Without question, one of the most interesting stories of the summer will involve pending unrestricted free agent John Tavares.
The 27-year-old from Mississauga has spent nine seasons with the New York Islanders and was drafted by the club in 2009. He posted 37 goals and had 37 assists this season, with 257 shots on goal.
But Long Island missed the playoffs for the second straight year, making just three post-season appearances through Tavares’ tenure. And even then, they haven’t been able to escape the second round.
This could colour Tavares’ decision after July 1, at which point he could see what’s available on the open market or sign once more with the Islanders. He is and has been the face of the franchise, but the time may be right for moving on.
There is the sense around the league that Tavares should have signed with the Islanders by now, which in turn suggests that another destination may be in the works for the forward. And that opens the doors of possibility, with tons of teams in the market for the superstar.
With the situation in Long Island less than stable and a home arena more of a mix-up than a sanctuary, it stands to reason that Tavares could be looking for something a little more…grounded.
True to the form of a quiet, humble hockey player, Tavares is on record saying that he wants to remain with the Islanders. That’s typical with the team-first sport.
But as reports have emerged of Tavares’ teammates getting close to nowhere with discussions of his future, the mystery remains and there’s no telling what could happen next.
Even Calder finalist Mathew Barzal has no clue.
“I had dinner with him [Tavares] a couple weeks ago and was just joking a little bit about him and what he wanted to do,” Barzal said. “He didn’t give me anything. He’s a pretty quiet dude when it comes to that stuff.”
For now, the rumours will continue and that’s all well and good for the headlines and the possibilities. Just about every team in the league has their scenario for signing a player of Tavares’ calibre, but whether these scenarios ross the line from fantasy to reality remains to be seen.
Right now, we know that things haven’t been easy for Tavares with the Islanders. And the tumult to come may not bode well for his future or for the franchise’s ability to retain key talent. That could spell some shaky years ahead for Long Island, especially if their top star decides that the grass is greener on the other side.