"He wants a fair deal, to be happy, and most of all, he wants to win." That is the viewpoint of a former Islanders teammate of John Tavares, the franchise player who will conclude his listening sessions Wednesday and decide very soon if he wants to stay with the Orange and Blue.
While TSN insider Bob McKenzie continues to pound the refrain that Tavares will stay in New York -- "If you ask anyone around the NHL, they'll tell you he's going back to the Islanders," said Bob -- the Tavares camp wants you to know this process has been genuine and his mind is open to a move.
Tavares' pal took exception to the notion, articulated a few times in this space, that the all-star center is "doing his part" for the NHLPA by listening to his agents and visiting with six teams (including the Islanders). He insists that these three days of meetings are about more than negotiating a salary he could proudly put on the board for his fellow stars in the NHL.
There is no argument. I have never written or said that Tavares is going to go to the team that offers the most money -- in fact, there's a great chance he doesn't. In return, the friend emphasized how Tavares has shown what he prioritizes: the chance to win.
You can't deny that. Looking at it purely from the standpoint of the 2017-18 standings, this is the group Tavares has welcomed to the CAA offices in California:
Tampa Bay: 113 points
San Jose: 100
Tavares declined to meet with any of the teams near or below the Islanders in the standings -- including the Montreal Canadiens, who would have handed over a blank check.
So there's a theme here: the pursuit of on-ice success.
The Islanders have upgraded magnificently in the front office with Lou Lamoriello and behind the bench with Barry Trotz. On the other hand, you wonder about the optics of having the leader of the old, losing guard at the Islanders' draft table last week and some of the holdovers running their prospect camp this week. Although the Islanders had a strong draft, the best of those picks are at least two years away from regular shifts in the NHL, and the roster for the big club has not changed since breakup day.
Of course, only Tavares knows where he wants to go, and Tavares will make that decision with his family. But he has already said a lot with his list of invited teams, and his refusal to even accept a phone call from the bad ones.
The Islanders' chances of keeping Tavares come down to Lamoriello's ability to convince him that he can turn his team around quickly. We'll likely know in the next 48 hours whether the new boss was successful.