John Tavares, New York Islanders
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images, Robby Sabo?

With free agency on the horizon, New York Islanders captain John Tavares isn’t promising that he’ll fill the same role in 2018-19.

And then there were two. Two games remain in the 2017-18 season for the New York Islanders, and, perhaps, in captain John Tavares‘ career with the team.

“The fan base has been tremendous since I got here,” Tavares told Newsday‘s Andrew Gross on the eve of what could be his final home game with the club against the New York Rangers. “People say certain things. I hope it all works out, too, and I’m back as well. I just want to focus one game at a time and finishing the season strong and in the days and weeks ahead there will be plenty of time to think about it and start looking at the future and move forward.”

While there’s nothing earth-shattering in Tavares’ remarks, there’s a stark difference between Wednesday’s remarks and those he’s made in the past. Before, the narrative was that he wanted to stay. Now, it’s that he “hopes it all works out.”

That should be at least a bit concerning to Isles fans.

“I just try to be myself. I try to approach it the way I feel best. I just try to give everything I have to this group for as long as it goes. Obviously, the season will end on Saturday. I want to go about it the right way and be the best captain I can be. When the time is right, it will all come to fruition and it will all be over at the same time. It’s gotten to this point now. I can’t say how it’s going to go going forward.”

So should that last line, for the same reasons. For the first time, Tavares sounds like a player that, without question, is going to explore free agency.

While the Islanders will assuredly make him a lucrative offer to stick around, is there anything besides money that they can actually offer him?

They’ve failed to surround him with high-level talent, much less put together a roster that was complete enough to seriously contend for anything for the bulk of his career.

Charles Wang’s bumbling ownership has been replaced by the equally inept pair of Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin.

This is a franchise that still has no clue where it’s going to call home for the long-term. Until ground is actually broken, Belmont Park remains a pipedream, much like Wang’s failed Lighthouse Project.

Truth be told, the Islanders have spent the past nine seasons giving him every reason to leave. Maybe his comments on Wednesday shouldn’t be that shocking to anyone after all.

I've been dunked on by Shaq and yelled at by Mickey Mantle. ESNY Editor In Chief. UMass alum. Former National Columnist w/Bleacher Report & former member of NY Knicks Basketball Ops department. Nephew of Rock & Roll Royalty.