Sure, the New York Islanders have to deal with contending for a postseason spot in a loaded Metropolitan Division while waiting to find out where they'll be playing their games while their new home at Belmont Park is being developed. But in the back of everyone's mind — players, management and fans alike — there is the question of John Tavares' future with the team.
While there have been few updates on the status of negotiations with the Islanders and their star captain whose contract expires at the end of this season, Tavares continues to show his loyalty to the team that drafted him first overall in 2009 as he spoke with reporters on Monday morning.
"I want to stay on Long Island," Tavares said via Arthur Staple of Newsday. "I haven't thought about being anywhere except with the Islanders."
For a franchise that has had difficulties retaining star players since the mid-1980s, that's more than promising to hear even if it's just Tavares' way of saying the right thing to the media. However, the Islanders still need to prove some things to Tavares before he inks a long-term deal with the organization.
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While securing a long-term home on Long Island — where Tavares resides — instead of Brooklyn was one huge item to cross off the team's list, the Islanders still need to prove to the 27-year-old that they are committed to winning.
The offense is already in place as New York's scoring unit is one of the most potent in the NHL, but the defense and goaltending have been inconsistent and at times, downright bad. If general manager Garth Snow is able to pull some strings and bolster the blue line, allowing the Islanders to make a serious run at the postseason, Tavares' decision to stay with the Islanders should be much easier.
Considering what the center has brought to the franchise since his arrival, the Islanders should be doing everything possible to ensure he retires as an Islander.
The five-time All-Star has given the small-market club a recognizable face across the league. In just eight-plus seasons, Tavares already ranks in the franchise's top 10 in goals (257), assists (332), points (589), power-play goals (78), game-winning goals (40) and hat tricks (8).