John Tavares is the pending unrestricted free agent to watch this season. Since Steven Stamkos signed just before he would have tested the market in 2016, the soon-to-be 27-year-old Tavares has the potential to become the best UFA of the salary cap era.
The first day of training camp brought some good news for Islanders fans on Thursday. No, Tavares doesn’t seem close to a breakthrough and a new deal, but he’s also not setting any deadline. Sometimes, players choose not to negotiate during the season, but Tavares is keeping that option open.
Currently making just $5.5 million against the cap, a steal for a player of his calibre, Tavares figures to fall more in line with other stars — the low-end of any new contract could be a $10-million cap hit.
Last month, he told Arthur Staple of Newsday: “For me, there’s really no rush. I’m trying to determine things, let the process run its course, keep the lines of communication open, keep it all internal and it’s been good so far.”
As the Isles try to get back into the playoffs, there could be more determining factors as to whether or not Tavares will sign an extension than just the team’s roster. The arena situation is a storyline for the season as team owner Jon Ledecky would like to move them out of the basketball-first Barclays Center and into their own home. A return to Nassau Coliseum isn’t in the cards, but the team is working towards an arena proposal in Belmont Park, in Elmont, N.Y.
“I think you look at everything,” Tavares told NHL.com’s Brian Compton last week. “It’s nice to know where you’re playing and having a good situation. I know how committed ownership is to making this a premier place to play. I think anyone on the team, any of the players or anyone within the organization is obviously waiting to see what’s going to happen, and we’re looking forward to whatever does happen. I just know how committed ownership is, so that’s a good thing to have.”