These are troubling times for the New York Islanders.
The franchise is in the midst of finding a new home for the second time in three years while putting together a product that can make the postseason for just the fourth time since 2007.
While those are pressing matters, all of that should take a back seat to what is going on with their captain.
John Tavares will become a free agent following the 2017-18 season, which is the final year of a six-year, $33 million contract. The best player to wear an Islanders jersey since the ’90s, Tavares has been eligible to sign a contract extension with the team since July 1.
Both parties have been unable to get anything done yet despite Tavares’ desire to stay with the Islanders.
“It’s obviously a great place to play,” Tavares told TSN (h/t NHL.com) “I’ve really enjoyed my time being an Islander and I want that to continue.”
The four-time All-Star has been in regular contact with the team and head coach Doug Weight, who is confident that New York will lock the Canadian up long term:
“John wants to win Stanley Cups. He wants to be a Hall of Fame player. He wants to do it as an Islander. I would want nothing more, as our organization, than to see him lift that Stanley Cup with the ‘C’ on his chest with the New York Islander logo. It’s where he bleongs. Make no mistake, John loves it here. I’ll speak for him, I don’t mind. But he’s earned the right to come and make a decision, an intelligent decision. He’s a thinker. He’s not a PR guy that wants to drag it out. But he’s going to do what he sees fit. I believe we have an ubelievable opportunity to sign John. We have things to prove to him.”
Those things to prove include finding that new arena and a roster that can legitimately contend for a Cup.
New York made a big splash shortly after the NHL draft by trading for Edmonton Oilers forward Jordan Eberle to flank Tavares on the first line. However, the team has been relatively quiet since and look to be relying on young players like Josh Ho-Sang and Mathew Barzal to step in and make an immediate impact.
Should Tavares go unsigned through next season and the Islanders take another step back, the team could be faced with the horrifying scenario of one of the greatest players in franchise history bolting next summer.
Think about what that could do for a moment.
No Tavares means no face of the franchise that could be marketed towards fans to get their butts in the seats. It also would deter any big-name, established free agent from wanting to sign with the team. Not to mention the players that are already here.
The franchise could go into an absolute spiral that could possibly be even worse than the mid-90s.
A poor product on the ice means no fans. No fans mean no money.
No money for a team looking for a new home? We could be watching the Quebec Islanders playing in a few years.
So instead of indulging in these apocalyptic visions, it might be best for general manager Garth Snow and the Islanders to give Tavares exactly what he wants and allow management to put all their focus on moving the franchise forward in a positive direction.