Superstar Center Not Concerned About Free Agency, Hopes Instead To Bring The Stanley Cup Back To New York

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Have no fear, Islanders fans, John Tavares has no intentions of going anywhere.

Speaking to Sportsnet 590 on Tuesday, Tavares made it clear he wants to remain with the team that drafted him for the rest of his career.

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“I think I’ve always showed my commitment, my appreciation and my desire to play on Long Island,” Tavares told the radio station. “I would love for that to continue for the long haul. I think you look at some of the greatest players in the game have been able to spend their entire career somewhere. I hope I’m in that same position.”

Tavares’ comments come as welcome news to an Islanders fan base that has been watching the calendar. The team’s captain will become a free agent on July 1, 2018 and there have been constant rumors of Tavares, a native of Mississauga, Ontario, possibly choosing his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs if he hits the open market.

The 25-year-old superstar put the kibosh on that in a hurry on Thursday.

“I would not count on that,” he said.

“Obviously being from Toronto, people are going to make those connections, and it is what it is. There’s nothing that I can control. I just want to go out there and be the best player, best person that I can be for the Islanders day in and day out. I’m just going to focus on tomorrow and the upcoming season.”

On July 14, two weeks after he and partner Scott Malkin took over majority ownership of the team from Charles Wang, Jon Ledecky made it clear Tavares is the top priority, telling a town hall-style meeting of Islanders fans, “He’s not going to be a free agent.”

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Tavares, who has 207 goals and 471 points in the 510 regular season games he’s played since being selected No. 1 overall in the 2009 draft, figures to command a salary in the $9 million-$10 million range per year in his next contract. He will make a team-friendly $5.5 million this season and is scheduled to make the same in 2017-18. However, the Isles can start submitting offers on July 1, 2017, the first day they are permitted, according to the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement.

In the interim, Tavares will try to lead the Islanders deeper into the playoffs. He was simply unstoppable during New York’s win over the Florida Panthers in last season’s first round, the team’s first postseason series victory since 1993, registering nine points, including the game-winning goal in the second overtime of clinching Game 6.

The Isles were eliminated in five games by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round.

Though the Islanders said goodbye to fan favorites Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin once free agency started on July 1, general manager Garth Snow quickly replaced their collective production, signing veterans Andrew Ladd, Jason Chimera and PA Parenteau.

As a result, and with the possibility that Snow will continue to retool a team that has produced at least 100 points in each of the last two seasons, the Islanders figure to once again be in the mix in the highly competitive Eastern Conference once the puck drops on the 2016-17 season on Oct. 13 at Madison Square Garden, against the Rangers.

Tavares said his only goal right now is winning a championship.

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“(The Islanders) drafted me there, gave me a great opportunity to play this game that I love and fulfill my dream,” Tavares said. “Obviously they’ve put a lot of high expectations into me, and I don’t take that lightly, and I’ve always enjoyed being there from Day One. I would love to see it through and obviously lift the Stanley Cup there.”