The Sheet: Isles get legit with Tavares deal

The buzz Wednesday morning was that the Islanders are close to finalizing a long-term deal with forward John Tavares and that’s great news for the franchise and its fans, wherever the team ends up.

The Tavares contract will be a sort of litmus test or unscientific indicator of where this franchise is headed. Sign long-term and it’s a credibility shot in the arm, but force a move like Phil Kessel did coming off his entry-level deal and the Islanders will be looked at in a whole different light.

The hue and cry that the team can’t keep their top players would reign down and wag a scolding finger at a franchise that, let’s face it, needs a good news story.
Tavares is that guy.

There are just some players in the game who when the puck is on their stick, it goes in. You can’t explain it, it just happens. Sure he’s not the fastest skater out there, he plays more in the vacuum of the bullet than anywhere else but he’s creative, smart and has that sick release.

With all due respect to the contracts signed by Kyle Okposo, Matt Moulson, and Michael Grabner, Tavares was the deal the Islanders had to get done. He’s their cornerstone, their franchise guy and the player they should, and ultimately will, build the team around.

Editor’s note: The Islanders have called a news conference for Thursday at 1 p.m. ET where the team will “make an announcement regarding the future of John Tavares.” Sportsnet confirmed Wednesday New York has re-signed Tavares to a six-year, $33-million deal.

For as much talk as there’s been the past two seasons about the young talent in the Edmonton Oilers organization, the Islanders have closed in on putting together an impressive stable of youth that is the envy of many around the league.

Let’s have a quick look:

Ryan Strome (C): To me, the home run of the draft last season was the Islanders picking up a high-skilled natural leader in Strome. He plays a strong two-way game and is a coaches dream; he’ll do whatever is asked of him.

Calvin de Haan (D): I was at a game in Oshawa where de Haan rushed the puck from his own goal line, through both London Knights defenders and forced a clear breakaway. Oh did I mention it was while the defenseman was killing a penalty?! And did I mention it was a 5-on-3 penalty kill?

Nino Niederreiter (RW): Unlike Bailey (see below), Niederreiter was sent back to junior last season to play with the Portland Winter Hawks of the WHL, a stacked team that many thought should’ve come out of the West. When have you ever heard the term “Swiss power forward”? Well, that’s what Niederreiter is. He boasts a great shot and isn’t shy about using it (41 goals last season). Also, he can play with a nasty streak, which fits the identity of this Islanders squad perfectly.

Josh Bailey is another deal altogether.

He’s coming off his entry-level deal with less than spectacular numbers. However many, myself included, pin his development or lack thereof at the feet of the Islanders who instead of sending him back to the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL as an 18-year-old they kept Bailey on the big roster. Where he could have enjoyed a season dominating the ‘O’, competed for a gold medal on the U20 Canadian World Junior team and enjoyed a Memorial Cup run (which the Spits won that season) instead he struggled to find his way in the NHL.

Look, Bailey was rushed. And now finds himself down the depth chart at centre behind Tavares, Frans Nielsen and that’s only as long as Strome doesn’t make the team right out of camp. In his 16 games with Bridgeport of the American Hockey League last season Bailey was dominant, racking up 17 points in 11 games but that hasn’t translated yet to the NHL so what do you do if you’re the Islanders?

Bailey seems he’s trapped in that ‘no-man’s zone’ of being too good for the AHL yet not able to produce at a top 6 level in the show. I still think Bailey is going to actualize as an excellent hockey player at the pro level, he’s got a great shot, works hard and is a creative playmaker. But he’s not there yet. And how do you pay for that?


Word around Toronto has the Maple Leafs getting closer to deal with defenceman Luke Schenn. Most expect the price tag to come in around $4 million. I’ve said it before and will say it again here, Schenn reminds me of Adam Foote. Tough, rugged, and does all the little things that coaches love.

Former Avalanche first-round pick Joey Hishon is still feeling the effects of a concussion suffered at the hands of Buffalo Sabres prospect Brayden McNabb at last year’s Memorial Cup. He’s been unable to participate in the Avs rookie camp. Here’s the hit if you didn’t see it last season.

The Dallas Stars have parted ways with former NHL goaltender Tim Bernhart, who was their director of amateur scouting.

Good friend and talented writer/broadcaster Chris Botta announced on Tuesday he’s ending his run with the Islanders blog at

Take a bow, Chris. Your blog was the best place to find info about the Islanders and a daily stop for yours truly. Chris is a great follow on twitter at @ChrisBottaNHL.

All the best in whatever you do in the future, Chris.

This day in hockey history

1962: Tom Kurvers, born in Minneapolis, played for seven NHL teams in a career that spawned from 1984-95. On Oct. 16, 1989, the New Jersey Devils traded Kurvers to Toronto for a first round pick (that turned out to be Scott Niedermayer) but Kurvers refused to report to Toronto and staged a brief holdout. His agent at the time, future NHLPA executive director, Bob Goodenow said his client did not want to play in Canada. Years later Goodenow said NHL players would never accept a salary cap.

1966: Mick Vukota born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Vukota played from 1987-98 with the Islanders, Bolts and Habs. He fought. A lot.

1972: The New York Islanders opened their first ever training camp in Peterborough. GM Bill Torrey invited around 90 players to camp but cut two before they even stepped on the ice. One, because he a) had a Mohawk hairstyle and b) got hammered in the Holiday Inn hotel bar where the team was staying the night before camp opened, the other was sent packing because he wouldn’t send his wife home who had become, let’s say a ‘distraction’ for some of the other players.

1979: Edmonton Oilers sign free agent defenceman Charlie Huddy who went on to win five Cups. He’s now the assistant coach of the Winnipeg Jets.

1979: Brad Selwood was claimed by the Habs when the WHA merged with the NHL and was quickly shipped to the Kings for future considerations. A two-sport athlete, Selwood was also an accomplished baseball player as well and was drafted by the Detroit Tigers.

1979: Vancouver signed Gary Lupul as a free agent. The late Lupul was never drafted but signed with his hometown Canucks after a successful four-year career with the Victoria Cougars of the WHL where he scored 53 goals in his final year of junior. Lupul died in July of 2007. <a class="link" href="’s Canucks TV tribute to “The Pride of Powell River”.

1980: The Quebec Nordiques sign free agent goaltender Michel Plasse. On Feb. 21, 1971 Plasse, playing for the Kansas City Blues of the CHL became the first professional goalie to score a goal when he flipped the puck the length of the ice into the Oklahoma City Blazers net in a 2-1 game.

1982: Detroit bought Stan Weir of the Edmonton Oilers. Weir was the first player who went through the Glen Sather hockey school in Banff, Alberta to graduate to the NHL. Had part of his finger severed off by a slash in a WHA game against the Winnipeg Jets in 1978.

1989: The defending Stanley Cup champion Calgary Flames beat Khimik Voskresensk 4-2 in a pre-season exhibition game in Leningrad. Khimik played a tight defensive style called ‘The Sack of Voskresensk” which we know here as ‘the trap’. Khimik had an outstanding top line of Valery Zelepukin, German Titov and Dmitry Kvartalnov and a young stud who eventually made his way to the NHL in Vyacheslav Kozlov. Two days later they beat Sokol Kiev 5-2, then Krylia Sovetov 3-2 in OT but fell to CSKA Moscow 2-1 to round out the tour. That CSKA squad boasted the KLM Line (Krutov – Larionov – Makarov), along with the defence pairing of Fetisov and Kasatonov.

2000: Henrik and Daniel Sedin made their NHL debuts as Vancouver beat Swedish team Modo 5-2 in the NHL Challenge at Stockholm’s Globe Arena. Daniel had a goal and two helpers for the Canucks.