The New York Islanders are going to find out what direction their franchise will be moving in on Friday.
All-Star center and captain John Tavares, the face of the franchise for the past nine years, will likely alert the team that drafted him if he will accept their eight-year contract offer on Saturday after it was initially reported by Arthur Staple of the Athletic that his decision would be known on Friday.
Tavares held meetings in Los Angeles with the San Jose Sharks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning, along with the Islanders, between Monday and Wednesday. The 27-year-old officially becomes an unrestricted free agent on Jul. 1 where he will then be allowed to sign with any team of his choosing.
He has become one of the most highly-coveted potential free agents in league history given his track record with the Islanders and that he is in the prime of his career.
The Ontario native is considered one of the best players in franchise history, if not the best outside of the team’s dynastic era in the late 1970s and early 1980s that produced legends like Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, Denis Potvin, Cark Gillies and Billy Smith, all of whom are in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Tavares has been a finalist for the Hart Trophy, the NHL’s MVP award twice and already ranks fifth on the franchise’s all-time goals list.
The Islanders are the only team that can offer him an eight-year contract, per the league’s CBA. The other five that he met with can offer him no more than seven. But Tavares has not been a part of a consistent contender, making the playoffs just three times in his career.
While the organization is turning things around with the hiring of Lou Lamoriello as president and Barry Trotz as head coach, Tavares could be coaxed into signing with a team that is on the cusp of making a serious run at the Stanley Cup.