Chances John Tavares stays with Islanders ‘getting better and better’

John Tavares has yet to offer an update on his future. (Jeffrey T. Barnes/AP)

All eyes in the hockey world are on John Tavares these days, the 27-year-old franchise centre who is just 16 days away from potentially becoming the best player to hit the market as a UFA in the salary cap era.

In a little more than one week’s time, a negotiating window will open up that allows Tavares — and any other free agent — to discuss potential fits with any team in the league. They’re not supposed to talk about terms in these sessions, but if Tavares gets to that point the Islanders will have less control over the situation than ever.

Want some good news, Islanders fans? Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports that it’s starting to appear more likely there’s a deal to work out that keeps him around.

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“The chances are getting better and better, I would say, that John Tavares is going to remain a member of the New York Islanders,” Johnston reported ahead of Thursday’s Game 7 of the Calder Cup Final. “He’s had a real active dialogue with Lou Lamoriello in the few weeks since Lou Lamoriello has taken over the Islanders and there is a belief that there is a deal there for John Tavares and the Islanders to be made.

“That being said, we are only a week and a half out from the period where he’s able to speak to other teams and if he does not reach an extension here in that window he will be able to speak to some of those other teams and this might change. But as it is now it does appear the wind is blowing him back towards the Islanders.”

The closest a player of Tavares’ calibre came to testing the UFA waters on July 1 in the salary cap era was Steven Stamkos in 2016. At the time, Stamkos was 26 years old and coming off a 36-goal, 64-point season — Tavares scored 37 goals and 84 points this past season.

Stamkos did go through the negotiating window, but ended up re-signing with the Tampa Bay Lightning for eight years and $68 million — an $8.5 million AAV.

At the time of Stamkos’s extension, the salary cap sat at $73 million, so his deal was 11.64 per cent of the total cap. If Tavares signed a deal that accounted for that same percentage of last season’s $75 million cap, his new AAV would be roughly $8.7 million.

However, the salary cap will rise to somewhere between $78- and $82-million this summer, though the new number hasn’t officially been announced. So if Tavares’s contract is to match Stamkos’s percentage against the cap, it would come in even higher. And, of course, Connor McDavid’s long-term deal he signed last summer as an RFA, coming with a $12.5 million cap hit, could influence any other new contracts as well.

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