The John Tavares Contract Encyclopedia Volume 2 (2017-??) [Updated 11/19/17]
The John Tavares Contract Encyclopedia Volume 2 (2017-??) [Updated 11/19/17]
A second ongoing volume cataloging all of the times someone discussed Islanders captain John Tavares’s potential free agency.
For the video challenged:
THE ENCYCLOPEDIA STRIKES BACK
It is a dark time for New York Islanders fans. Although he remains the team’s loyal captain, 26-year-old center John Tavares is without a contract extension that would keep him on the team beyond 2018.
After amassing over 25,000 words of analysis and opinions about his impending free agency from the dreaded sports media fleet during the previous season, a group of freedom fighters at Lighthouse Hockey have established a new John Tavares Contract Encyclopedia for this year.
The evil sportswriter lords of Toronto, obsessed with the Maple Leafs acquiring young Tavares and returning him to his hometown team, have dispatched thousands of surly, snobbish mittenstringers into the far reaches of the NHL...
Update: November 19, 2017 With the Islanders in Tampa to play (and beat) the league-leading Lightning, we have another opportunity to compare and contrast Tavares’s contract situation with Steven Stamkos’s from a year ago.
Stamkos entertained other offers during the contact window prior to July 1, 2016, but ultimately signed an eight-year deal worth an average of $8.5 million per season that June 29 to stay in Tampa. He entered Saturday’s game with Tavares’ Islanders leading the NHL with 35 points.
“If I had to do it all over again, would I? That’s a good question,” Stamkos said. “But you get to a point in your career where you’ve earned the right to make that choice and that’s where I was and that’s where John is now.”
Of course, Tavares being Tavares, he looks at questions about his free agency in terms of how they affect his Islanders teammates and the franchise as a whole.
“Before the season there’s plenty of questions and talk about it, but I always knew once the season started there would be a lot more to focus on,” Tavares said. “To worry about that stuff isn’t fair to the organization or the guys in this room.”
This guy is amazing.
November 18, 2017 I’ve already been called out for one rant this week, so I might as well go on another. The word “clickbait” gets thrown around online to mean any article with a provocative headline and little substance, meant only to increase the traffic to a site. But there’s another kind of clickbait, that might be less lazy but nonetheless still unnecessary.
It’s the third week of November. The season is, for some teams, not even 20 games old. It’s impossible to know how the rest of the schedule will play out for anybody, even the teams that already appear to be out of the playoff race.
There is absolutely no need for a “Top Unrestricted Free Agents of 2018” article at this time, except to get a temporary bump in pageviews. July 1st is over nine months away. A lot can happen in that time, and to Craig Custance’s credit, he acknowledges that right from the headline.
But he also uses the 2018 UFA premise to write yet again about John Tavares. At this point, Custance has written so much about Tavares at The Athletic that I might have to put this encyclopedia behind a paywall.
From the November 15 article. You’ll need to be a subscriber to read the whole thing.
Every day that he remains unsigned, gives the rest of the league a little more hope he’ll hit the market.
“Once you get in the last six months of UFA, these guys often go, ‘Why would I sign?’” said a general manager.
The difference with Tavares is that he appears to be looking for any excuse to sign with the Islanders. Money isn’t going to be an issue with the Islanders or in free agency. Those who know him well, believe in his heart of hearts he wants to stay with the Islanders.
He also desperately wants to win.
The Islanders opened the season 9-6-2, and rookie Mathew Barzal appears to be the real deal.
The sentiment remains in favor of him finding a way to get a deal done with the team that drafted him.
Custance certainly isn’t the only person to write an egregiously early 2018 UFA list. Both The Hockey News and Sportsnet have done it TWICE already this season, and even the NHL itself is into the act. I’m pretty sure I’ve ignored them all here because of their superfluousness, but at least Custance’s was a somewhat balanced take (if not a positive one for Islanders fans). Winning is absolutely part of the equation for Tavares, and there are other ways to write about and even frame it using him, but without trying to predict the future.
I get the need to make content everyday can be a tough beast to wrangle. But, like, we’ve kinda got a whole season going on here. Maybe we can wait until it’s at least three quarters over, as opposed to having three quarters left, before we start moving guys around.
November 14, 2017 First of all, thanks to my friend Mike B, who found this in a Craig Custance mail bag article behind the paywall at The Athletic. When asked who the Red Wings could hire if they fire Ken Holland, Custance wrote:
If you want to get creative, call Pat Brisson in Los Angeles and see if he’d leave CAA. Maybe he brings John Tavares with him.
If Tavares wants to go to a team that’s gonna win something soon, I’m not sure Detroit qualifies. Plus, it will be hard for Brisson to fit Tavares in the overhead compartment of the airplane.
Meanwhile, the kids who Tavares visited today as part of Islanders School Day truly know what’s up.
Last dispatch from #IslesSchoolDay— Laura Albanese (@AlbaneseLaura) November 14, 2017
Kid: "Do you secretly want to be on another team."
One second passes, then two. Tavares isn't answering. Eight-second pause.
Tavares: "Absolutely not."
After staring down (adult) media throngs for over a year about his coming free agency, Tavares was happy to generally get a break from the kids, who asked more hockey-related questions of the visiting players. The kids also weren’t shy about showing them love.
"Wow, you've got some energy," John Tavares matter of factly to a room of screaming elementary school kids. It was the most John Tavares thing ever. Trust me.— Laura Albanese (@AlbaneseLaura) November 14, 2017
When I met Tavares in person, I didn’t even know what to say to him. These kids speak for all of us. I’m extremely jealous.
November 9, 2017: Tuesday night’s game against Edmonton was a big one for the Islanders. Not only were they hosting reigning Hart Trophy-winner Connor McDavid but it was the first time Jordan Eberle and Ryan Strome would be playing their old teams. Before the game, Strome had some fun with his old roommate’s contract situation.
Strome on Tavares' future: "I don't know. I have the inside scoop, but I'm not allowed to tell you guys." He was joking. #Isles— Brian Compton (@BComptonNHL) November 7, 2017
The Islanders ended up losing the game in overtime on an unexpectedly spectacular McDavid goal. But Tavares and company played very well (including outshooting the Oilers 13-2 in the third period) and Eberle scored the Islanders’ lone goal.
One reason for the Islanders’ early success so far has been the play of rookie Mathew Barzal, who’s joined with Eberle to give them their first truly dangerous second line in forever. Oilers beatwriter Jim Matheson said he was the best player on the ice in Tuesday’s game and his underlying stats have been fabulous. Just from watching, it’s clear they’re a different team with him producing regularly.
Beyond just this season, how does having Barzal impact Tavares’s future with the Islanders? On today’s Hockey PDOCast, host Dimitri Filipovic and guest Chris Johnston of Sportsnet asked that very question. Johnston’s basic answer was that on top of the arena situation, Tavares wants to win, and that having quality teammates can only help.
Starts around the 34:45 mark:
Johnston: Lots of players say that and I think that maybe you can wonder how true it is or if it’s just something to be said. But I know this guy well enough to know that he’s the sort of player who’s thinking about maybe being in the Hall of Fame and what does he have to do in his career to receive the ultimate recognition that the sport could possibly have. And look, he’s made tremendous sacrifices his whole life. He played in the Ontario Hockey League at age 15. This is what he’s about and this is a huge decision for him, where he’s going to play for the next seven to eight years because they might ultimately be the final ones, in terms of him as a top player stretch of his career.
And there’s also been some developments with the arena where everything does seem to be on pretty good track, I think they’ll find out in the new year whether or not they can develop the land at Belmont where they want to build a new rink. And I think that will be just as key to these discussion. But it’s going to be fascinating.
If they are as competitive as it looks, and there’s a bit of future hope and that the organization’s in a good place, then he’s also a pretty loyal man, John.
The segment ends with Dimitri praising the passion of Islanders fans who come running to Tavares free agency news like ants to a picnic blanket, and even write blog posts about nearly everything that’s said about the subject. I’d like to think he was talking about us and the 30,000-plus words we’ve spilled over the last two calendar years in two separate volumes, but there a lot of people out there watching this story unfold with a great deal of interest.
Which is why, if Ryan Strome really does have the inside scoop, he should cough it up right now and let us have some damn peace for God’s sake.
November 6, 2017: Speaking after practice today with Newsday’s Steve Marcus, Tavares said nothing’s changed regarding his outlook on the season and his contract status.
“For me, anyone making a big commitment, decision in their life, I think you want to know everything that’s involved, and certainly you want to take your time, and I think that’s my type of personality. For me, I don’t see it really as a rush. I still got the rest of this contract, and now that we’re in the season, I’m just trying to worry about playing as much as I can. That’s enough on my plate.”
When the subject of Belmont was brought up, Tavares re-iterated his desire to stay with the Islanders.
Regardless of what happens with Belmont — the state has set no timetable — Tavares appears intent on delaying any decision about his future until the end of the season. Neither he nor the team appears to view the Feb. 26 NHL trade deadline as a critical juncture.
“Not from my standpoint,’’ he said. “I don’t expect to be traded or want to be traded. I want to play here. That’s my goal, it hasn’t changed . . . I’m here as an Islander, really enjoy being the captain and try to give these guys everything every day.’’
One of the interesting things about the many, many, many, many, many quotes and articles pertaining to Tavares’s free agency is that they act as sort of a Rorschach test, reflecting how the reader views things. One person can read, “I don’t expect to be traded or want to be traded. I want to play here. That’s my goal, it hasn’t changed” and see a loyal captain that bleeds blue and orange. Another person can read, “I’m here as an Islander” and think, “uh, what else is he going to be? That’s a weird thing to say.” A third person can read, “For me, I don’t see it really as a rush” and have a full blown panic attack.
Or, one person can read all of that and experience all of those emotions and more.
Regardless, Tavares will address his contract when he feels the time is right. And all we can do is wait. Still...
November 2, 2017: Now to follow up our last, uh, follow up. Dreger expanded a little on his Tavares comments from the night before on a Thursday morning Montreal radio hit. His words feel a little less urgent, either because of different phrasing or maybe he had more time to chat than he did during his three minute appearance on NBC.
“And look, this is how this is going to play out until John Tavares wakes up one day and says, ‘Alright, well I feel like I should either A) sign that extension or B) not sign it and sit back and test the unrestricted free agent market.’ And frankly, nobody knows that at this point, including John Tavares.
“What’s interesting though is how the New York Islanders continue to recruit not only Tavares, but maybe potential unrestricted free agents. They put out the video the other day of their fancy renovations to their training facility. They spent several million dollars in bringing this facility up to NHL standard. And it’s nice, but even co-owner Jon Ledecky acknowledged that they’re doing it to try and persuade players to pay closer attention to the New York Islanders, and of course that includes John Tavares.
C’mon, dude. The Northwell Health practice facility is way better than “nice.” It’s got a private chef and hot tubs with TVs right on the walls next to them and Islanders logos everywhere and a friggin’ pool with an exercise bike built into it. Even Ivan Drago didn’t have this kind of equipment and he was literally hooked into computers while he trained.
But will that have an effect on Tavares’s decision? More Dreger:
“I think most rival teams believe that Tavares is going to stay with the Islanders, but that’s just their hunch or belief. There’s no proof of that, and there’s been no clear indication that that is what’s going to happen. But you do sometimes have the domino effect. It’s still early in the season in terms of trade.
Ledecky and Malkin certainly have spared no expense since they’ve taken over majority ownership of the club. They’ll probably not hesitate to fork over whatever it takes to sign Tavares. It sounds like he wants to listen. But the waiting continues...
November 1, 2017: First, a follow-up. Pretty convenient to float the idea of Tavares going to Tampa Bay one day and then asking Steven Stamkos about all of these rumors circling around Tavares going to Tampa Bay the next day, eh, Wysh?
But Stamkos said he hasn't communicated with Tavares about his future.
"No, I have not reached out to John to tell him how great the golf is here. But obviously, I can relate to the position that he's in," said Stamkos. "I think he's handling it very well. Look at his play in the last week or two, as he's stepped up to carry that team. It's not the easiest position to be in, when you're being asked questions every day about it."
Not surprisingly, Stamkos doesn’t bite, but he does have a lot of sympathy for his friend, having gone through all of this just last season.
"The only thing I can say is that I relate to being in that position, going through a year without a contract," said Stamkos. "Whatever happens, happens."
Anyway, moving on. Darren Dreger was the NBCSN pre-game show and talked about the ball basically being in Tavares’s court when it comes to signing. If video becomes available, we’ll slide it in here. Until then, here are tweets from FanRag’s Chris Nichols:
Dreger: "This is 100 percent up to John Tavares." If he feels at some point in-season now is the time, "It's going to be automatic." #Isles— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) November 1, 2017
Dreger: "But they're not there yet, and they may not get there. That's up to J.T.." #Isles— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) November 1, 2017
I don’t want to editorialize too much without having seen the video. But from the sound of things, Dreger is both A. turning the tide to focus on Tavares making the decision to stay or go and B. greasing the skids for a massive, massive offer.
Things have been trending this way for some time, now that I think about it. And it’s not a fun position to be in. Not the money aspect of it - I’m of the mind that the Islanders need to give the guy whatever he wants based on time served and all he means for the franchise, salary cap be damned. Rather, it’s the power aspect of it that makes me squirm a little.
This kinda sets up the narrative of Tavares potentially rejecting the only team he’s known in his career, which is a hard mental hurdle for me to get over. Sure, it could have always ended up that way, but putting in those words makes it seem so real and painful. It might also dredge up unwelcome memories of high school or something that some of us might not want to remember...
In any event, the wheels continue to turn and Islanders fans continue to get ground between them.
October 30, 2017: I wanted to drop in a small video with Tavares that played at the intermission of one of last week’s games. But MSG still hasn’t posted it. It wasn’t a big deal, but it was a chance to get some actual words from Tavares on the subject of his own free agency. If it posts, I’ll throw it in.
Meanwhile: With the surprisingly unstoppable Vegas Golden Knights in Brooklyn for the first stop of their first real roadtrip in franchise history, and with his insane two-hat trick week netting him the NHL’s First Star of the Week, there was a little extra attention paid to John Tavares this morning. Which, of course, means free agency discussion.
Over at ESPN, the Worldwide Leader in Forced Contrarianism, a morning round table article tackled The Tavares Question with two of the three writers - Emily Kaplan and Chris Peters - predicting, so to speak, that Tavares will most likely sign an extension with the Islanders. Only Greg Wyshynski, newly hired from the Puck Daddy blog he started at Yahoo, said he expected Tavares to leave.
His reasoning: Tampa Bay has a very good team, a bunch of Tavares’s friends, cap space (if they make a trade) and golf.
So if he walks, where does he end up? Forget the Don Cherry "Good Ontario boy" fantasy of Tavares with the Toronto Maple Leafs, especially on a short-term deal. But what about a team that has one of his closest friends as its captain (Steven Stamkos), a burgeoning mega-star winger (Nikita Kucherov), a Norris-caliber defenseman (Victor Hedman) and Stanley Cup aspirations? One with $5 million in cap space that's one Tyler Johnson trade away? One that plays in Tampa, which is a pretty nice deal for an avid golfer like Tavares?
The stumbling blocks for all three are a new arena finally coming through for the team and Tavares having a chance to win.
All of that’s fine and good and makes a ton of sense. But I can’t take totally seriously an article that still uses the specter of a move to Quebec City as a scare tactic, let alone one that uses the Montreal Canadiens as an example of a team with a brighter future than Tavares’s current team. The Habs can try to get Tavares all they want, but their roster isn’t far and away better than the Islanders, regardless of Carey Price’s (currently dormant) excellence.
As for cap space, friends and golf, guess what? Tavares has all of that now, too. Jack Nicklaus designed a course here, for Christ’s sake.
It’s also possible that I’m a little jaded from reading this stuff for over a year and a half now and want a resolution that favors the Islanders, rather than more surface speculation from today’s parachuting press corps.
October 25, 2017 The Islanders beat the Arizona Coyotes 5-3, thanks to a hat trick and an assist from John Tavares. Writing for FanRag Sports, longtime Coyotes beatwriter Craig Morgan says that teams desiring a Tavares of their very own are gonna need to look elsewhere because the Islanders one is staying put.
The Islanders are one of three bidders for land at Belmont Park, where they hope to build a new arena and escape an unworkable situation at Barclays Center. The MLS team New York City FC is another bidder, but the scuttle around this issue is that there is too much power backing the Islanders’ bid for it to fail.
Aside from Islanders owner Jon Ledecky, the people who can also benefit from the Islanders moving to Belmont, including James Dolan, executive chairman of the Madison Square Garden Company and MSG Network; Islanders minority owner Scott Malkin; Anthony Malkin, chief executive officer and chairman of Empire State Realty Trust Inc.; and the MSG Networks (owned by Dolan) that are all major financial backers of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, according to Long Island Business News editor Joe Dowd.
Why is that important? The belief is that once the team’s arena future is settled, perhaps in January, Ledecky will give Snow the green light to sign Tavares to a lucrative, long-term deal.
Assuming the Islanders have a new arena — and that is a widespread assumption in NHL circles — there’s no reason for him to leave and there are few teams that can afford him under the league’s flatlining salary cap.
We give a lot of grief to out-of-town media in this encyclopedia for either misunderstanding the situation or twisting itself into knots to fit some narrative that Tavares would want to come to Team X. It’s possible that Morgan, who’s been around a very long time, is just repeating what he heard around his from sources who are repeating what they heard around the league and so on. That LI Business Journal article posted a while ago and a bunch of us had a laugh about it on Twitter.
Still, it’s an interesting change of pace from the usual thing we’ve seen over the last two years. Let’s see if if catches on. (Don’t bet on it).
October 20, 2017 Not an Earth-moving update or anything but probably worth adding. Elliotte Friedman theorized on a radio hit that the Montreal Canadiens (who are a miserable 1-6-3 so far this season) might be keeping cap space open to make a possible run at Tavares should he hit free agency.
“I just think that Montreal is sitting there waiting to see what happens,” noted Friedman. “I think Montreal is just sitting there with a lot of cap room. I think what they’re doing is waiting to see what occurs. Does he re-sign. Does he test the market.
“Look, I’ve said a billion times I think his first choice is to re-sign, but I think Montreal is sitting there hedging their bets and saying, ‘Just in case.’ And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I think that if John Tavares does become available, he’s better than anyone who’s going to be available, so I think that’s kind of Montreal’s plan and the owner let it slip at the beginning of the year.”
The Habs currently have about $8.5 million in open cap space and will probably have a ton more when dudes come off the books at the end of the season. Of course, the good readers of Eyes on the Prize wonder what kind of team Tavares would be coming to if he did end up in Montreal. Maybe everyone should focus on the current season first, hm?
Some of this speculation was based on the fact that Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin was seen at a bunch of Islanders games in recent weeks. Bob McKenzie said it was most likely more about Bergevin’s team playing the same opponents the Islanders played just prior to Montreal’s road trip to California and that any kind of deal between the two teams was probably not Tavares-related.
Again, via FanRag:
There was a lot of people on Twitter speculating that it’s John Tavares-related. I just shook my head at that one. I could be way off the mark, but I don’t think that’s a situation that the Islanders are pursuing right now and I don’t know that any general manager in the National Hockey League desperately needs to do a lot of pre-scouting on John Tavares.
And how are the Islanders doing? Well, they’re 3-3-1 and have had some good games and some not-so-good ones. This clip of Friedman is a few days old but it’s worth remembering: winning is as important to Tavares as the arena is. So it might be time to string some more good games together.
Tavares stuff is right at the beginning.
October 15, 2017 Of the teams that have come up in this encyclopedia, the Sharks seem like an odd inclusion. They’re already pretty good, they’re way over on the west coast and aren’t a historically big player in the free agency game. They also don’t have half the media contingent constantly banging the drums for John Tavares like the Maple Leafs and Canadiens do.
But this weekend, with the Islanders in San Jose, Mercury News writer Paul Gackle seems to have made the Sharks acquiring Tavares his persona mission. He wrote essentially an article and a half about it in two days. First, he argued that Tavares would be the perfect replacement for 39-year-old war horse Joe Thornton:
In short, Tavares isn’t going to commit to the team on a longterm basis until this situation is cleared up, which isn’t likely to happen overnight if history has taught us anything.
As a result, Tavares should be an appetizing option for the looming post-Thornton era of Sharks hockey.
Then a day later, he reported that Sharks coach Peter deBoer is a fan of the Islanders captain. I mean, no kidding:
“In my mind, John Tavares is one of the top-five players in the world. He’s that good,” DeBoer said. “I got first-hand knowledge of him in New Jersey when I (coached) there and he’s a special talent.”
Despite all that, Gackle admits that A. the Sharks would have a problem fitting Tavares under the salary cap; B. Tavares appears content with being an Islander (as long as all that arena and winning stuff is sorted out) and; C. maybe Matt Duchene would be a better, easier-to-acquire alternative. But that ain’t Matt Duchene’s picture at the top of his article, so it goes in here. The Islanders beat the Sharks 3-1, by the way.
Closer to home, ol’ Brooksie is back to wonder how the timeline for all that arena stuff could actually affect getting Tavares’s signature on a contract:
But if the trade deadline approaches without a rapid, favorable decision from Empire State Development, the burden in the Taveras-Islanders dynamic will fall entirely on the team. Ownership and management will have to decide whether to, a) ride it out with No. 91 and risk having their franchise player walk out the door with nothing in return if Belmont hasn’t gone their way by July 1; or, b) move him for what presumably would be a plentiful bounty.
Brooks isn’t wrong or anything. When this stuff shakes out is just as important as if it shakes out. It’s just that articles pondering “maybe if A happens, then B, C, and/or D are potentially possible” are kind of a waste of everyone’s time. Things could happen, they could not, or something entirely different could happen.
Larry Brooks knows this. In the same column, in a section about where the Islanders would play in the interim while an arena is being built, he drops this:
There is no need to stir controversy now regarding hypothetical scenarios that may or may not come to fruition.
I mean, c’mon dude...
As we’ve heard time and again, Islanders fans are just going to have to ride this situation out whether they like it or not. It’s too much to ask writers who need to write to pay the bills to do the same. But this is flying a little too fast through the looking glass, especially, like, a week into the season.
So let’s stay focused on the most pressing aspect of Tavares’s current contract status: how it affects fantasy hockey GMs. Thank you, George Kurtz at RotoExperts:
As for Fantasy his owners, (I am one) Tavares has stated that he is comfortable with the current situation. However, let’s see if that holds up when he is being bombarded by questions by the media on every road trip.
Okay. Good to know.
October 10, 2017 A new season means the return of TSN’s BobCast, in which the original insider Bob McKenzie answers questions about hockey, wine, music, or just tells great stories from his umpteen years covering the NHL. The bi-weekly show is required listening.
In his second episode of this season, McKenzie gets a question about where John Tavares sits with that whole UFA thing. The answer is, as expected, even-keeled and detailed. And while McKenzie “Doesn’t doubt for a moment” that Tavares likes playing for the Islanders and Doug Weight and has good relationships with Garth Snow and ownership, the segment has more buts than Mike Bossy’s locker room ashtray. And that’s because there’s a lot up in the air with the team as always.
You can listen to the whole show here (and you should), but the Tavares question comes up around the 51:00 mark. This is the end, around 55:00
In the case of John Tavares, all I think he’s doing right now, and the reason why there haven’t been any specific discussions about an extension, is simply because he wants more information. Where are the New York Islanders gonna play? If John Tavares signs an eight-year contract, how many years into it, where are they gonna be? Are they gonna be in Belmont? If they’re gonna be in Belmont, how long before the rink is built and they playing in the new facility? What are they doing in the meantime? Is this Islanders team, is it going north this year, or is it going south?
And those are all factors. If John Tavares just does nothing but dedicate himself to be the best he can be for the New York Islanders, which he’s done every minute that he’s ever been a member of that organization, then having more information makes it easier for him to make a decision. And in the meantime, Islander fans are gonna have to get used to the fact that everybody’s gonna be speculating on the future and there’s gonna be a bunch of people who say, “he’s going to free agency. He’s leaving.” And a bunch of people who are adamantly gonna go on the other side and say, “Not a chance in the world. He’s our captain. He’s dedicated. He’s loyal. He’ll stick with us.” But the reality is, the jury’s out. We don’t know. We’re gonna have to wait and see. And we’ll just take it from there.
McKenzie knows Tavares very well, having written a chapter in his book Hockey Dad: True Confessions Of A (Crazy) Hockey Parent about John and his lacrosse-playing uncle John. So if he says that’s what Tavares is doing, I’m inclined to believe it. Does it make me worry less? No, but that’s just how it is.
Meanwhile back in New York, the Islanders hosted a media luncheon and co-owner Jon Ledecky went all in on Belmont, with some juicy quotes about how focused the team is about winning the bid on the property. Obviously, it’s going to be a monumental thing for the franchise, with Tavares being just one reason (albeit a big one).
Snow was also on hand at the luncheon and when asked for an update on how things are going with Tavares’s camp, he offered a one-word answer: “Excellent.”
Hey, that’s more than we usually get from the tight-lipped GM, so we’ll have to take it. Tavares himself has said that communication between his agent and the team has been great. Friends!
What about Mike Bossy? Is he still friends with the Islanders after the crazy trade speculation he’s thrown around on his Montreal radio show? Writing again for Islanders Point Blank, Chris Botta says the team really needs to get their rouge legend under control before things get really wild. Via Eyes on Isles, Bossy commented on the article and said he’s merely giving his opinions on Tavares and that the captain is all about the Islanders right now. Sounds like this might be the last update we have from Bossy for a little while.
So there you go. A little good, a little weird, and a little to think about. And we’re only three games into the season...
October 8, 2017 Just before the season began, Mike Bossy again spoke about Tavares on Montreal sports radio, saying that if the Islanders are out of the playoff running by Christmas that the captain will be traded. I don’t know if something is getting lost in the translation or Bossy has made a genuine heel turn against his one-and-only NHL club, but his comments on this situation (as we heard previously on June 3rd of this year) are the most uncomfortable to add here. It’s probably just sports talk radio blathering, but it’s still off-putting coming from a guy we all love dearly.
Speaking of blathering, it looks like Sportsnet is now inventing reasons to mention Tavares’s free agency, like this article about next season’s UFA’s that ran the day after the season started. Did anyone really need an article like this, with this current season just a day old? Nope. But sometimes you gotta just keep everyone on their toes, first by saying that Tavares has always said he wants to stay, but then writing...
The loyal superstar is willing to play the waiting game, which should unnerve management and fans.
...with a link back to a previous article doing the same thing. This is the lamest, weakest and most Canadian form of psychological warfare ever devised.
After the Islanders’s 6-3 win over the Sabres in their home opener, in which Tavares had two goals and an assist and was named the game’s first star, Mark Herrmann of Newsday enlightened us on a taste of how the game felt with the specter of the contract looming far in the background.
He does not want this season to be a referendum on his impending free agency. He does not want it to be a wistful nostalgia tour. He does not want to leave, either, although that is a possibility. He wants to do what he has done ever since he got here, and that is give the Islanders everything he has.
It’s natural to think the contract will become a distraction as the season goes on. But Tavares is nothing if not focused, especially when the puck drops. He also understands his place in franchise history extraordinarily well and knows exactly what this means for the fans and the organization.
Even Kyle Okposo, who signed with Buffalo last year after playing alongside Tavares for seven years, knows his friend knows what’s up:
“Johnny’s obviously a good friend, a friend of mine for life. I’m not going to grill him too much on that,” Okposo said before Saturday’s game. “We’ve just talked, I want to make sure he’s doing OK with it mentally, give him a little bit of advice because it’s a tough thing when you’re going through it. He’s doing OK, focused on winning games and being the best player he can for the Islanders.”
I’ll believe their words and actions over Canadian clickbait any day.
October 3, 2017 An interminable offseason comes to a sudden end again. With a new season comes previews and with previews come a focus on the Islanders and a focus on the Islanders means questions about John Tavares’s future because he’s one of two Islanders players pretty much anyone can name (welcome to that small club, Jordan Eberle).
Linking to all the previews here would be dumb and time-consuming. But in a special insider prediction panel thing at Sportsnet, Tavares gets his own question all to himself. Behold the results:
After the trade deadline John Tavares will be a member of the ___________:
Chris Johnston: New York Islanders
Iain MacIntyre: New York Islanders
Mark Spector: New York Islanders
Eric Engels: Montreal Canadiens
Luke Fox: Tampa Bay Lightning
Daren Millard: New York Islanders
David Amber: New York Islanders
Eric Francis: Toronto Maple Leafs
Gord Stellick: New York Islanders
Nick Kypreos: New York Islanders
Jeff Marek: New York Islanders
Kristina Rutherford: New York Islanders
Sean McIndoe: New York Islanders
Doug MacLean: New York Islanders
Rory Boylen: New York Islanders
Tavares’s free agency and trade availability is a hot button topic in part because he’s the biggest free agent fish of next season. He’s in his prime, younger than Rick Nash and Joe Thornton and he’s been with one team his whole career. Having said that, and maybe it’s just me, but seeing him spotlighted like this makes me think there is a measure of Canadian glee taken at making Islanders fans nervous.
Then I see that just three of the 15 experts expect him not to still be an Islander at the deadline and I feel better knowing that Tavares’s message seems to be getting through. Also, Eric Francis can go jump in a lake made of the water he’s been carrying for the Flames.
Speaking of Canadian glee (not to be confused with Canadian Glee, in which misfit university students live, love and sings the songs of Bachman, Turner, Overdrive. Airing Monday nights at 10 on City!), Tavares also figures into writer Jimmy Hascup’s Five Bold Predictions of the upcoming season. No, I’ve never heard of him, either.
4. John Tavares will get traded during the season. The New York Islanders will have no choice. The longer Tavares, a free agent next off-season, goes without an extension, the more free agency will tempt him. Tavares, 27, could demand a contract with a $10 million average annual value. GM Garth Snow will have to weigh that against losing a franchise icon and resetting for the future.
Okay, Jimmy. Good luck with your shoe business.
Meanwhile back in Brooklyn, Arthur Staple went right to the captain and his teammates to get their take on everyone’s take on the contract. The answers were frank and actually kind of funny. You should read the whole thing, but here’s a sample:
[Johnny] Boychuk jokingly tried to supplicate to his captain for the playful shots. “I just give him little pokes here and there. It’s all in fun . . . I hope he forgives me, I beg his forgiveness. I love him.”
Boychuk also knows what it will be like when the Isles travel around the NHL this season. “Oh, they’re going to be bombarding him,” he said. “They’ll be hovering over him, when we go to Toronto, it’ll be, ‘Hey, John, how would you like to play here?’ And he’ll be like, ‘I’m playing for the Islanders, I like it here.’ It’s going to be tough for him because everywhere he goes he’ll get the same question. He’s very professional in the way he goes about things.”
The article ends with Tavares saying the team’s focus is on the season, not his status, and Doug Weight confirming that management and player have a good relationship so he’s not sweating anything.
That’s all fine and good, but things get real starting Friday. If the team piles up wins, they can keep laughing about the contract all they want.
September 29, 2017 Is this a thing? I feel like it should be a thing. Not a big thing. But at least a thing.
Granted, it’s from Jimmy Murphy, a Boston-based hockey writer who’s notorious in Bruins circles for being a rampant, often wrong rumor monger. So major, major amounts of salt are required to absorb this. And, really, none of it’s at all shocking considering what we’ve been hearing all this time.
But still, in the interest of (mostly) completeness, here you go:
Murphy was later corrected on the whole Islanders-Barclays Center opt-out timeline. And whether Murphy’s “source” is talking out of his or her ass about these conversations will be revealed in due time.
In fact, a day later, birthday boy Brian Compton offered a counterpoint:
But the point remains that the team and their captain are going into the season without an extension to see where the season goes.
As others have pointed out, for fans, that plan kinda sucks. But that’s all we have.
September 20, 2017 Today is John Tavares’s 27th birthday (so, uh, just add a year to that Star Wars crawl video at the top). While he sat out the Islanders’ split-squad games against the Flyers, we’ll round up a few articles.
First, Darren Dreger talked Tavares on TSN (among other things) and said that the relationship between both the player and the Islanders is “very amicable” right now. That’s good! However...
If he picked up the phone or his agent Pat Brisson called Garth Snow and said, ‘we’d like to get things going on a more progressive level now,’ Snow would jump at that. That’s not going to be the case. JT wants to wait to see how the team develops, certainly some improvements were made during the offseason, he wants to see how that all meshes.
Yes, the arena thing is a part of that as well. Dreger finished by saying Tavares could sign a max 8-year deal or he could see what free agency brings, which is a little like saying tomorrow could be sunny or it could not be. Thanks, Mr. G.
You can watch it here (no, really. It’s not geo-locked) and see the whole thing. Tavares stuff starts around 1:10.
In an Islanders season preview for The Sporting News, Jim Cerny (a former Islanders radio play-by-play man himself), mentions the contract right up front:
The Tavares story will dominate the Isles narrative all season, unless he does sign an extension at some point.
Hard to argue otherwise.
At NHL.com, Dan Rosen includes Tavares in a list of other 2018-free agents (there are others? Holy moly!) but maintains that all is not lost.
His negotiation doesn't appear to be about money. It's more about getting answers on the future of the organization, the direction it is headed and where it will be playing, as in if a new arena is coming to the New York area. Tavares said he is willing to negotiate during the season, which is a good sign for the Islanders.
Finally, in an article at the Islanders official site, Tavares’s legendary focus and singular drive to make himself better than he already is reason to believe the contract issue won’t become a distraction.
"He doesn't take a break and it's that thing," Weight said. "It's almost as if somebody else did that, you'd look at the guy like 'oh what are you doing?' But it's not phony, it's sincere it's just a quality and it's pretty special."
With that amount of focus and drive, Weight said Tavares will have no problems playing through questions about his contract status.
September 16, 2017: When we last left him, John Tavares was playing a tournament at the luxurious Sebonack Golf Club alongside other captains from the Islanders past. Also at the course that day was Golden State Warriors guard, NBA MVP and two-time champion Steph Curry, who chatted with Tavares about whatever it is superstar athletes talk about.
So what happened between then and the start of Islanders training camp? A lot, actually. Unfortunately, no one’s seemed to heed the advice of Puck Daddy’s Ryan Lambert:
Everyone’s gonna ask him if this is a big deal to him in a training-camp scrum, and I don’t know what they hope to accomplish. You, the reporter here in this very real scenario coming soon to a practice rink near you, are not gonna get him to go, “Ah y’know what I’m actually leaving this year and I hope they trade me ASAP.”
Let the man live!
Let’s start at the same place we ended our last volume: Mike Zeisberger. The longtime Toronto scribe followed up his mild shot at the Islanders-Tavares situation by asking Jordan Eberle, who was acquired from Edmonton to bolster scoring if not directly to partner with Tavares, whether he feels he’s part of the team’s plan to keep their captain beyond this season.
From the Toronto Sun, on September 8th:
“John’s going to make up his mind on his own,” Eberle said. “The arena situation is going to be a bigger factor than I am.”“John’s going to make up his mind on his own,” Eberle said. “The arena situation is going to be a bigger factor than I am.”
He might be new here, but Eberle has the basics down pretty well. We’re still waiting on news about the Belmont Park RFP, about the Islanders bid for the land, what they want to build there, who else wants to build there, etc. But that issue looms large over Tavares’s decision to commit to the Islanders long-term.
And then there was the tampering. Get a load of this merde:
Of note this AM at #Habs golf tourney: G.Molson saying he and GM Bergevin hold discussions regarding star players,"including (John) Tavares'— Richard Labbé (@Richardlabbe) September 11, 2017
Wonder if Mr. Molson has any discussions with Bergevin about NHL tampering rules too https://t.co/7Zk1Y2r6oL— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) September 11, 2017
As of today, about a week later, we haven’t heard about any tampering charges being filed or fines being levied. Still, this kind of thing is just par for the course when it comes to the ongoing Tavares contract situation.
And ongoing it is. Tavares is still the Islanders captain, still under contract for one more season and still vocally, emotionally and professionally loyal to the only NHL club he’s played for. And while he (and we) await to find out more about the team’s future, he’s still actively communicating with ownership and is willing to talk contract during the season.
"I'm kind of open to anything," said Tavares, the No. 1 pick of the 2009 NHL Draft. "For me, I think it's not something that we talk about on a daily basis, even weekly basis. I think it's important to stay focused on the season and making sure I'm as committed as I've always been and be the best player and captain I can be for the Islanders.
"Like I've said, the communication has been great and we'll continue to keep that open and let the process continue to move along. As things continue to be talked about, if that's what some of the conversations are, yeah, we haven't specifically said, 'No, we're not talking,' or none of that. We're open to it all."
Via Staple at Newsday on the 14th:
Tavares made it clear in talks with reporters last month that his desire to wait and see how things unfold with a number of uncertain situations around the team had little to do with numbers or negotiation.
Sources on both sides said there has barely been any real contract talk and that the lines of communication between Isles owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin, Snow and the Tavares camp have been primarily to keep the captain apprised of progress toward a new arena, not about dollars and term.
Nationally, the story is the same. Speaking on Buffalo’s WGR radio on the 13th, Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman said that he still believes Tavares’s first choice is to remain an Islander and that most of the decision lay on the arena.
Via Chris Nichols at FanRag Sports:
“I’ve got to tell you too – you ask NHL players about Tavares, I don’t know how many of them have more respect among their peers than that guy does. They really speak very highly of him.
“Anyway, I think John Tavares is a really uncomplicated guy. He’s loyal. He wants to play for the Islanders. He’s been through a lot there and he wants to win there.
“But I think at the end of the day it’s going to come down to arena. If the Islanders get that arena done, then I think he’s going to stay. But if they don’t get that arena done or there’s no clarity, I think the chances tilt to him going somewhere else.
So, that’s the story so far. On Sunday, the Islanders will play the Flyers at a preseason game at Nassau Coliseum, their first game there since the 2015 playoffs. Head coach Doug Weight said today that Tavares will be in the lineup, back in his old home building.
Maybe the game will fill him with so much Islanders Pride that he signs an extension Monday morning and ends The John Tavares Contract Encyclopedia Volume 2 with exactly one entry. (Update: Guess not, although his two-goal performance brought a smile to his face)
But I doubt it. So keep coming back right here for more updates as this story continues into a second interminable season of the least-enjoyable twists and turns imaginable.
Appendix: More Non-SB Nation Blogs trying to acquire Tavares
Red Wings: Octopus Thrower
The Lightning stay on top as other teams begin to catch fire
The NHL said the Flyers defenseman was 'reckless' and used 'excessive force'
'How you gon' do that hockey?'
What a good boy!
The puck didn't go in the net but the skater did!
Another sign that Houston is a potential destination for an NHL relocation