John Tavares understands why the connection is made between him and the Maple Leafs, but the 25-year-old New York Islanders captain said not to “count on that” happening. Tavares said he hopes he’s in the position to spend his entire career in one place.
Newly minted Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky has said he wants to make sure John Tavares doesn’t hit the free agent market, GM Garth Snow has said he’ll be talking contract extension with Tavares as soon as possible and now Tavares himself has said that he’s not intending to be anywhere but New York.
In an interview with Sportsnet 590, Tavares, 25, was asked in tongue-in-cheek fashion about playing in Toronto when his current contract with the Islanders expired, to which Tavares responded that he would “not count on that.” Tavares said that being a Toronto native lends itself to the connections being made between he and the Maple Leafs, but added he wants to “go out there and be the best player, best person that I can be for the Islanders day in and day out.”
“I think I’ve always showed my commitment, my appreciation and my desire to play on Long Island,” Tavares told Sportsnet 590’s Andrew Walker. “I would love for that to continue for the long haul. I think you look at some of the greatest players in the game have been able to spend their entire career somewhere and I hope I’m in that same position.”
It’s hard to fathom the Islanders wouldn’t make Tavares wish of remaining an Islander come true. In just seven seasons in the league, Tavares has already been a two-time Hart Trophy finalist and is a consistent 30-goal, 80-point threat. He’s the face of the franchise as the team’s captain and scored arguably the biggest goal of the current era when he netted the overtime-winner that sent the Islanders to the second round of the post-season this past campaign.
The season ended when the Islanders were beaten soundly in five games by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round, and Tavares told Walker this off-season has arguably had the biggest turnover since he arrived in the league. The team said goodbye to Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, Matt Martin and Brian Strait this off-season, but Tavares said he understands that it’s part of the business side of things.
“We didn’t accomplish what we would have liked to and we wish we could have had more success,” Tavares told Walker. “But we’ve been through a lot together, overcame a lot, been through a lot of the down times and it gets to a point in everyone’s career, decisions are made and things change.”
The one thing that doesn’t appear likely to change anytime soon, though, is Tavares’ presence in New York. When his deal is up, he’ll no doubt have the option of signing a long-term, big-money deal to remain an Islander. With his contract up at the culmination of the 2017-18 season, Tavares could be in line for a deal worth as much as $10 million per season, especially given the recent contracts handed to the likes of Jamie Benn, Anze Koptiar and Steven Stamkos. It won’t just be about the money, though.
“They drafted me there, gave me a great opportunity to play this game that I love and fulfill my dream,” Tavares told Walker. “Obviously they’ve put a lot of high expectations into me, and I don’t take that lightly, and I’ve always enjoyed being there from Day One. I would love to see it through and obviously lift the Stanley Cup there.”
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