Wednesday marked a day of celebration for the New York Islanders and their fans, as it was announced the team had the winning bid to construct a brand new arena at the Belmont Park site in Elmont, N.Y.
Some went so far as to call it the most important day in team history since it won its last Stanley Cup in 1983.
With a new arena locked up, it also provided a lot of optimism surrounding speculation on the team’s most important pending UFA, John Tavares will become eligible to hit the open market on July 1, 2018 and it had long been speculated that an arena deal was a key component to his decision on whether or not to return to* the team that drafted him first overall in 2009.
But after Wednesday’s announcement, Tavares was asked what the news meant for his situation and he didn’t exactly make it sound like an eight-year contract extension was imminent.
“It’s not going to be a deciding factor,” Tavares said.
Now, of course, the fact the Islanders will have a new home will be a factor in Tavares’ decision, but he’s also said he wants to be in a position to win. The Islanders have made three playoff appearances in Tavares’ time, but have won just a single playoff round. They’ve been one of the best surprise teams to this point in the season, though a rough December has the Islanders now teetering on the edge of the playoffs.
In the past, Tavares has mentioned his desire was to remain an Islander, saying in August of 2016: “I don’t really have any reason to leave and I think we have a great makeup and a team that can do something special …. I’ve always expressed my love for playing for Long Island. It’s where I started; it’s all I know in the NHL. The opportunity they’ve given me, I would love to see it all the way through and win a Stanley Cup.”
However, that tune has somewhat softened in the months since, with Tavares saying in August of 2017: “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.”
Tavares is currently on one of the best value contracts in the league, making just $5.5 million against the cap. It will be interesting to see where his next deal takes him, especially as the salary cap is expected to rise between $3-7 million.
It’s still very early and, of course, Steven Stamkos didn’t re-sign in Tampa Bay until hours before he was set to become a UFA. So if you’re an Islanders fan, you’re probably excited about your new arena on the horizon, but also a little worried that Tavares’ contract is still unresolved with no imminent conclusion.