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Despite stumbles this season, Tavares wants to ‘keep building’ with Islanders

John Tavares continues to inch closer to free agency, and despite speculation he could choose to test the market, the Islanders’ captain continues to talk about his commitment to New York.

Everyone knew the situation with New York Islanders captain John Tavares entering the 2016-17 campaign.

One of the most talented players in the world and a two-time Hart Trophy finalist, Tavares, 26, was starting the season with only two years remaining before his six-year, $33-million contract was up, and talk was already swirling about what could be next for Tavares despite the fact that there was still a full season separating him from even inking a potential contract extension. 

Some believed it was only a matter of time until he ended up in his hometown with the Maple Leafs. Others thought he could test the waters and sign with the highest bidder, or possibly go somewhere where he had a chance to really compete for a Stanley Cup. However, amidst all the speculation, Tavares continued to say he was focused on spending the rest of his career with the Islanders, if that was possible. That was before the season began, though, and before the Islanders’ campaign became a bit of a disaster. 

One year removed from winning their way to the second round of the post-season for the first time in more than two decades, the Isles sit two spots out of the league’s basement, are barely outside the bottom-third of the league in terms of offense and only eight teams have managed a worse goal differential. A return trip to the post-season seems incredibly unlikely.

But none of that has Tavares changing his mind about where his future lies. He’s still very open about his desire to remain an Islander.

“I think for myself, I’ve always shown and talked about my commitment here,’’ Tavares said Monday, according to Newsday’s Steven Marcus. “Wanting to have success here and keep building on some of the good things we’ve done.”

And even with this season being a low point, Tavares shone the spotlight right on himself, pointing to his own on-ice issues as one of the biggest disappointments of the year rather than taking aim at the team’s overall poor play. Tavares has consistently been a near 70-point player over the past five seasons, but this year, he might have a tough time cracking the 60-point mark. Through 38 games, he has only 11 goals and 27 points, and if his scoring doesn’t pick up, this could very well be the lowest goal-scoring season of his career, and that’s including the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season.

Tavares isn’t about to fold the tent on this season, though. The Islanders are dead last in the Eastern Conference and sitting 10 points out of the final wild-card spot with half of the campaign to go. It’s a significant amount of ground to make up, but Tavares believes there’s a way to turn things around.

“It obviously can be very frustrating at times with the way things have gone to this point in the season,” Tavares said, according to Marcus. “But it’s important just to keep having a good attitude, keep working hard together, having fun, whether it’s practice, showing up to the rink on game days in the morning and just sticking together, knowing there’s a long way to go.’’

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