John Tavares
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The writing had been on the wall since July of last year that John Tavares was going to depart in free agency. On Sunday, he did.

John Tavares now shares something in common with former NHL skaters Bobby Holik, Scott Gomez, Scott Niedermayer, Brian Rafalski and Zach Parise.

The former Islanders captain opted for unrestricted free agency instead of re-signing with general manager Lou Lamoriello, joining a slew of former players with his decision. This time, though, Lamoriello isn’t the one to blame.

The Islanders and their fans must have seen this coming a long time ago. New York never had a realistic chance at re-signing Tavares this offseason. As much as it “pains” the Islanders’ faithful, the Orange and Blue had to be mentally prepared for this moment for quite some time.

The Islanders’ window to re-sign Tavares began last year, on July 1. The fact that Tavares didn’t sign a contract last summer should have spoken volumes as to his future status.

The 2017-18 campaign came and went with uncertainty surrounding the Tavares drama, and by April 7, it was abundantly clear that the Islanders knew they had just witnessed Tavares’ last game in an orange and blue sweater. On the bright side, Tavares scored the game-winning goal in overtime in his final contest. Sadly, this wasn’t enough to keep him in the Big Apple.

Now, Tavares will try to help his childhood team return to the Stanley Cup for the first time in decades. Tavares’ contract with the Maple Leafs is for seven years and an average annual value of $11 million. He will join the likes of Auston Matthews and William Nylander on what is expected to be a deadly power play next season.

While Tavares waited until the first official day to walk from the Islanders and sign with the Leafs, it was obvious he had his mind made up for quite some time. His genuine and honest letter made it clear in between the lines that he had always wanted to “go back home” and play for Toronto.

His throwback tweets reassured all that the writing had been on the wall and that he was leaving the Island and an Islanders team that is much farther away from being a Cup contender than Toronto. No. 91 will be joining a team that offers an impressive structure from top to bottom, a commendable head coach in Mike Babcock and a potential dynasty.

New York never seemed to have any sense of direction and was an average team at best while Tavares donned an Islanders sweater. The club failed to address the goaltending situation early on in the 2018 offseason, and never had an All-Star masked man between the pipes to back the captain.

Plus, the club failed to address one of the worst defensive corps in recent history last season.

What good would an eight-year mega-contract deal do for Tavares and an Islanders team that essentially needs to rebuild, anyway?

The Islanders and ownership did try to lure in Tavares but it was a last minute effort. It was no coincidence that ownership decided to bring over the former Toronto GM in Lamoriello as essentially a former insider from the team that they knew was going to have the best shot at signing their beloved superstar.

Lamoriello knew the strategy that Toronto was going to take to land Tavares, and was brought on in large part for that reason – another sign that Islanders fan should have seen as a bad omen.

That’s not to say it was the wrong decision to bring in the former three-time Stanley Cup winning GM, but to add him to the front office one month before July 1 was a move that New York should have made back in 2015 when Lamoriello officially left the New Jersey Devils.

If the Islanders tried then to restructure the franchise, perhaps Tavares would still be wearing royal blue but with an Islanders crest on the front of his jersey.

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Kyle McKenna is a freelancer who covers the NHL for Elite Sports New York, Hooked On Hockey Magazine & Fansided. Follow him on Twitter @KMcKenna_tLT5 and use the hashtag #McKennasDigest to have your NHL questions featured in an article or answered over his weekly NHL podcast.