Islanders teammates anxiously awaiting Tavares’ free agency decision

New York Islanders center John Tavares, left, is congratulated by left wing Anders Lee (27) after Tavares scored during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers, Friday, Jan. 13, 2017, in Sunrise, Fla. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)

Pending unrestricted free agent John Tavares isn’t saying much about his future beyond July 1, but that’s not stopping his New York Islanders teammates from chiming in.

It’s no surprise that forwards Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee are crossing their fingers in hopes of the captain staying in Brooklyn, though neither know which way their captain is leaning.

“I just want what’s best for him,” Barzal told’s Aaron Vickers, adding that No. 91 is “a pretty quiet dude when it comes to that stuff.”

“He’s such a good guy and he’s been through a lot with the Islanders, had some tough seasons there. I don’t think there’s any reason why he shouldn’t be allowed to take his time,” said Barzal, who also credited Tavares’ leadership with some of his rookie success, which earned him a Calder Trophy nod.

“If he came back, we’d have a pretty good foundation,” Barzal said, “We know what we need to get better at next year and we can take that next step. I really hope he stays, but if not, no hard feelings from me. It’s a business at the end of the day and he has to do what’s best for him.”

The Islanders kept things interesting down the stretch of the regular season, but ultimately came up short of clinching a playoff spot this spring for the second straight year. The franchise has made three playoff appearances during Tavares’ nine seasons in New York, but has not been able to advance beyond the second round.

“I don’t think by any means anyone’s lost faith in what’s happened,” Lee said, via Vickers. “It’s just one of those things where he’s in a position where he can do this, and I don’t think anyone can really fault him for it. It creates a little bit of anxiety and nervousness from our side of things, because he is such a great player and a pivotal part of our franchise. It’ll be interesting.”

“He’s been taking his time on this and looking at every angle, as he should,” Lee continued. “It’s clear and obvious where all his teammates stand. We want him back. He’s our captain and our leader. We all look up to him. It’s a big decision for him and I think it’s best he does it internally with him and his family and go forward from there.”


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