for some teams, not even 20 games old. It’s impossible to know how the rest of the schedule will play out for anybody, even the teams that already appear to be out of the playoff race.
There is absolutely no need for a “Top Unrestricted Free Agents of 2018” article at this time, except to get a temporary bump in pageviews. July 1st is over nine months away. A lot can happen in that time, and to Craig Custance’s credit, he acknowledges that right from the headline.
But he also uses the 2018 UFA premise to write yet again about John Tavares. At this point, Custance has written so much about Tavares at The Athletic that I might have to put this encyclopedia behind a paywall.
From the November 15 article. You’ll need to be a subscriber to read the whole thing.
Every day that he remains unsigned, gives the rest of the league a little more hope he’ll hit the market.
“Once you get in the last six months of UFA, these guys often go, ‘Why would I sign?’” said a general manager.
The difference with Tavares is that he appears to be looking for any excuse to sign with the Islanders. Money isn’t going to be an issue with the Islanders or in free agency. Those who know him well, believe in his heart of hearts he wants to stay with the Islanders.
He also desperately wants to win.
The Islanders opened the season 9-6-2, and rookie Mathew Barzal appears to be the real deal.
The sentiment remains in favor of him finding a way to get a deal done with the team that drafted him.
Custance certainly isn’t the only person to write an egregiously early 2018 UFA list. Both The Hockey News and Sportsnet have done it TWICE already this season, and even the NHL itself is into the act. I’m pretty sure I’ve ignored them all here because of their superfluousness, but at least Custance’s was a somewhat balanced take (if not a positive one for Islanders fans). Winning is absolutely part of the equation for Tavares, and there are other ways to write about and even frame it using him, but without trying to predict the future.
I get the need to make content everyday can be a tough beast to wrangle. But, like, we’ve kinda got a whole season going on here. Maybe we can wait until it’s at least three quarters over, as opposed to having three quarters left, before we start moving guys around.
November 14, 2017 First of all, thanks to my friend Mike B, who found this in a Craig Custance mail bag article behind the paywall at The Athletic. When asked who the Red Wings could hire if they fire Ken Holland, Custance wrote:
If you want to get creative, call Pat Brisson in Los Angeles and see if he’d leave CAA. Maybe he brings John Tavares with him.
If Tavares wants to go to a team that’s gonna win something soon, I’m not sure Detroit qualifies. Plus, it will be hard for Brisson to fit Tavares in the overhead compartment of the airplane.
Meanwhile, the kids who Tavares visited today as part of Islanders School Day truly know what’s up.
Last dispatch from #IslesSchoolDay— Laura Albanese (@AlbaneseLaura) November 14, 2017
Kid: "Do you secretly want to be on another team."
One second passes, then two. Tavares isn't answering. Eight-second pause.
Tavares: "Absolutely not."
After staring down (adult) media throngs for over a year about his coming free agency, Tavares was happy to generally get a break from the kids, who asked more hockey-related questions of the visiting players. The kids also weren’t shy about showing them love.
"Wow, you've got some energy," John Tavares matter of factly to a room of screaming elementary school kids. It was the most John Tavares thing ever. Trust me.— Laura Albanese (@AlbaneseLaura) November 14, 2017
When I met Tavares in person, I didn’t even know what to say to him. These kids speak for all of us. I’m extremely jealous.
November 9, 2017: Tuesday night’s game against Edmonton was a big one for the Islanders. Not only were they hosting reigning Hart Trophy-winner Connor McDavid but it was the first time Jordan Eberle and Ryan Strome would be playing their old teams. Before the game, Strome had some fun with his old roommate’s contract situation.
Strome on Tavares' future: "I don't know. I have the inside scoop, but I'm not allowed to tell you guys." He was joking. #Isles— Brian Compton (@BComptonNHL) November 7, 2017
The Islanders ended up losing the game in overtime on an unexpectedly spectacular McDavid goal. But Tavares and company played very well (including outshooting the Oilers 13-2 in the third period) and Eberle scored the Islanders’ lone goal.
One reason for the Islanders’ early success so far has been the play of rookie Mathew Barzal, who’s joined with Eberle to give them their first truly dangerous second line in forever. Oilers beatwriter Jim Matheson said he was the best player on the ice in Tuesday’s game and his underlying stats have been fabulous. Just from watching, it’s clear they’re a different team with him producing regularly.
Beyond just this season, how does having Barzal impact Tavares’s future with the Islanders? On today’s Hockey PDOCast, host Dimitri Filipovic and guest Chris Johnston of Sportsnet asked that very question. Johnston’s basic answer was that on top of the arena situation, Tavares wants to win, and that having quality teammates can only help.
Starts around the 34:45 mark:
Johnston: Lots of players say that and I think that maybe you can wonder how true it is or if it’s just something to be said. But I know this guy well enough to know that he’s the sort of player who’s thinking about maybe being in the Hall of Fame and what does he have to do in his career to receive the ultimate recognition that the sport could possibly have. And look, he’s made tremendous sacrifices his whole life. He played in the Ontario Hockey League at age 15. This is what he’s about and this is a huge decision for him, where he’s going to play for the next seven to eight years because they might ultimately be the final ones, in terms of him as a top player stretch of his career.
And there’s also been some developments with the arena where everything does seem to be on pretty good track, I think they’ll find out in the new year whether or not they can develop the land at Belmont where they want to build a new rink. And I think that will be just as key to these discussion. But it’s going to be fascinating.
If they are as competitive as it looks, and there’s a bit of future hope and that the organization’s in a good place, then he’s also a pretty loyal man, John.
The segment ends with Dimitri praising the passion of Islanders fans who come running to Tavares free agency news like ants to a picnic blanket, and even write blog posts about nearly everything that’s said about the subject. I’d like to think he was talking about us and the 30,000-plus words we’ve spilled over the last two calendar years in two separate volumes, but there a lot of people out there watching this story unfold with a great deal of interest.
Which is why, if Ryan Strome really does have the inside scoop, he should cough it up right now and let us have some damn peace for God’s sake.
November 6, 2017: Speaking after practice today with Newsday’s Steve Marcus, Tavares said nothing’s changed regarding his outlook on the season and his contract status.
“For me, anyone making a big commitment, decision in their life, I think you want to know everything that’s involved, and certainly you want to take your time, and I think that’s my type of personality. For me, I don’t see it really as a rush. I still got the rest of this contract, and now that we’re in the season, I’m just trying to worry about playing as much as I can. That’s enough on my plate.”
When the subject of Belmont was brought up, Tavares re-iterated his desire to stay with the Islanders.
Regardless of what happens with Belmont — the state has set no timetable — Tavares appears intent on delaying any decision about his future until the end of the season. Neither he nor the team appears to view the Feb. 26 NHL trade deadline as a critical juncture.
“Not from my standpoint,’’ he said. “I don’t expect to be traded or want to be traded. I want to play here. That’s my goal, it hasn’t changed . . . I’m here as an Islander, really enjoy being the captain and try to give these guys everything every day.’’
One of the interesting things about the many, many, many, many, many quotes and articles pertaining to Tavares’s free agency is that they act as sort of a Rorschach test, reflecting how the reader views things. One person can read, “I don’t expect to be traded or want to be traded. I want to play here. That’s my goal, it hasn’t changed” and see a loyal captain that bleeds blue and orange. Another person can read, “I’m here as an Islander” and think, “uh, what else is he going to be? That’s a weird thing to say.” A third person can read, “For me, I don’t see it really as a rush” and have a full blown panic attack.
Or, one person can read all of that and experience all of those emotions and more.
Regardless, Tavares will address his contract when he feels the time is right. And all we can do is wait. Still...
November 2, 2017: Now to follow up our last, uh, follow up. Dreger expanded a little on his Tavares comments from the night before on a Thursday morning Montreal radio hit. His words feel a little less urgent, either because of different phrasing or maybe he had more time to chat than he did during his three minute appearance on NBC.
“And look, this is how this is going to play out until John Tavares wakes up one day and says, ‘Alright, well I feel like I should either A) sign that extension or B) not sign it and sit back and test the unrestricted free agent market.’ And frankly, nobody knows that at this point, including John Tavares.
“What’s interesting though is how the New York Islanders continue to recruit not only Tavares, but maybe potential unrestricted free agents. They put out the video the other day of their fancy renovations to their training facility. They spent several million dollars in bringing this facility up to NHL standard. And it’s nice, but even co-owner Jon Ledecky acknowledged that they’re doing it to try and persuade players to pay closer attention to the New York Islanders, and of course that includes John Tavares.
C’mon, dude. The Northwell Health practice facility is way better than “nice.” It’s got a private chef and hot tubs with TVs right on the walls next to them and Islanders logos everywhere and a friggin’ pool with an exercise bike built into it. Even Ivan Drago didn’t have this kind of equipment and he was literally hooked into computers while he trained.
But will that have an effect on Tavares’s decision? More Dreger:
“I think most rival teams believe that Tavares is going to stay with the Islanders, but that’s just their hunch or belief. There’s no proof of that, and there’s been no clear indication that that is what’s going to happen. But you do sometimes have the domino effect. It’s still early in the season in terms of trade.
Ledecky and Malkin certainly have spared no expense since they’ve taken over majority ownership of the club. They’ll probably not hesitate to fork over whatever it takes to sign Tavares. It sounds like he wants to listen. But the waiting continues...
November 1, 2017: First, a follow-up. Pretty convenient to float the idea of Tavares going to Tampa Bay one day and then asking Steven Stamkos about all of these rumors circling around Tavares going to Tampa Bay the next day, eh, Wysh?
But Stamkos said he hasn't communicated with Tavares about his future.
"No, I have not reached out to John to tell him how great the golf is here. But obviously, I can relate to the position that he's in," said Stamkos. "I think he's handling it very well. Look at his play in the last week or two, as he's stepped up to carry that team. It's not the easiest position to be in, when you're being asked questions every day about it."
Not surprisingly, Stamkos doesn’t bite, but he does have a lot of sympathy for his friend, having gone through all of this just last season.
"The only thing I can say is that I relate to being in that position, going through a year without a contract," said Stamkos. "Whatever happens, happens."
Anyway, moving on. Darren Dreger was the NBCSN pre-game show and talked about the ball basically being in Tavares’s court when it comes to signing. If video becomes available, we’ll slide it in here. Until then, here are tweets from FanRag’s Chris Nichols:
Dreger: "This is 100 percent up to John Tavares." If he feels at some point in-season now is the time, "It's going to be automatic." #Isles— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) November 1, 2017
Dreger: "But they're not there yet, and they may not get there. That's up to J.T.." #Isles— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) November 1, 2017
I don’t want to editorialize too much without having seen the video. But from the sound of things, Dreger is both A. turning the tide to focus on Tavares making the decision to stay or go and B. greasing the skids for a massive, massive offer.
Things have been trending this way for some time, now that I think about it. And it’s not a fun position to be in. Not the money aspect of it - I’m of the mind that the Islanders need to give the guy whatever he wants based on time served and all he means for the franchise, salary cap be damned. Rather, it’s the power aspect of it that makes me squirm a little.
This kinda sets up the narrative of Tavares potentially rejecting the only team he’s known in his career, which is a hard mental hurdle for me to get over. Sure, it could have always ended up that way, but putting in those words makes it seem so real and painful. It might also dredge up unwelcome memories of high school or something that some of us might not want to remember...
In any event, the wheels continue to turn and Islanders fans continue to get ground between them.
October 30, 2017: I wanted to drop in a small video with Tavares that played at the intermission of one of last week’s games. But MSG still hasn’t posted it. It wasn’t a big deal, but it was a chance to get some actual words from Tavares on the subject of his own free agency. If it posts, I’ll throw it in.
Meanwhile: With the surprisingly unstoppable Vegas Golden Knights in Brooklyn for the first stop of their first real roadtrip in franchise history, and with his insane two-hat trick week netting him the NHL’s First Star of the Week, there was a little extra attention paid to John Tavares this morning. Which, of course, means free agency discussion.
Over at ESPN, the Worldwide Leader in Forced Contrarianism, a morning round table article tackled The Tavares Question with two of the three writers - Emily Kaplan and Chris Peters - predicting, so to speak, that Tavares will most likely sign an extension with the Islanders. Only Greg Wyshynski, newly hired from the Puck Daddy blog he started at Yahoo, said he expected Tavares to leave.
His reasoning: Tampa Bay has a very good team, a bunch of Tavares’s friends, cap space (if they make a trade) and golf.
So if he walks, where does he end up? Forget the Don Cherry "Good Ontario boy" fantasy of Tavares with the Toronto Maple Leafs, especially on a short-term deal. But what about a team that has one of his closest friends as its captain (Steven Stamkos), a burgeoning mega-star winger (Nikita Kucherov), a Norris-caliber defenseman (Victor Hedman) and Stanley Cup aspirations? One with $5 million in cap space that's one Tyler Johnson trade away? One that plays in Tampa, which is a pretty nice deal for an avid golfer like Tavares?
The stumbling blocks for all three are a new arena finally coming through for the team and Tavares having a chance to win.
All of that’s fine and good and makes a ton of sense. But I can’t take totally seriously an article that still uses the specter of a move to Quebec City as a scare tactic, let alone one that uses the Montreal Canadiens as an example of a team with a brighter future than Tavares’s current team. The Habs can try to get Tavares all they want, but their roster isn’t far and away better than the Islanders, regardless of Carey Price’s (currently dormant) excellence.
As for cap space, friends and golf, guess what? Tavares has all of that now, too. Jack Nicklaus designed a course here, for Christ’s sake.
It’s also possible that I’m a little jaded from reading this stuff for over a year and a half now and want a resolution that favors the Islanders, rather than more surface speculation from today’s parachuting press corps.
October 25, 2017 The Islanders beat the Arizona Coyotes 5-3, thanks to a hat trick and an assist from John Tavares. Writing for FanRag Sports, longtime Coyotes beatwriter Craig Morgan says that teams desiring a Tavares of their very own are gonna need to look elsewhere because the Islanders one is staying put.
The Islanders are one of three bidders for land at Belmont Park, where they hope to build a new arena and escape an unworkable situation at Barclays Center. The MLS team New York City FC is another bidder, but the scuttle around this issue is that there is too much power backing the Islanders’ bid for it to fail.
Aside from Islanders owner Jon Ledecky, the people who can also benefit from the Islanders moving to Belmont, including James Dolan, executive chairman of the Madison Square Garden Company and MSG Network; Islanders minority owner Scott Malkin; Anthony Malkin, chief executive officer and chairman of Empire State Realty Trust Inc.; and the MSG Networks (owned by Dolan) that are all major financial backers of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, according to Long Island Business News editor Joe Dowd.
Why is that important? The belief is that once the team’s arena future is settled, perhaps in January, Ledecky will give Snow the green light to sign Tavares to a lucrative, long-term deal.
Assuming the Islanders have a new arena — and that is a widespread assumption in NHL circles — there’s no reason for him to leave and there are few teams that can afford him under the league’s flatlining salary cap.
We give a lot of grief to out-of-town media in this encyclopedia for either misunderstanding the situation or twisting itself into knots to fit some narrative that Tavares would want to come to Team X. It’s possible that Morgan, who’s been around a very long time, is just repeating what he heard around his from sources who are repeating what they heard around the league and so on. That LI Business Journal article posted a while ago and a bunch of us had a laugh about it on Twitter.
Still, it’s an interesting change of pace from the usual thing we’ve seen over the last two years. Let’s see if if catches on. (Don’t bet on it).
October 20, 2017 Not an Earth-moving update or anything but probably worth adding. Elliotte Friedman theorized on a radio hit that the Montreal Canadiens (who are a miserable 1-6-3 so far this season) might be keeping cap space open to make a possible run at Tavares should he hit free agency.
“I just think that Montreal is sitting there waiting to see what happens,” noted Friedman. “I think Montreal is just sitting there with a lot of cap room. I think what they’re doing is waiting to see what occurs. Does he re-sign. Does he test the market.
“Look, I’ve said a billion times I think his first choice is to re-sign, but I think Montreal is sitting there hedging their bets and saying, ‘Just in case.’ And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I think that if John Tavares does become available, he’s better than anyone who’s going to be available, so I think that’s kind of Montreal’s plan and the owner let it slip at the beginning of the year.”
The Habs currently have about $8.5 million in open cap space and will probably have a ton more when dudes come off the books at the end of the season. Of course, the good readers of Eyes on the Prize wonder what kind of team Tavares would be coming to if he did end up in Montreal. Maybe everyone should focus on the current season first, hm?
Some of this speculation was based on the fact that Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin was seen at a bunch of Islanders games in recent weeks. Bob McKenzie said it was most likely more about Bergevin’s team playing the same opponents the Islanders played just prior to Montreal’s road trip to California and that any kind of deal between the two teams was probably not Tavares-related.
Again, via FanRag:
There was a lot of people on Twitter speculating that it’s John Tavares-related. I just shook my head at that one. I could be way off the mark, but I don’t think that’s a situation that the Islanders are pursuing right now and I don’t know that any general manager in the National Hockey League desperately needs to do a lot of pre-scouting on John Tavares.
And how are the Islanders doing? Well, they’re 3-3-1 and have had some good games and some not-so-good ones. This clip of Friedman is a few days old but it’s worth remembering: winning is as important to Tavares as the arena is. So it might be time to string some more good games together.
Tavares stuff is right at the beginning.
October 15, 2017 Of the teams that have come up in this encyclopedia, the Sharks seem like an odd inclusion. They’re already pretty good, they’re way over on the west coast and aren’t a historically big player in the free agency game. They also don’t have half the media contingent constantly banging the drums for John Tavares like the Maple Leafs and Canadiens do.
But this weekend, with the Islanders in San Jose, Mercury News writer Paul Gackle seems to have made the Sharks acquiring Tavares his persona mission. He wrote essentially an article and a half about it in two days. First, he argued that Tavares would be the perfect replacement for 39-year-old war horse Joe Thornton:
In short, Tavares isn’t going to commit to the team on a longterm basis until this situation is cleared up, which isn’t likely to happen overnight if history has taught us anything.
As a result, Tavares should be an appetizing option for the looming post-Thornton era of Sharks hockey.
Then a day later, he reported that Sharks coach Peter deBoer is a fan of the Islanders captain. I mean, no kidding:
“In my mind, John Tavares is one of the top-five players in the world. He’s that good,” DeBoer said. “I got first-hand knowledge of him in New Jersey when I (coached) there and he’s a special talent.”
Despite all that, Gackle admits that A. the Sharks would have a problem fitting Tavares under the salary cap; B. Tavares appears content with being an Islander (as long as all that arena and winning stuff is sorted out) and; C. maybe Matt Duchene would be a better, easier-to-acquire alternative. But that ain’t Matt Duchene’s picture at the top of his article, so it goes in here. The Islanders beat the Sharks 3-1, by the way.
Closer to home, ol’ Brooksie is back to wonder how the timeline for all that arena stuff could actually affect getting Tavares’s signature on a contract:
But if the trade deadline approaches without a rapid, favorable decision from Empire State Development, the burden in the Taveras-Islanders dynamic will fall entirely on the team. Ownership and management will have to decide whether to, a) ride it out with No. 91 and risk having their franchise player walk out the door with nothing in return if Belmont hasn’t gone their way by July 1; or, b) move him for what presumably would be a plentiful bounty.
Brooks isn’t wrong or anything. When this stuff shakes out is just as important as if it shakes out. It’s just that articles pondering “maybe if A happens, then B, C, and/or D are potentially possible” are kind of a waste of everyone’s time. Things could happen, they could not, or something entirely different could happen.
Larry Brooks knows this. In the same column, in a section about where the Islanders would play in the interim while an arena is being built, he drops this:
There is no need to stir controversy now regarding hypothetical scenarios that may or may not come to fruition.
I mean, c’mon dude...
As we’ve heard time and again, Islanders fans are just going to have to ride this situation out whether they like it or not. It’s too much to ask writers who need to write to pay the bills to do the same. But this is flying a little too fast through the looking glass, especially, like, a week into the season.
So let’s stay focused on the most pressing aspect of Tavares’s current contract status: how it affects fantasy hockey GMs. Thank you, George Kurtz at RotoExperts:
As for Fantasy his owners, (I am one) Tavares has stated that he is comfortable with the current situation. However, let’s see if that holds up when he is being bombarded by questions by the media on every road trip.
Okay. Good to know.
October 10, 2017 A new season means the return of TSN’s BobCast, in which the original insider Bob McKenzie answers questions about hockey, wine, music, or just tells great stories from his umpteen years covering the NHL. The bi-weekly show is required listening.
In his second episode of this season, McKenzie gets a question about where John Tavares sits with that whole UFA thing. The answer is, as expected, even-keeled and detailed. And while McKenzie “Doesn’t doubt for a moment” that Tavares likes playing for the Islanders and Doug Weight and has good relationships with Garth Snow and ownership, the segment has more buts than Mike Bossy’s locker room ashtray. And that’s because there’s a lot up in the air with the team as always.
You can listen to the whole show here (and you should), but the Tavares question comes up around the 51:00 mark. This is the end, around 55:00
In the case of John Tavares, all I think he’s doing right now, and the reason why there haven’t been any specific discussions about an extension, is simply because he wants more information. Where are the New York Islanders gonna play? If John Tavares signs an eight-year contract, how many years into it, where are they gonna be? Are they gonna be in Belmont? If they’re gonna be in Belmont, how long before the rink is built and they playing in the new facility? What are they doing in the meantime? Is this Islanders team, is it going north this year, or is it going south?
And those are all factors. If John Tavares just does nothing but dedicate himself to be the best he can be for the New York Islanders, which he’s done every minute that he’s ever been a member of that organization, then having more information makes it easier for him to make a decision. And in the meantime, Islander fans are gonna have to get used to the fact that everybody’s gonna be speculating on the future and there’s gonna be a bunch of people who say, “he’s going to free agency. He’s leaving.” And a bunch of people who are adamantly gonna go on the other side and say, “Not a chance in the world. He’s our captain. He’s dedicated. He’s loyal. He’ll stick with us.” But the reality is, the jury’s out. We don’t know. We’re gonna have to wait and see. And we’ll just take it from there.
McKenzie knows Tavares very well, having written a chapter in his book Hockey Dad: True Confessions Of A (Crazy) Hockey Parent about John and his lacrosse-playing uncle John. So if he says that’s what Tavares is doing, I’m inclined to believe it. Does it make me worry less? No, but that’s just how it is.
Meanwhile back in New York, the Islanders hosted a media luncheon and co-owner Jon Ledecky went all in on Belmont, with some juicy quotes about how focused the team is about winning the bid on the property. Obviously, it’s going to be a monumental thing for the franchise, with Tavares being just one reason (albeit a big one).
Snow was also on hand at the luncheon and when asked for an update on how things are going with Tavares’s camp, he offered a one-word answer: “Excellent.”
Hey, that’s more than we usually get from the tight-lipped GM, so we’ll have to take it. Tavares himself has said that communication between his agent and the team has been great. Friends!
What about Mike Bossy? Is he still friends with the Islanders after the crazy trade speculation he’s thrown around on his Montreal radio show? Writing again for Islanders Point Blank, Chris Botta says the team really needs to get their rouge legend under control before things get really wild. Via Eyes on Isles, Bossy commented on the article and said he’s merely giving his opinions on Tavares and that the captain is all about the Islanders right now. Sounds like this might be the last update we have from Bossy for a little while.
So there you go. A little good, a little weird, and a little to think about. And we’re only three games into the season...
October 8, 2017 Just before the season began, Mike Bossy again spoke about Tavares on Montreal sports radio, saying that if the Islanders are out of the playoff running by Christmas that the captain will be traded. I don’t know if something is getting lost in the translation or Bossy has made a genuine heel turn against his one-and-only NHL club, but his comments on this situation (as we heard previously on June 3rd of this year) are the most uncomfortable to add here. It’s probably just sports talk radio blathering, but it’s still off-putting coming from a guy we all love dearly.
Speaking of blathering, it looks like Sportsnet is now inventing reasons to mention Tavares’s free agency, like this article about next season’s UFA’s that ran the day after the season started. Did anyone really need an article like this, with this current season just a day old? Nope. But sometimes you gotta just keep everyone on their toes, first by saying that Tavares has always said he wants to stay, but then writing...
The loyal superstar is willing to play the waiting game, which should unnerve management and fans.
...with a link back to a previous article doing the same thing. This is the lamest, weakest and most Canadian form of psychological warfare ever devised.
After the Islanders’s 6-3 win over the Sabres in their home opener, in which Tavares had two goals and an assist and was named the game’s first star, Mark Herrmann of Newsday enlightened us on a taste of how the game felt with the specter of the contract looming far in the background.
He does not want this season to be a referendum on his impending free agency. He does not want it to be a wistful nostalgia tour. He does not want to leave, either, although that is a possibility. He wants to do what he has done ever since he got here, and that is give the Islanders everything he has.
It’s natural to think the contract will become a distraction as the season goes on. But Tavares is nothing if not focused, especially when the puck drops. He also understands his place in franchise history extraordinarily well and knows exactly what this means for the fans and the organization.
Even Kyle Okposo, who signed with Buffalo last year after playing alongside Tavares for seven years, knows his friend knows what’s up:
“Johnny’s obviously a good friend, a friend of mine for life. I’m not going to grill him too much on that,” Okposo said before Saturday’s game. “We’ve just talked, I want to make sure he’s doing OK with it mentally, give him a little bit of advice because it’s a tough thing when you’re going through it. He’s doing OK, focused on winning games and being the best player he can for the Islanders.”
I’ll believe their words and actions over Canadian clickbait any day.
October 3, 2017 An interminable offseason comes to a sudden end again. With a new season comes previews and with previews come a focus on the Islanders and a focus on the Islanders means questions about John Tavares’s future because he’s one of two Islanders players pretty much anyone can name (welcome to that small club, Jordan Eberle).
Linking to all the previews here would be dumb and time-consuming. But in a special insider prediction panel thing at Sportsnet, Tavares gets his own question all to himself. Behold the results:
After the trade deadline John Tavares will be a member of the ___________:
Chris Johnston: New York Islanders
Iain MacIntyre: New York Islanders
Mark Spector: New York Islanders
Eric Engels: Montreal Canadiens
Luke Fox: Tampa Bay Lightning
Daren Millard: New York Islanders
David Amber: New York Islanders
Eric Francis: Toronto Maple Leafs
Gord Stellick: New York Islanders
Nick Kypreos: New York Islanders
Jeff Marek: New York Islanders
Kristina Rutherford: New York Islanders
Sean McIndoe: New York Islanders
Doug MacLean: New York Islanders
Rory Boylen: New York Islanders
Tavares’s free agency and trade availability is a hot button topic in part because he’s the biggest free agent fish of next season. He’s in his prime, younger than Rick Nash and Joe Thornton and he’s been with one team his whole career. Having said that, and maybe it’s just me, but seeing him spotlighted like this makes me think there is a measure of Canadian glee taken at making Islanders fans nervous.
Then I see that just three of the 15 experts expect him not to still be an Islander at the deadline and I feel better knowing that Tavares’s message seems to be getting through. Also, Eric Francis can go jump in a lake made of the water he’s been carrying for the Flames.
Speaking of Canadian glee (not to be confused with Canadian Glee, in which misfit university students live, love and sings the songs of Bachman, Turner, Overdrive. Airing Monday nights at 10 on City!), Tavares also figures into writer Jimmy Hascup’s Five Bold Predictions of the upcoming season. No, I’ve never heard of him, either.
4. John Tavares will get traded during the season. The New York Islanders will have no choice. The longer Tavares, a free agent next off-season, goes without an extension, the more free agency will tempt him. Tavares, 27, could demand a contract with a $10 million average annual value. GM Garth Snow will have to weigh that against losing a franchise icon and resetting for the future.
Okay, Jimmy. Good luck with your shoe business.
Meanwhile back in Brooklyn, Arthur Staple went right to the captain and his teammates to get their take on everyone’s take on the contract. The answers were frank and actually kind of funny. You should read the whole thing, but here’s a sample:
[Johnny] Boychuk jokingly tried to supplicate to his captain for the playful shots. “I just give him little pokes here and there. It’s all in fun . . . I hope he forgives me, I beg his forgiveness. I love him.”
Boychuk also knows what it will be like when the Isles travel around the NHL this season. “Oh, they’re going to be bombarding him,” he said. “They’ll be hovering over him, when we go to Toronto, it’ll be, ‘Hey, John, how would you like to play here?’ And he’ll be like, ‘I’m playing for the Islanders, I like it here.’ It’s going to be tough for him because everywhere he goes he’ll get the same question. He’s very professional in the way he goes about things.”
The article ends with Tavares saying the team’s focus is on the season, not his status, and Doug Weight confirming that management and player have a good relationship so he’s not sweating anything.
That’s all fine and good, but things get real starting Friday. If the team piles up wins, they can keep laughing about the contract all they want.
September 29, 2017 Is this a thing? I feel like it should be a thing. Not a big thing. But at least a thing.
Granted, it’s from Jimmy Murphy, a Boston-based hockey writer who’s notorious in Bruins circles for being a rampant, often wrong rumor monger. So major, major amounts of salt are required to absorb this. And, really, none of it’s at all shocking considering what we’ve been hearing all this time.
But still, in the interest of (mostly) completeness, here you go:
Murphy was later corrected on the whole Islanders-Barclays Center opt-out timeline. And whether Murphy’s “source” is talking out of his or her ass about these conversations will be revealed in due time.
In fact, a day later, birthday boy Brian Compton offered a counterpoint:
But the point remains that the team and their captain are going into the season without an extension to see where the season goes.
As others have pointed out, for fans, that plan kinda sucks. But that’s all we have.
September 20, 2017 Today is John Tavares’s 27th birthday (so, uh, just add a year to that Star Wars crawl video at the top). While he sat out the Islanders’ split-squad games against the Flyers, we’ll round up a few articles.
First, Darren Dreger talked Tavares on TSN (among other things) and said that the relationship between both the player and the Islanders is “very amicable” right now. That’s good! However...
If he picked up the phone or his agent Pat Brisson called Garth Snow and said, ‘we’d like to get things going on a more progressive level now,’ Snow would jump at that. That’s not going to be the case. JT wants to wait to see how the team develops, certainly some improvements were made during the offseason, he wants to see how that all meshes.
Yes, the arena thing is a part of that as well. Dreger finished by saying Tavares could sign a max 8-year deal or he could see what free agency brings, which is a little like saying tomorrow could be sunny or it could not be. Thanks, Mr. G.
You can watch it here (no, really. It’s not geo-locked) and see the whole thing. Tavares stuff starts around 1:10.
In an Islanders season preview for The Sporting News, Jim Cerny (a former Islanders radio play-by-play man himself), mentions the contract right up front:
The Tavares story will dominate the Isles narrative all season, unless he does sign an extension at some point.
Hard to argue otherwise.
At NHL.com, Dan Rosen includes Tavares in a list of other 2018-free agents (there are others? Holy moly!) but maintains that all is not lost.
His negotiation doesn't appear to be about money. It's more about getting answers on the future of the organization, the direction it is headed and where it will be playing, as in if a new arena is coming to the New York area. Tavares said he is willing to negotiate during the season, which is a good sign for the Islanders.
Finally, in an article at the Islanders official site, Tavares’s legendary focus and singular drive to make himself better than he already is reason to believe the contract issue won’t become a distraction.
"He doesn't take a break and it's that thing," Weight said. "It's almost as if somebody else did that, you'd look at the guy like 'oh what are you doing?' But it's not phony, it's sincere it's just a quality and it's pretty special."
With that amount of focus and drive, Weight said Tavares will have no problems playing through questions about his contract status.
September 16, 2017: When we last left him, John Tavares was playing a tournament at the luxurious Sebonack Golf Club alongside other captains from the Islanders past. Also at the course that day was Golden State Warriors guard, NBA MVP and two-time champion Steph Curry, who chatted with Tavares about whatever it is superstar athletes talk about.
So what happened between then and the start of Islanders training camp? A lot, actually. Unfortunately, no one’s seemed to heed the advice of Puck Daddy’s Ryan Lambert:
Everyone’s gonna ask him if this is a big deal to him in a training-camp scrum, and I don’t know what they hope to accomplish. You, the reporter here in this very real scenario coming soon to a practice rink near you, are not gonna get him to go, “Ah y’know what I’m actually leaving this year and I hope they trade me ASAP.”
Let the man live!
Let’s start at the same place we ended our last volume: Mike Zeisberger. The longtime Toronto scribe followed up his mild shot at the Islanders-Tavares situation by asking Jordan Eberle, who was acquired from Edmonton to bolster scoring if not directly to partner with Tavares, whether he feels he’s part of the team’s plan to keep their captain beyond this season.
From the Toronto Sun, on September 8th:
“John’s going to make up his mind on his own,” Eberle said. “The arena situation is going to be a bigger factor than I am.”“John’s going to make up his mind on his own,” Eberle said. “The arena situation is going to be a bigger factor than I am.”
He might be new here, but Eberle has the basics down pretty well. We’re still waiting on news about the Belmont Park RFP, about the Islanders bid for the land, what they want to build there, who else wants to build there, etc. But that issue looms large over Tavares’s decision to commit to the Islanders long-term.
And then there was the tampering. Get a load of this merde:
Of note this AM at #Habs golf tourney: G.Molson saying he and GM Bergevin hold discussions regarding star players,"including (John) Tavares'— Richard Labbé (@Richardlabbe) September 11, 2017
Does that constitute tampering, like the time Vancouver GM Jim Benning got fined for openly talking about trying to acquire P.K. Subban and Steven Stamkos? Arthur Staple thinks so:
Wonder if Mr. Molson has any discussions with Bergevin about NHL tampering rules too https://t.co/7Zk1Y2r6oL— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) September 11, 2017
As of today, about a week later, we haven’t heard about any tampering charges being filed or fines being levied. Still, this kind of thing is just par for the course when it comes to the ongoing Tavares contract situation.
And ongoing it is. Tavares is still the Islanders captain, still under contract for one more season and still vocally, emotionally and professionally loyal to the only NHL club he’s played for. And while he (and we) await to find out more about the team’s future, he’s still actively communicating with ownership and is willing to talk contract during the season.
"I'm kind of open to anything," said Tavares, the No. 1 pick of the 2009 NHL Draft. "For me, I think it's not something that we talk about on a daily basis, even weekly basis. I think it's important to stay focused on the season and making sure I'm as committed as I've always been and be the best player and captain I can be for the Islanders.
"Like I've said, the communication has been great and we'll continue to keep that open and let the process continue to move along. As things continue to be talked about, if that's what some of the conversations are, yeah, we haven't specifically said, 'No, we're not talking,' or none of that. We're open to it all."
Via Staple at Newsday on the 14th:
Tavares made it clear in talks with reporters last month that his desire to wait and see how things unfold with a number of uncertain situations around the team had little to do with numbers or negotiation.
Sources on both sides said there has barely been any real contract talk and that the lines of communication between Isles owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin, Snow and the Tavares camp have been primarily to keep the captain apprised of progress toward a new arena, not about dollars and term.
Nationally, the story is the same. Speaking on Buffalo’s WGR radio on the 13th, Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman said that he still believes Tavares’s first choice is to remain an Islander and that most of the decision lay on the arena.
Via Chris Nichols at FanRag Sports:
“I’ve got to tell you too – you ask NHL players about Tavares, I don’t know how many of them have more respect among their peers than that guy does. They really speak very highly of him.
“Anyway, I think John Tavares is a really uncomplicated guy. He’s loyal. He wants to play for the Islanders. He’s been through a lot there and he wants to win there.
“But I think at the end of the day it’s going to come down to arena. If the Islanders get that arena done, then I think he’s going to stay. But if they don’t get that arena done or there’s no clarity, I think the chances tilt to him going somewhere else.
So, that’s the story so far. On Sunday, the Islanders will play the Flyers at a preseason game at Nassau Coliseum, their first game there since the 2015 playoffs. Head coach Doug Weight said today that Tavares will be in the lineup, back in his old home building.
Maybe the game will fill him with so much Islanders Pride that he signs an extension Monday morning and ends The John Tavares Contract Encyclopedia Volume 2 with exactly one entry. (Update: Guess not, although his two-goal performance brought a smile to his face)
But I doubt it. So keep coming back right here for more updates as this story continues into a second interminable season of the least-enjoyable twists and turns imaginable.
Appendix: More Non-SB Nation Blogs trying to acquire Tavares
Red Wings: Octopus Thrower
Blues: Bleedin Blue (good lord this trade)
Sharks: The Hockey Writers
Devils: Pucks and Pitchforks
Rangers: The Hockey Writers
Blackhawks: Faxes from Uncle Dale