Atop of the Islanders' large to-do list is to make sure star C John Tavares wants to return in 2018, and it appears the All-Star would like to.
"I hope to stay in Long Island," Tavares told Newsday's Arthur Staple. "There's a lot of positive things going forward with the organization and the team here. I haven't thought about being anywhere else but with the Islanders."
Tavares will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, as his six-yaer, $33 million deal he signed back in 2012. The Islanders have until July 1 of this year to sign Tavares before he officially hits the market.
The 26-year-old refused to discuss a new deal with the team last offseason, wishing to play out his final season and see where the franchise would be going in the future. One of the main concerns was the Islanders' home, which has now been settled thanks to winning the rights to build a new arena at Belmont Park.
Tavares may not be talking contracts still, but head coach Doug Weight likes where the team stands with their captain.
"I feel good about it," Weight said. "We know the situation we're in with John. I trust John to his word. I believe he wants to be here. He's earned the right, whether it's free agency or waiting to sign a contract, he's earned the right to check off all the boxes. It's his right as a professional and what he's done for us as an organization, a captain. So we can't be focused on it. I'm more comfortable than our 48 points show about our team. I believe we're a good team, a playoff team. We can take care of the biggest thing that would affect John - that he wants to be a champion. And I want him to do it here. We all do."
As the Islanders prepare to face the Canadiens, the Montreal media continued to ask questions about Tavares' future. He ignored the questions, simply saying he is primarily focused on the season.
"I don't really focus on it on a daily basis too much," he said. "You get into the season and you're so focused day after day on how you can improve, especially this part of the season with how important every game gets. That's where I try to keep my focus and let that play out over time.
"The only time it comes up is when you guys ask me about it."
Tavares was voted to his fourth consecutive and fifth overall All-Star game last week, as he has posted a team-high 51 points (22 goals, 29 assists) in 42 games this season.