New York Islanders star captain John Tavares is the biggest name that is set to become a free agent this summer, his final season of a six-year, $33 million deal.
While speculation of his future with the small-market team has swirled for the better part of 18 months, the Islanders have had more than enough time to everything possible to appease the five-time All-Star.
They kept Tavares’ choice for head coach in Doug Weight while co-owner Jon Ledecky delivered the team back to Nassau County as they will split home games between the renovated Nassau Coliseum and their current home, the Barclays Center, before moving to a brand-new arena near Belmont Park in an estimated three years.
The problem is that the Islanders haven’t figured out the formula to keep a winning team on the ice, which might be the biggest factor in coaxing Tavares to stay.
New York is on pace to miss the postseason for the second-straight season and are in the midst of a seven-game losing streak, the latest defeat coming at the hands of the lowly Vancouver Canucks in overtime on Monday night after blowing a 2-0 lead.
That would be Tavares’ sixth time missing the postseason in his first nine years in the NHL.
Usually known for saying the right thing, the mild-mannered star let his frustrations show a bit on Tuesday as the Islanders prepare for a Thursday night meeting with the Edmonton Oilers.
“Whether it’s mental or just execution of a few plays, we just have to find a way to do it,” Tavares said of his team’s struggles (h/t Neil Best of Newsday). “No one’s going to feel sorry for us… Obviously, this isn’t a whole lot of fun right now.”
While it’s understandable for him to make that kind of statement, somewhere in Canada, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens are licking their chops as they are expected to be the top-two pursuers of Tavares.
The longer this downturn of play goes on, the less content Tavares will be with the Islanders, which will only increase the chances of him testing the waters in free agency and delivering a debilitating blow to the franchise should he walk.