The hiring of Lou Lamoriello to run the hockey operations of the Islanders gives the club and its fans legitimate hope that John Tavares will re-sign. Before co-owner Scott Malkin made the smart move to go rogue, tell nary a soul about it, and lure Lamoriello, Tavares was virtually out the door.
But on the other hand, while the euphoria in the wake of hiring the Hall of Fame franchise builder was justifiable, it's a mistake to make any assumptions.
This hopelessly naïve leap some observers have made that Lamoriello committed to the Islanders because he is convinced Tavares is staying? Nonsense.
At 75 and after all these years in hockey, Lamoriello is not going to base an enormous personal decision around one player - not even one as important as Tavares. Let's not forget that Lamoriello lost free agents in his days with the Devils, most notably Hall of Fame defenseman Scott Niedermayer, despite New Jersey making the best offer. (Scott joined his brother, Rob, on the Ducks).
According to a well-placed source, Tavares continues to make no promises. He listened to Lamoriello, and that is a very good thing. Prior to the secret huddle between franchise player and franchise fixer, Tavares wasn't listening to anyone in the Islanders' executive directory.
That meeting in New York was an extraordinary moment to learn about, wasn't it? Lamoriello, on paper a Maple Leafs consultant not yet revealed officially as Islanders boss, meeting Tavares and no one - including then-President and still-GM Garth Snow - knowing about it.
It was a remarkable statement about a few things: Malkin's determination. Lamoriello's stature in the Commissioner's office and around the league, and Snow's reputation. After the way Snow has run the Islanders' hockey business since 2006, it said it all that no one showed him the respect to tell him or cared what he would think about it.
Being in sports is often like being in the sandbox - a joy. But it can be a tough business sometimes, just like the real world. That is why it's unreasonable to expect that Tavares will make anything except a cold and calculated decision that is best for him.
In reality, we are where we thought we'd be for six months now when the Islanders' season collapsed:
• Tavares remains more than likely to go the route of Steven Stamkos and participate in the listening period at the end of this month.
• The Montreal Canadiens will offer a blank check.
• The San Jose Sharks will present the opportunity to jump into the lineup of a conference finalist. The Vegas Golden Knights…seriously, this expansion franchise continues to leave me speechless.
• The St. Louis Blues, a good team that never becomes great, can connect Tavares with Vladimir Tarasenko - 26 years old and under contract through 2023.
• At least six other teams of varying skill and available cap space, including the Florida Panthers and likely the New Jersey Devils, will appeal to agent Pat Brisson to allow them to make their cases.
In the end, Tavares will decide whether to make a life change or love the one he's with. The emergence of Mathew Barzal as another star certainly provides a significant hockey reason to stay.
But before Lamoriello came on board, the Islanders had no chance. Now there is hope. Look at it this way: Lamoriello had the opportunity to say hello to the top unrestricted free agent in 2018 several weeks before any other teams did. He's got the next 3-4 weeks to make a stronger case.
If Tavares doesn't re-sign, Lamoriello will go back to work. He wasn't brought here on a singular mission to retain John Tavares, nor did he take the job for a desperate one-month attempt to keep him.
Lamoriello was hired to fix the Islanders. He'll control what he can control.