Islanders need to do right by John Tavares

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John Tavares isn’t going anywhere.

Despite hitting unrestricted free agency in 2018. Despite the clarion call from up north for him to come home and join the Toronto Maple Leafs’ burgeoning contender. Despite the chance to punch his own ticket anywhere in the NHL, knowing that the chances are good that franchise is headed on a more promising trajectory than the New York Islanders.

He’s said this privately, to the point where the organization isn’t all that concerned when the media rumblings about his future rock Brooklyn. And he’s said this publicly, on many occasions.

As he told Newsday, once more with feeling:

“I think for myself, I’ve always shown and talked about my commitment here,’’ said the four-time All-Star, who signed a six-year, $33-million extension in 2011, on Monday at Northwell Health Ice Center. “Wanting to have success here and keep building on some of the good things we’ve done. Obviously, this [low] point’s been disappointing.’’

… At 26 and in his eighth season with the Islanders, Tavares apparently isn’t going anywhere, saying, “I think I’ve stated enough how much I enjoy being here.’’

Tavares has the loyalty thing going on, but he also knows that he’s the only thing the Islanders have going for them, which is going to translate into an annual salary and cap hit that will at least match that of Anze Kopitar ($14 million, $10 million, full no-move) in his next contract with the Islanders.

Whether he’s worth the money for the Islanders isn’t even up for discussion, because they need to sign Tavares. And then they need to reward that loyalty with a quality team around him.

Look, it’s no secret how one builds a contender in this league. The Islanders have a star at their center. But you need:

1 – Strong young players. There are some young pieces that have promise – Ryan Strome is only 23, Mathew Barzal is 19, Kieffer Bellows is an American hero. But it’s not like the Islanders have a can’t-miss collection of prospects in the AHL and junior.

2 – Goaltending. How many of this team’s problems track back to a goaltending monster of their own making, who mutated back to pedestrian human form quicker than the big lizard from RAMPAGE after taking too much damage?

3 – Strong, competent supporting cast. The task ahead for GM Garth Snow – or whatever team president Svengali guru Jon Ledecky hires, namely Mike Gillis – is to dramatically re-craft the rest of this roster. The only question is how deep the knife should go, which is a tough question when you’re looking at a last-place team full of players that have underwhelmed this season (including Tavares). Are Nick Leddy and Travis Hamonic this bad? Is there any salvaging Andrew Ladd after 12 points in 38 games have made him the consensus pick for biggest free-agent bust?

I trust that Tavares is going to see this thing through, although I’m increasingly less trustful that GM Garth Snow is going to be the guy to see it with him. He bungled last offseason, if not in allowing Kyle Okposo to leave but in failing to get anything palpable back for him before he did, assuming that was always the decision. And certainly in attempting to recruit reinforcements for both Okposo and Frans Nielsen, whose absences on this team reverberate in every loss.

(This was an interesting piece on Snow from Lighthouse Hockey.)

Tavares is doing his part to stabilize the franchise by committing to it. They owe it to him to aggressively make it stronger around him, with a cruel reassessment of its current players. And I’m not sure if Snow is, or will be, the guy to do it.

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.