If the New York Islanders are willing to commit to winning the Stanley Cup, John Tavares will be much more likely to re-sign, says head coach Doug Weight.
On Thursday, New York Islanders head coach Doug Weight joined Sirius XM NHL Network Radio to discuss John Tavares’ future with the team.
“Yeah, we’ve already signed him. It’s the drawer,” joked Weight. “No, just kidding.”
For Weight, questions about his captain have become commonplace. He’s been repeating the same narrative as everyone else in the organization: the biggest priority this offseason is getting Tavares locked up on a long-term deal.
Tavares, 26, was drafted first overall in the 2009 NHL Draft. He’s been the lone constant on a team whose major pieces — Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Andrew Ladd — have been shuffling from year-to-year.
He’s been the center of attention since the day he arrived in Nassau County, clinching the franchise’s first playoff series in two decades and notching a bevy of highlight-reel goals. In 2016-17, he posted 28 goals, 38 assists and 66 points.
If Tavares hits the open market, a high-stakes bidding war will surely ensue. For that reason, the Isles need to lock him up before it’s too late. In late April, hockey insider Elliotte Friedman commented on the expected negotiations:
“I think they’re going to meet soon,” he said. “I think they’re going to have a conversation. I think they’re going to start to look and say, ‘Okay, where exactly are we here.’
“If you take a look at the Islanders’ business, they just hired Doug Weight to a new contract to coach and I think Tavares was fine with that move. I think Doug Weight wanted Garth Snow to continue as GM. That is happening. You heard on the weekend that the league admitted (the Islanders) are going to make a proposal to build an arena at Belmont Park. None of these things are happening in a vacuum. But the clock is ticking.”
The Isles can officially sign Tavares to an extension on July 1, and he’s in for a hefty pay raise. Currently signed to a team-friendly six-year, $33 million pact, the franchise center will likely demand roughly $10 million a season.
Money isn’t the issue, though.
The question then becomes: Will Tavares accept?
Over the past few years, Tavares has been smoothly deflecting questions about his future. He’s remained steadfast in his praise for the organization and has dispelled rumors about a potential move to Toronto.
“John loves it here. He is an unbelievable hockey player and leader for us. It’s real important and we’re doing everything we can to show him – John wants to win Cups.”
But whether he’ll end up putting pen to paper is a totally different story. At the end of the day, Tavares wants to win, and if he doesn’t feel like that’s going to happen in blue and orange, there’s a chance he’ll bolt.
“Listen, it’s a situation that a lot of players have the opportunity to walk through. John loves it here. He is an unbelievable hockey player and leader for us. It’s real important and we’re doing everything we can to show him – John wants to win Cups. He wants to have a chance to win multiple Stanley Cups. That’s what he wants. That’s what’s in his heart. That’s what drives him. That’s what makes him great. He wants to be a Hall of Fame player.
“So as an organization we recognize that. We recognize his importance. And we also recognize that he wants to be here. He wants to be a captain (going for) that Stanley Cup and he loves New York. Ultimately for him, that’s his goal and if it has to be somewhere else, I think it would be.”
That last sentence – that if “it has to be somewhere else, I think it would be” – has created shockwaves throughout the Tri-State Area. But it really shouldn’t. Hockey is a business: Garth Snow and his staff have to entice their captain to stay; otherwise, there’s little reason from his perspective to do so.
The Islanders recognize this. Says Weight, “I believe we’re in a great position. I think we have some really good, talented young players coming up. I think we will have, when it’s announced, we’re going to have a staff that has respect and experience and wants to work and wants to make these players better.
“And I think as an organization, we’re willing to make moves to try and win next year.”
If the Islanders are indeed willing to make these moves, as everyone in the front office insists, keeping Tavares will be much more realistic.