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Gone: John Tavares Leaves the New York Islanders

The end of an era, an exhausting week for fans, and a bizarre saga that is par for the last 30 years

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New York Islanders v Anaheim Ducks
Well then.
Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The new regime of Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz was not enough to save him. The limitless promise of having Mathew Barzal as the other part of a 1-2 punch at center was not enough to keep him. The goal of “finishing what he started” and trying to win the Islanders’ fifth Cup was no longer enough of a lure. He decided to check his options, and he’s choosing one that takes him elsewhere.

John Tavares, one of the best players in franchise history, is leaving the New York Islanders after nine seasons.

It’s absolutely his right. But the way it went down will always carry a little extra sting for fans. The mismanagement of the franchise for most of his tenure is largely to blame, but his part in leading fans to believe he wanted to make it work provides that extra gut punch.

Arthur Staple was first to confirm that Tavares had (finally) notified the Islanders of his intention to depart on Sunday morning, July 1, the beginning of official free agency and the close of a week of discussing “parameters” with six teams. Staple captured it succinctly in a post-mortem at The Athletic:

It’s true that the Isles might not have Lamoriello or Trotz had Tavares signed last offseason. But if he harbored so many doubts about the direction of the team, why not share those with ownership at any point during 2017-18 so the Islanders could move on? Instead, Tavares and his camp asked last summer to be given time and to not be moved, which feels like an unnecessary slap now that he’s moved on for nothing.

This was a wrenching decision for Tavares, according to people who know him. But that won’t absolve him of responsibility in all this — particularly in taking right up to the midnight deadline on Saturday to be able to sign an eight-year deal. Tavares held on through the last minute into Sunday and the Islanders were left in the lurch.

Of all the ways we imagined it would end, this kind of slow walk while the Islanders tried to reset was not what we imagined. There is so much blame to go around.

But ultimately, it’s his decision, a right that wouldn’t change even if the Isles had seen more success during his tenure. He put in his time with the Islanders — even signing his second contract at a time that reassured an unstable organization and probably left money on the table — reassessed the future of his own career (and lifestyle), and decided he wanted to try chasing the Stanley Cup somewhere else.

What can you do but wish him well? (Even if not, perhaps, wishing him the best.) And now get on with the business of fixing the team he’s left behind.

Tavares or his camp posted a standard thank you to the Islanders on his Twitter feed. Read it and feel nothing...

...or have empathy for what the dilemma meant to him:

What’s done is done. For nine years, 12 years, 30 years, Islanders fans have experienced that lesson again and again. They can only hope Lamoriello and Trotz know how to change that narrative, finally, as they move forward without #91, who now becomes a symbol of Islanders’ past.