It's a time for genuine optimism around the Islanders despite captain John Tavares signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs on a seven-year deal with an average annual value of $11 million.
The team hired a new GM and president of hockey operations, Hall of Famer Lou Lamoriello then hired reigning Stanley Cup champion head coach Barry Trotz. The team is rife with young talent, including Calder Trophy-winning Mathew Barzal, and will continue to take steps forward, even without Tavares.
"I know it's a big blow and everyone has the sky falling, but we're a young team," Trotz said on Sirius XM NHL Network. "We're going to put something together really quick here. We're right around the corner of doing something great. The future is really bright for the Islanders."
Trotz is encouraged by his players' reaction when the news about Tavares' decision broke.
"I've talked to all the players about what I expect. We're making some good headway," Trotz said. "What's been a blessing, was when John made his decision, the players texted me saying we're going to be just fine. That's a huge step for any organization going forward."
Across nine NHL seasons with the Islanders, Tavares collected 272 goals and 349 assists for 621 points. Last season, he tallied 84 points (27 goals, 47 assists). But now there's more room for Barzal and others to grow, including Josh Ho-Sang, who played 22 games for the Islanders last season, scoring 12 points (two goals, 10 assists).
"(Ho-Sang's) upside is tremendous. He has NHL skill and NHL ability," Trotz said. "He's a talented, talented young man. From my standpoint, there are certain expectations I'm going to have for him on the ice and off the ice. That's just a young man who's growing up. To me, it's what finding out what makes him tick."
Trotz is eager to establish a new identity and culture on Long Island.
"We're going to play a real structured system in terms of our work ethic or tempo," Trotz said. "The commitment is very very high. I will tell everyone on the Island, we're going to put something together very quick here."