Garth Must Be Careful With Tavares
Brad Penner, USATSI

Sitting at 4-6-0, and after getting annihilated in front of their home crowd, the Islanders may have bigger issues than the ice quality.

June 26, 2009 is a special day for every Islanders fan in existence. After back-to-back seasons of futility, the Islanders were awarded the number one overall pick in the entry level draft.

Who they picked would go on to become the most transcendent Islander in nearly three decades.

That man is captain John Tavares.


Since that summer day in 2009, Tavares has the fifth most goals in the NHL (211), and is just outside of the top-10 in points (478).

Tavares made the final seasons of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum memorable, as he helped the Isles notch two playoff births in its last three seasons. He scored big-time goals in the 2013 playoffs against the Penguins, a colossal goal in the 2015 playoffs against the Capitals, and the franchises’ biggest goal in two-and-a-half decades last postseason against the Panthers.

If you have not been convinced that Tavares is a top-10 player in the NHL, you need to open the curtains and smell the roses.

The captain has been overshadowed by a separate entity from the team’s on-ice performance: Barclays Center. Complaints of obstructed-view seats, unnecessary LIRR rides and poor attendance figures have permeated the confines of the Isles’ new home.

But there is one major topic that is being ignored a little to much.

In a few years El Capitano may be gone.

It’s seemingly unfathomable at first, but when given some thought, it’s not too far-fetched. And it seems like there is one true competitor, the Toronto Maple Leafs. There have been rumors that Tavares, a Toronto native, may return to his native city to play for the up-and-coming Maple Leafs after his contract is up in 2018.

With the rapid ascent of Auston Mathews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and other young talents, adding Tavares to that mix is a scary — and realistic — thing.

That’s not the only thing that could sway Tavares away from Brooklyn. Another major draw for “JT” is that he played for head coach Mike Babcock while competing for Team Canada at the World Cup of Hockey. If the Islanders aren’t careful, all the hopes and dreams of a fifth Stanley Cup will remain in a distant place.

Now, Isles fans shouldn’t go into full panic mode yet, because during this past September’s World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, Tavares was asked if being back in his hometown made him feel like this is something he would like to do in the future. He gave an assertive answer, saying “When people ask me where I’m from is say I grew up in Toronto and I’m from Long Island, and I say it with pride.”

Another quote that gives Islanders fans hope is from new majority owner John Ledecky in his opening press conference. When asked about how the organization will handle Tavares’ pending free agency, he cut off a reporter to say that Tavares won’t make it anywhere near the open market.

Talking the talk is great, but the idea of signing Tavares to a seven- or eight-year deal, with a probable AAV of $11 million, while having another $16.5 million committed to Andrew Ladd, Johnny Boychuk, and Nick Leddy, will make it tough for Ledecky to pay up without mortgaging the teams future.

Ryan Pulock‘s deal is soon to expire, and the young forwards (i.e. Anders Lee and Brock Nelson) will soon be demanding a new paycheck .

Tavares has never played with an elite winger, which makes us wonder just how effective he could be with the proper linemates. If Austin Matthews is an indicator, then it’s a 90-point producer. Minimum.

Not to knock Andrew Ladd or Jason Chimera, but Isles fans have been crying for a different type of winger for their captain.

Those cries have yet to be answered.

So while the coaching staff and management try to figure out how to get the team back on track, they won’t be able to ignore the Idea that their savior may leave after all.

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