We’re just a few weeks away from a potential superstar hitting the free agent market, but teams shouldn’t count the New York Islanders out just yet. Darren Dreger of TSN reports that John Tavares has been in constant communication with GM Lou Lamoriello, and is focused on extension negotiations with his current team. Dreger speculates that a deal could come together quickly, though obviously nothing is done yet. Tavares could still wait until the interview period that starts just a few days after the upcoming draft, in which he could talk to potential suitors to see what kind of deals are out on the open market.
The fact that Tavares is working towards an extension should come as no real surprise. Even though Lamoriello cleaned house soon after he arrived in New York, Tavares has always maintained the fact that he wants to stay with the Islanders his whole career if possible. While circumstances around the success and stability of the organization may have thrown that into uncertainty, there was still always a chance that he would re-sign with the team that drafted him. That chance seems to be alive and well, even though it feels every day like Tavares is closer to free agency.
One of Lamoriello’s most often used phrases is “if you have time, use it” but you can bet he would love to have some certainty on Tavares before heading into the draft next Friday. Teams are allowed to start talking to potential free agents on June 25th, at which point all bets are off on who will eventually land the superstar center. There would also be the option of trading Tavares’ rights if a deal couldn’t be agreed to, in order to take advantage of the eighth year that the Islanders can offer. It is important to remember though that a situation like that would have to be a sign-and-trade, since only the team who owned a player’s rights at the most recent trade deadline is allowed to extend an eight-year offer. Should they trade Tavares without a contract in place already, the acquiring team could only offer him seven years. The Islanders themselves could only offer seven should Tavares wait until July 1st, making it hard to imagine a situation where they re-sign him after that date.
If the team retains their captain, the Islanders would be locked in long-term with two offensive stars down the middle. Mathew Barzal proved as a rookie that he can handle a huge load offensively, making defense and goaltending the biggest issues for Lamoriello to address later this offseason. With rumors of Philipp Grubauer’s availability, and other defensemen on the block, this could be a summer filled with fireworks for the Islanders. They’re armed with two first-round picks in next week’s draft, an asset Lamoriello has never been shy to move for the right player.