John Tavares is officially on the clock.
The New York Islanders All-Star, captain, the face of the franchise and pending unrestricted free agent has spoken with each of the six teams he’s scheduled meetings with between Monday and Wednesday.
Now comes the waiting.
Along with the Islanders, Tavares has listened to pitches from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, San Jose Sharks, Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars.
The nerves are understandably present for Islanders fans. Things are finally starting to look up for this franchise for the first time in decades after the hiring of Lou Lamoriello as president of hockey operations.
He’s been busy in his first month, firing general manager Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight before bringing on Barry Trotz behind the bench, fresh off winning a Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals earlier this month.
It’s given a fan base that hasn’t experienced consistent winning since four-straight Stanley Cups in the early 1980s optimism.
But it’s cautious optimism as Tavares’ decision grips the hockey world.
The Islanders are the only team that could have offered Tavares an eight-year contract thanks to the NHL’s CBA. It’s the slim advantage that the team attempting to retain the player gets.
So with it rumored that he will be offered a contract that ranges near $11 million annually, he’s in for a hefty payday with the team that drafted him first-overall in 2009.
However, Tavares surely has plenty of other attractive options from teams that are closer to competing for a Stanley Cup, not to mention his hometown Maple Leafs.
To put it simply for Islanders fans, the closer it gets to Jul. 1 when NHL teams can begin signing unrestricted free agents, the less likely the team has a chance to retain Tavares.
If it gets to Sunday at 12 p.m. ET and he's not an Islander, the organization has to face the sobering reality that it has to build a contender without one of the greatest players in its history.