The Islanders' courtship of John Tavares is now over. It's up to him to decide whether he wants to stay or leave.
While it's possible the current roster will be upgraded by the end of NHL Draft weekend in Dallas, it won't be done for the sake of winning over Tavares.
The inevitable acquisition of a No. 1 goaltender, the possible bold trade to add another star like Erik Karlsson or subtler moves to shore up the defense -- that's simply Lou Lamoriello's job: to make the Islanders better for the near future.
As for Tavares, he's already seen everything he needs to see - commitment, a complete culture change, the extermination of the losing mindset that infested the organization for more than a decade.
As some of you may know from reading this space on and off going back to the draft lottery of 2009, I'm among the many who believe Tavares can do no wrong. Despite the flawed surroundings, his play has been stellar, his attitude impeccable. No matter what Tavares decides, you won't hear any criticism from this corner. He's a free agent. Where he wants to spend the next 7-8 years of his career and life is entirely up to him.
While co-owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky have been majestic in the last two months by hiring Lamoriello and opening the purse strings to sign Barry Trotz, let's not forget that they took two years as minority owners to "observe" and another two years in charge before finally deciding to fix the franchise. They should absolutely be applauded -- heck, even genuflected upon -- for making it look so easy these last two months. But it will always be a shame how they made it look so difficult for too long.
It remains possible - let's see if any word emerges from his camp between Friday and Monday - that Tavares will participate in the listening period and another team (the Sharks, Golden Knights and yes, even the hometown Maple Leafs) will win him over. If that's the case, it would be a monumental setback for the Islanders, especially after the high of the last few weeks.
Lamoriello has done his part in the mission to keep Tavares. Lamoriello doesn't need to do anything else to court the young man. Two months ago, the Islanders were not even masquerading as a major league franchise. The presence of Lamoriello and Trotz has changed everything. The news Thursday that the Islanders are now playing half of next season's schedule in Nassau is another plus.
It's amazing to look back and remember that, on breakup day in April, Tavares was still saying he wanted things to work out with the Islanders. And look at the Islanders now.
There has been a sense among industry insiders that agent Pat Brisson has always wanted Tavares to at least listen to other teams. Newport Sports Management Inc., who is led by Don Meehan, made the arrangements this time a year ago for Steven Stamkos, who then decided to re-sign with Tampa Bay. Since Tavares signed his second contract with the Islanders earlier than he could have and at below-market value, Brisson may want to make sure Tavares considers all of his options before putting his name on his next deal. That's Brisson doing his job. He's really good at it.
The possibility of Tavares meeting with other teams next week is gut-wrenching for the fans. But if he goes through the listening period and still decides to stay an Islander, it will be another moment of sweet vindication for what had been a beleaguered franchise.
Over one stunning spring, the Islanders have been revitalized. Now it's up to Tavares to decide if he really wants to stay.