Mathew Barzal (13) and John Tavares. (Photo: Getty Images)

All the New York Islanders have to look forward to now is the sweet release that is the end of the regular season, though there will be a summer of nerves ahead of them.

Once slated to make a serious charge toward postseason contention in 2017-18, the Islanders ran out of gas in the season's final stretch as they went from Eastern Conference Wild Card holders to dead last in the Metropolitan Division with two games left to play. 

In an all-too-familiar sight, the Islanders seem dysfunctional yet again thanks to management that willfully ignored the team's needs at the trade deadline and let them plummet to mediocrity. 

It couldn't have come at a worse time considering their star and captain John Tavares will see his contract expire at the end of the year, making him the biggest free agent available this offseason. 


His future with the team has been a hot-button issue for the better part of the last 18 months, though Tavares nor the organization have disclosed much about negotiations or lack thereof. 

It hasn't stopped Tavares from performing at a high level. After two goals on Tuesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers, the 27-year-old has 36 goals and 47 assists. He is two goals away from tying his career high set in 2014-15 and just three helpers from tying his best from 2011-12.

With 83 points, it is just the third time in his career that he has eclipsed the 80-point plateau, the first time in three years. 

But Tavares has some surprising company in the 80-plus point club this season in the form of rookie Mathew Barzal, who is the frontrunner for the NHL's Calder Trophy as league Rookie of the Year. 

With two goals and an assist of his own on Tuesday, Barzal moved within one point of Tavares. The two became the first set of Islanders teammates to record 80 or more points in a single season since Pierre Turgeon (132) and Steve Thomas (87) in 1992-93. 

Tavares was quick to point out the kind of talent Barzal has become prior to their game against the Flyers. 

"His game keeps getting better and he's just scratching the surface," Tavares said via Newsday's Andrew Gross. "There's a lot of excitement in our group for him. Especially a guy with his talent and his drive to be successful. I'm excited to finish the season with him and looking forward to the future."

For fans looking for any shred of a hint of whether Tavares will stay or not, the last part of that quote is somewhat promising. Though, he could be speaking of a future where they would only be playing together on the Canadian national team. 


Latest From ...