NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Islanders have about a million questions that need to be answered this offseason.
But none more important than the long-term future of superstar captain John Tavares.
The veteran center is entering the final season of what has turned out to be a bargain contract. He is scheduled to make just $5.5 million in 2017-18, which is tied for 32nd highest among NHL centers, according to spotrac.com. Tavares has been the Islanders’ best player since the day he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2009, amassing 537 points in 587 regular season games.
Now, it appears the Islanders are ready to do everything in their power to put the 26-year-old star at least in the top three among the highest paid at his position. According to Newsday’s Arthur Staple, New York is expected to offer Tavares an eight-year contract extension that will pay him at least $10 million per season.
It’s a no-brainer, provided, of course, that Tavares wants to stay with the Islanders.
All indications have been that he wants to spend his entire career with the team that drafted him. However, due to the Isles’ apparent lack of long-term vision on the ice there has been speculation that Tavares could refuse to put pen to paper on or immediately after July 1, the first day he is allowed to sign a contract extension, according to the collective bargaining agreement. If he doesn’t, odds are good that he’ll test free agency after the 2017-18 season.
If Tavares refuses to sign, Islanders general manager Garth Snow would be forced to at least consider trading his franchise center before next season begins, instead of risking losing him for nothing.
If Tavares is seriously considering waiting, it would almost certainly have to do with the Islanders’ repeated failure to put a Stanley Cup-worthy roster around him. The Isles regressed mightily in 2016-17, missing the playoffs by one point, just a year after winning a playoff series for the first time since 1993.
Though Snow appears to have the full backing of owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin, fans have been nowhere near as supportive of the veteran executive, who has been the Isles’ GM since 2006 but has just that one postseason series win to show for it.
According to capfriendly.com, the Isles are a little more than $2 million under the $73 million salary cap for 2017-18, and have everyone but defenseman Calvin de Haan (restricted free agent), depth forward Stephen Gionta (UFA) and third-string goaltender Jean-Francois Berube (UFA) signed for next season. So, if the Isles are to navigate the NHL expansion draft and improve on the ice they’ll almost certainly need to make a series of trades.
Whatever their plan is, the Isles are expected to make their pitch to Tavares this month.