The 2017-18 season stands to be an important one for the New York Islanders. Not only are they looking to get back to the playoffs after missing out a season ago, but they’re expected to propose a new arena to be built at Belmont Park after spending a couple seasons in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
Oh, and there’s that little matter of re-signing their franchise player.
John Tavares is entering the last season of his contract paying him $5.5 million against the cap, a steal compared to other young stars signing these days. Whenever Tavares signs, it’ll likely be a monster eight-year deal up in the stratosphere with the Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kanes and Anze Kopitars of the league — if not higher.
The fact he hasn’t yet re-upped with the Islanders has some worried that he’ll leave at season’s end and that maybe GM Garth Snow should consider trading Tavares. The Islanders captain spoke with Brian Compton of NHL.com on Wednesday about his situation.
“Things are a lot more complicated than (people) think,” Tavares told Compton. “I think everyone’s situation is different, everyone’s circumstances are different, but you look at some of the situations with guys in similar situations that I’m in, it doesn’t always happen the first day or that first month. It takes time.
“It’s a big decision in your life and you want to make sure you’re thorough and you understand everything going forward, so I think anybody making any decision like this in life would approach it the same way.”
Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos went through a similar experience two years ago. Stamkos spent a whole season being asked about his contract as he was about to become the best unrestricted free agent of the salary cap era. The regular season and playoffs came and went, and Stamkos remained unsigned. Each step closer to July 1 we got, more speculation swirled on where he’d land as he visited a few teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs.
In the end, Stamkos stayed with the Lightning on an eight-year deal worth $68 million, which he signed two days before the opening of free agency on June 29.
Stamkos’ situation was different for a few reasons, though. One, the Lightning were one of the top Stanley Cup contenders coming off an Eastern Conference Final appearance and one year removed from a Cup final. In Tavares’ case, the Islanders have plenty of questions marks, reside in a deep and tough division, and have uncertainty on where they’ll be playing in the future.
Barclays Center, a basketball-first arena, has received a lot of flak for its ice conditions. Cal Clutterbuck, Tavares’ teammate, went so far as to blame the ice at Barclays for Tavares’ injury in March that ended his year.
The thing is if you’re, say, a Maple Leafs fan hoping the hometown boy will return and that his current team’s bad home ice will help drive him there, consider what Tavares told Sportsnet’s Luke Fox in August 2016.
“To be dead honest, I think the worst ice I skated on all year was in Toronto. It was so hot the one game (on March 9), I couldn’t believe how warm it was. We were playing there on a back-to-back, and by the end of the third period we couldn’t even move,” he said.
Tavares told Compton that he’ll take “everything into consideration” when deciding on his future, but that he appreciates what ownership is trying to do with the team, and its arena situation. Still, if the team’s future is still up in the air at the end of this season, it sounds like it could be a factor weighing on the star.
“I think you look at everything,” he said. “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.”