With the 2017-18 season in the rearview mirror, it’s time to address some uncomfortable realities facing John Tavares and the New York Islanders
New York Islanders hockey in a post-John Tavares world. It’s a possibility no Islanders fan wants to consider, and rightfully so. It’s an uncomfortable narrative for a 2017-18 team that started with so much promise and ended in a spectacular collapse.
On July 1, the face of the franchise and the best thing to happen to the organization since the dynasty will become a free agent and will have offers lined up from nearly every team in the NHL, including the Isles.
With the Islanders playoff hopes well in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to start thinking about what the team has to do if Tavares decides to head for greener pastures.
A John Tavares-less Future
For starters, this is made monumentally less tragic thanks to rookie sensation Mathew Barzal. Barzal has drawn the attention of every team the Islanders have played since his scoring binge began against the New York Rangers in a 4-3 shootout win 69 points in 68 games.
Moreso, the accompaniment of players such as Anthony Beauvillier, the emerging Ryan Pulock, and Adam Pelech, and the potential sleepers in Shane Prince — who has lost a lot of playing time due to injury — and Brandon Davidson are all reasons to stay optimistic about the Isles core.
Not to mention, Davidson is 26, Prince is 25, both Pelech and Pulock are 23 and both Killer B’s (Beauvillier and Barzal) are 20-years-old.
There’s no denying that Tavares is a world-class talent and that his rough average of 70 points per season will be missed by the Islanders, but it might help to think of it from a financial perspective.
The Islanders will have to commit at least $10 million of their cap per year to Tavares. Should he choose the Isles, you’d better bet he gets the maximum term with a bank or two thrown at him.
Assuming the captain sticks with the Isles, that ensures his presence for another eight years. In fact, here are the long-term contracts the Isles will have on their books starting in the 2018-19 season including their annual average salary and point totals through their Isles tenure.
- F Cal Clutterbuck – Five years, $3.5 million, 95 points in 355 games
- F Josh Bailey – Five years, $5 million, 371 points in 703 games
- F Andrew Ladd – Five years, $5.5 million, 53 points in 159 games
- F Casey Cizikas – Three years, $3.35 million, 122 points in 406 games
- D Johnny Boychuk* – Four years, $6 million, 94 points in 255 games
- D Nick Leddy* – Four years, $5.5 million, 161 points in 308 games
Now none of that is supposed to be taken as a knock on those players. Casey and Cal are part of the Isles penalty kill, which has historically had moments of greatness despite its inconsistency during Doug Weight’s tenure, while Bailey has discovered a new layer to his game over the last two seasons.
However, the Isles need to consider where — and how much — of their money is going to be tied up for a considerable amount of time.
Something that hasn’t even began to enter the conversation yet and really should have is where does this leave the Isles and Anders Lee at the conclusion of the 2018-19 season? Did we forget that he has to re-up after next season and is on back-to-back 30-goal campaigns?
Lee’s current cap hit is at $3.75 million. Add back-to-back 30-goal seasons and you’re now in the ballpark of Bailey’s $5 million deal.
To make matters more complicated, Barzal’s incendiary rookie campaign has likely earned him Rookie of the Year. For reference on what a raise to a Calder Trophy-winner looks like, check out Artemi Panarin’s 30-goal, 77-point campagin that scored him a two-year, $6 million contract.
Oh, and Beauvi will need a new deal around then too.
Is it worth it?
It’s not that Tavares doesn’t deserve the next deal he’ll sign, it’s whether or not the Isles are realistically in a position to be able to dedicate that much cap space to one player with a future full of long-term deals and a young core in need of raises sooner than one would think.
Tavares is so much more to the Islanders than a point-getter. He has been the face of the franchise since he was drafted, and it’s hard to think of the modern-day Islanders without Tavares at the forefront of that picture. He also helped Thomas Greiss shoulder the weight of forcing the Islanders through their first playoff series win in 23 years, and that’s not something any Islander fan will soon forget.
As things come to a close on John Tavares’ decision, these are a couple of helpful hints to bear in mind should he re-sign with New York or ortherwise.