(John Geliebter)
(John Geliebter)

The players are no longer getting coffee in the locker room and whispering to each other, "Cappy still here?"

A third goalie isn't being stashed on the roster, and limiting the reps of the excellent No. 1 and 1As, because of the long-shot notion he's the next Patrick Roy.

The distracting façade of job interviews of questionable candidates for a President of Hockey Operations position that never got filled -- despite the Islanders' embarrassing first half of last season -- is over.

At a time when every major league has become a young man's game (see: tonight's baseball game), the Islanders are no longer favoring safe retreads over special, young talent.

The bet here is that the Islanders learned from last year -- the first one under the complete watch of Jon Ledecky and transcontinental view of Scott Malkin. The "Look at Us, the Smartest Guys in the Room (and whadaya think about a ninth playoff spot, Commish?)" era is hopefully over.

As a result, and because of the simple fact that they have the player personnel to get it done in a conference that is not steeped in quality, the Islanders will qualify for the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.



Of course, that's not really anything to rejoice about. The franchise is so far into a rebuilding project, its start date becomes murkier by the season. Let's put it at 2009, after the Islanders revived the gory days and the gift of John Tavares arrived. Eight years later, just making the playoffs -- and no, it won't be a smooth ride start to finish -- is not good enough.

However…

Doug Weight can coach and he can talk. He's the best Islanders coach since Peter Laviolette. Like Peter, as a passionate talker, Weight has about a three-season window before the message gets stale. Doug knows this from all the coaches he played for. With so much at stake this season, the Islanders couldn't have a better person doing the coaching and all the press briefings.

The defenders are the weak spot, but not because of the trade of Travis Hamonic -- amazing human, good and gritty defender, member of the Frans Nielsen "He was so underrated, he got overrated" club. Another defenseman will arrive before the trade deadline.

Weight will play Josh Ho-Sang, Mathew Barzal, and Anthony Beauvillier plenty and put them in position to succeed. It's doubtful all three kids will, because that's not usually how sports works. If one struggles, Garth Snow has some depth at the position. He also has the resources to make an impact trade.

Andrew Ladd is not to blame for the contract Snow desperately gave him after Nielsen and Kyle Okposo left (Heard Ladd was in my neighborhood late last June and I had an image of Snowy yelling, "Do not let Ladd leave the Island without a deal!"). Ladd is a good player. Play him.

Any team that can roll out Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck has the luxury of two bottom-six forwards with the rare ability to change a game in one shift -- together or separately.

Islanders scouts thought they had a future third-line, 1,000-game player when they picked a high school football star named Anders Lee late in the draft. They got a 30-goal scorer. Jordan Eberle won't stink. Tavares seems like a good hockey player.

Having Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss is a blessing for any head coach. Takes away too much thinking.

Here's the part where we throw in two qualifiers. Like every team, they have to stay healthy enough. Like every team called the New York Islanders, they have to not shoot themselves in the foot with silly stuff.

The talent and tenacity, buzz of youth, goaltending, coaching and (lordy, please) normalcy should result in a 6-to-10 point improvement over last season, and a postseason berth.



Today's Tweeted Question

@Isles_Fanatic asked: What makes Pierre McGuire so confident that the Isles will have difficulty re-signing Tavares?

Asked him for you, Fanatic. "I'm concerned," Pierre texted. "The fact a deal wasn't done in the offseason, when the Isles didn't acquire Matt Duchene, makes you wonder. Not having a building also causes a problem. Just concerned."

I don't agree with everything Pierre had to say on the Tavares issue on the NBC conference call, but you have to give him this: technically, he's already right. If re-signing Tavares was easy, it would have been done in the last few months.

Today's Guests: Weekes, Faber and Feinstein Bring Optimism

Kevin Weekes and I would sit together sometimes on the Islanders' plane in 1999-2000 and discuss his future in broadcasting. Now a studio analyst for NHL Network, Weekes believes the Islanders will make the playoffs. This is the barrage of texts Kevin sent this morning:

"Isles will be faster and more dynamic offensively…Ho-Sang, Barzal, Eberle means more pace and skill…Biggest miscalculation last year was handling of Halak after he was the best goalie at the World Cup. Had he been there all year, Isles would have made the playoffs…Him and Greiss are a strong pair...Defense is still a bit thin…They missed the playoffs by a point last year, but they learn from it and get in this year!"

Raised in Mount Sinai, Long Island, Samantha Faber won a gold medal with the U.S. National Team in 2008 and starred at the University of New Hampshire. Today, in addition to being a coach and skills instructor, she is a star of the Connecticut Whale of the National Women's Hockey League, which begins its third season this month. (Disclosure: I'm the league's communications consultant). Sam and her brother, Matt, are life-long Islanders fans and their family were 15-year season ticketholders at the old barn. Sam and Matt wrote this together:

"You would think the Tavares issue would be too much for a team that didn't make the playoffs last year to overcome, right? Not so fast. Tavares is the consummate pro and won't let it be a distraction. The forward core looks solid. Islander fans will soon understand why Garth Snow did not pull the trigger and include Barzal in a trade for Matt Duchene. Barzal has vision, speed and high skill. It was robbery that the NHL.com reporters did not have him on their top fifteen Calder Trophy watch. Our biggest concerns are on defense. Nick Leddy is one of the more underrated defensemen in the league. After that, there are lots of questions. Halak and Greiss are both starting goalies. Prediction: Fourth in the metro, first wildcard spot."

John Feinstein, the long-time Washington Post columnist, best-selling author and regular on ESPN's "Sports Reporters" who grew up on Long Island, is an Islanders superfan. Whenever he talks NYI, he drops the polished delivery and just lets it rip. Here's Feinstein's email:

"I am usually loathe to predict anything good for any of my teams - especially the Islanders. Feels like the kiss of death. BUT, I honestly believe if Weight had been the coach from day 1 last season they would have made the playoffs. Eberle has GOT to play well and has GOT to score a lot of goals if he's going to be on the Tavares line. The goaltending has to be more consistent than last year. I think it helps that the Caps aren't going to be nearly as good as they've been (least I hope not), but it comes back to this: I think Weight's the right coach. Love his passion. So, I'll vote yes on playoffs and start hiding underneath my couch momentarily. The only thing that really matters the next few months is re-signing JT. If they don't do that, they might as well just compete in the ECHL from now on."

Notebook

Worth the Admission: Josh Ho-Sang proved a lot of people wrong, quicker than many believed possible (my hand is up) and, at times, did it spectacularly. But what's next after justifying his admirable self-confidence and with everyone -- opponents and press for starters -- more focused on him? It's fascinating to watch. Lots of people will be buying $18 tickets on StubHub to see him this season in Brooklyn.



Monument to Failure: Take a look at the October schedule of NYCB Barely Alive in Uniondale. There's a haunted house thing all month in the Exhibition Hall. In the main arena, there are two events in 31 days: a Bruno Mars concert and a Brooklyn Nets preseason game (woo-hoo!). You think this is going well for the arena's management (you know, the people who run Barclays) and Nassau politicians? Think about what it could have been, and what it became. So far, an extraordinary dud on so many levels.

Top Acquisition: Second-year play-by-play man Brenden Burke is a gem. He's clear, passionate, ego-less, entertaining, and sets up Butch Goring well. Selecting announcers for these rare openings is challenging. You get buried in hundreds of links and CDs, just about everyone sounds great, and somehow you have to pick the ideal person who'll bring the passion every night and mesh well with the analyst, production crew, team management, and the players. Here's hoping Burke makes the Country his home for a long time.

****

If the Islanders don't crush it out of the gate, can we agree to not obsess over those charts that say they're down to a 23 percent chance of making the playoffs? In early November? Please? No?

Okay.

Please join the conversation in the Comments, and send feedback and questions via Twitter @ChrisBottaNHL

Tags: Anders Lee, Andrew Ladd, Anthony Beauvillier, Cal Clutterbuck, Casey Cizikas, Jaroslav Halak, John Tavares, Jordan Eberle, Josh Ho-Sang, Mathew Barzal, Nick Leddy, Thomas Greiss, Chris Botta

Sep 17, 2017; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum before a game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers at NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Sep 17, 2017; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum before a game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers at NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

[Editor's Note: Islanders fans, we want to hear from you and share some of your viewpoints. Tweet @ChrisBottaNHL before 11:59 pm on Friday, Aug. 3 to share your prediction -- at this moment -- of where the Islanders will finish in the Eastern Conference standings at the end of 2018-19. We need the number (first? 6th? 12th?) and brief thought summarizing why. Your tweet may be used in a future Point Blank piece.]

You are Lou Lamoriello, Hall of Fame architect. You've taken over a team that has missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons and won one playoff round since 1993. Then, through no fault of your own, you lose your most celebrated player to free agency.

Suddenly, the new job is eerily familiar to your previous one with the Maple Leafs. There, you started with a thin roster and a top coach, Mike Babcock. But in 2016, you had the first pick in the draft and were gifted Auston Matthews.

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Sep 17, 2017; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of the ice before a game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers at NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Sep 17, 2017; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of the ice before a game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers at NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

Do you remember where you were seven years ago today?

On Aug. 1, 2011, I went for a run in the village of Rockville Centre, saw the determined looks on the faces of the residents marching into South Side Middle School, and knew it right away.

The public vote to build a new arena on the Coliseum property for the Islanders was going to be a big, fat, no frickin' way.

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To hear his college coach talk about him, the Islanders may be justified in their faith that Devon Toews will be an impact defenseman this season and for many to come.

"Devon's going to be a Corsi king - a top possession defender," said Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold, who took over the program in 1994 and is third among active NCAA Division I men's hockey coaches in victories. "Some people are going to be surprised about him, but not us. We know how good Devon is, and how good he's going to become."

Toews played for the Bobcats for three seasons, from 2013-2016, with an appearance in the Frozen Four in his final season. Pecknold identified Toews as an intriguing prospect and recruited him to attend the university in Connecticut with the guidance of a good connection: Matt Erhart, who played for Pecknold at Quinnipiac in the first four years of this century, was Toews' coach as a teenager with the Surrey (British Columbia) Eagles...

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New York Islanders left wing Brock Nelson (Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Islanders left wing Brock Nelson (Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sports)

The Islanders re-signed forward Brock Nelson to a one-year deal, the team announced Monday.

Terms of the deal were not announced, although The Athletic's Arthur Staple reports Nelson will earn $4.25 million, which is $750,000 more than he earned last season.

Nelson, 26, totaled 19 goals and 16 assists in his fifth NHL season last year, appearing in all 82 games for New York.

Tags: Brock Nelson
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Nick Leddy (L) Johnny Boychuk (55) Josh Bailey (12) Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports (Charles LeClaire)
Nick Leddy (L) Johnny Boychuk (55) Josh Bailey (12) Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports (Charles LeClaire)

Islanders Josh Bailey and Johnny Boychuk are sick of hearing the team doesn't have any hope next season. And more importantly, those who believe the team will lack leadership with the exit of captain John Tavares, must think again. 

These two Islanders veterans find themselves in position to take the torch, if you will, from Tavares and lead the pack. These past five seasons have been Tavares' team, but now, it is up to the collective group to work together. 

Tavares may be gone, but that doesn't mean the Islanders should be deemed out of the running already. 

Tags: John Tavares, Johnny Boychuk, Josh Bailey, Mathew Barzal, Scott Thompson
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Sep 17, 2017; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum before a game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers at NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Sep 17, 2017; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum before a game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers at NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

If the Islanders' arena project on the Belmont Park property faces obstacles in approvals and construction, team management has wisely negotiated a cushion.

Point Blank has learned that the Islanders' agreement with the operators of the Nassau Coliseum is not just for the next three NHL seasons, but also includes two option years for the club. Two people with knowledge of the agreement shared the information, requesting anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the issue.

This means that if the Islanders' arena in Belmont is not completed for the start of the 2021-22 season, the team has the option to continue playing at the Coliseum for at least that season and the following one...

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The Islanders' defense will improve in 2018-19 for a simple reason beyond the fact that the team is now coached by the infinitely more accomplished tactician Barry Trotz. It will be better because it could not possibly be worse than it was under Doug Weight and his band of assistants last season, when it was historically very, very bad:

Most goals allowed (293) by an NHL team since 2006-07

Allowed five or more goals in regulation and conceded at least 40 shots on goal 20 times

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Sep 17, 2017; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of the ice before a game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers at NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Sep 17, 2017; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of the ice before a game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers at NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

The Islanders announced Wednesday that John Gruden has been named an assistant head coach under Barry Trotz.

Gruden, 48, was the head coach of the Hamilton Bulldogs of the Ontario Hockey League for the past two seasons, finishing with an overall record of 76-45-8-7.

Prior to joining the Bulldogs, Gruden worked with USA Hockey, where he was an assistant coach for Team USA of the 2016 U18 World Championships. He also worked as an assistant in other roles for USA Hockey from 2011 to 2015.

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The Front of the Barclays center is shown Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) (Frank Franklin II/AP)
The Front of the Barclays center is shown Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) (Frank Franklin II/AP)

We don't know if there are pictures of 10-year-old Anders Lee of Edina, Minn. in the pajamas of the first-year Wild back in the year 2000, but the Islanders might not want to take any chances.

As the Islanders embark on this uncertain three (or more)-year path to Belmont, they must learn from the John Tavares heartache. They need to control what they can control, and make their organization as attractive - or at least as less unattractive - as possible. They need to eliminate the excuses for someone else to walk out the door.

Beginning with the 2019-20 season, all of their home games must be played at the barn in Nassau County. And the plan to move all of the games to Nassau should be announced weeks before the trade deadline in February 2019.

Tags: Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, Chris Botta
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Ryan Pulock (6) Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports (Raj Mehta)
Ryan Pulock (6) Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports (Raj Mehta)

Islanders D Ryan Pulock has agreed to a two-year contract, the team announced on Tuesday. 

Pulock played in 68 games with New York last season, where he totaled career highs in goals (10) and assists (22). Overall, the 23-year-old has 36 points over 84 career games.

The 15th overall pick by the Islanders back in 2013, Pulock has spent most of his career with the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He has totaled 100 points (39 goals, 61 assists) during his time there. 

Tags: Ryan Pulock
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 (Christopher Katsarov)
(Christopher Katsarov)

The Islanders have announced that they have resigned defenseman Kyle Burroughs and Devon Toews. Both were restricted free agents and spent time with AHL affiliate, Bridgeport Sound Tigers. 

Burroughs was a seventh round pick for the Islanders back in 2013. He has now spent three seasons in Bridgeport, posting a career high 25 points and a plus-minus of +16. 

Toews has spent the past two season in Bridgeport but missed the second half of the season after having a shoulder injury in January. Toews, 24, played for Quinnipiac University for three years before heading to Bridgeport. The former fourth round pick had five goals and forty assists in his first season in the AHL. 

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Now that "John Tavares" has "written" his farewell to the Islanders for The Players Tribune, here are some final Point Blank thoughts on the whole ordeal:

Tavares' piece was what you'd expect: an attempt to explain himself and thank Islander fans. The timing of its publishing was flawed; the piece posted just as the pain and anger in Islanders Country had subsided. Getting his message across by July 2 would have been more effective and heartfelt. But hey, I know how tough it is to write on deadline.

Still, it's clear from reading the piece that Tavares was very aware of the reaction of his departure, and cares what people think about him. There's nothing bad about that.

Tags: John Tavares, Chris Botta
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New York Islanders center John Tavares skates against the New Jersey Devils during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 31, 2018, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) (Julio Cortez/AP)
New York Islanders center John Tavares skates against the New Jersey Devils during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 31, 2018, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) (Julio Cortez/AP)

John Tavares thanked Islanders fans and reflected on his time with the team via a Players' Tribune letter published on Wednesday.

The former Islanders' team captain described a breakdown-like situation he endured when he was forced to choose whether to sign with the Maple Leafs or remain with the Islanders -- a decision he said he "just literally, physically could not" make.

Tavares, who turned down an eight-year deal with the Islanders in favor of a contract with the Maple Leafs, said he wrote the letter because of his "real, honest, still-there love for the New York Islanders hockey franchise."

Tags: John Tavares
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Toronto Maple Leafs NHL hockey general manager Lou Lamoriello speaks to reporters in Toronto, Friday, April 27, 2018. The Boston Bruins defeated the Maple Leafs in the first round of the playoffs. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press via AP) (COLE BURSTON/AP)
Toronto Maple Leafs NHL hockey general manager Lou Lamoriello speaks to reporters in Toronto, Friday, April 27, 2018. The Boston Bruins defeated the Maple Leafs in the first round of the playoffs. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press via AP) (COLE BURSTON/AP)

Face it: if Garth Snow had made all of the player personnel moves that Lou Lamoriello has so far as Islanders GM, there would be a march on Eisenhower Park.

In the excitement over the removal of the embarrassing regime of Snow and installation of Lamoriello as leader of hockey operations, somewhere along the line it seems people believe the legendary ex-Devils architect is untouchable.

Since the painful exit of John Tavares, there has been a lot of puffed-out chests and declarations of Hey, Screw Tavares -- We've Got Lou and We Can't Go Wrong...

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Feb 23, 2018; Gangneung, South Korea; Czech Republic forward Jan Kovar (43) goes for the puck against Olympic Athlete from Russia goaltender Vasili Koshechkin (83) in the men's ice hockey semifinals during the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Gangneung Hockey Centre. Mandatory Credit: David E. Klutho-USA TODAY Sports (David E. Klutho)
Feb 23, 2018; Gangneung, South Korea; Czech Republic forward Jan Kovar (43) goes for the puck against Olympic Athlete from Russia goaltender Vasili Koshechkin (83) in the men's ice hockey semifinals during the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Gangneung Hockey Centre. Mandatory Credit: David E. Klutho-USA TODAY Sports (David E. Klutho)

The Islanders are continuing to bolster their roster for the upcoming season with C Jan Kovar inking a one-year, $2 million deal. 

The 28-year-old played for the KHL's Magnitogorsk Metallurg since 2013, where he has totaled 286 points (97 goals, 189 assists) over 285 games. Last season, he notched seven goals and 28 assists over 54 games. 

Kovar has also represented the Czech Republic in five World Championship, including the 2017 Winter Olympics. Overall, he has six goals and 13 assists in 42 international games. 

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Mathew Barzal (13) Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports (Sergei Belski)
Mathew Barzal (13) Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports (Sergei Belski)

After winning the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL's top rookie, 21-year-old Islanders forward Mathew Barzal can be the new face of the franchise with John Tavares out of the picture.

"He's a driven, driven guy to be the best player he can be," Russ Farwell, the VP of hockey operation for Barzal's junior hockey team, the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL, told Newsday's Andrew Gross. "He's totally focused on his game. He's a very confident guy, too. He was a really highly touted minor player, so being the show or being the guy wasn't foreign to him. His whole life, everybody has pointed to him."

Tags: John Tavares, Mathew Barzal
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Jan 22, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello and New Yor Yankees general manager Brian Cashman watch the Toronto Raptors play against the Phoenix Suns at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports (Tom Szczerbowski)
Jan 22, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello and New Yor Yankees general manager Brian Cashman watch the Toronto Raptors play against the Phoenix Suns at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports (Tom Szczerbowski)

Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello has nothing but respect for John Tavares after the former team captain opted to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"In my dealings with John, he proved himself to be a sincere, honest young man," Lamoriello told NHL.com. "He earned the right to test free agency, and that's what he did.

Tavares totaled 621 points in 669 games with the Islanders since he was drafted in 2009. 

Tags: John Tavares
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May 23, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Washington Capitals head coach Berry Trotz talks with media after game seven of the Eastern Conference Final in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
May 23, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Washington Capitals head coach Berry Trotz talks with media after game seven of the Eastern Conference Final in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

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...

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New York Islanders left wing Brock Nelson (Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Islanders left wing Brock Nelson (Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sports)

Islanders F Brock Nelson has filed for arbitration, as the NHLPA announces the league-wide list. His qualifying offer is $3.5 million.

Nelson, 26, had 35 points (19 goals, 16 assists) last season. He was a first-round pick (30th overall) in 2010. He's scored at least 14 goals in each of his five professional seasons and has missed just two games in the last four years. 

He has the highest qualifying offer among the five Islanders. 

Qualifying offers are issued to restricted free agents whose team wishes to retain their negotiation rights.

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Mar 29, 2018; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner (40) looks to make a save during the first period against the Detroit Red Wings at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports (Timothy T. Ludwig)
Mar 29, 2018; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner (40) looks to make a save during the first period against the Detroit Red Wings at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports (Timothy T. Ludwig)

After most of the free agent goaltenders had come off the free agent board (Carter Hutton, Jonathan Bernier, Petr Mrazek, among others), the name of Robin Lehner stood out as the best available one for the Islanders to sign on a low-risk, one-year deal. On Tuesday, Erik Karlsson was all the rage and then the Islanders traded for prodigal son Matt Martin, so my plans to write about Lehner got put on the back burner.

When the Islanders signed him on Tuesday afternoon, I laughed out loud…and liked the move even more.

With the Islanders having so many tough, fearless, edgy fourth-line forwards in the fold, why not add the equivalent in goal? The Islanders may not be the most skilled team next season, but you can't blame Lou Lamoriello for "making it look mean."

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Feb 28, 2018; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) during the third period against Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports
		 (Jean-Yves Ahern)
Feb 28, 2018; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) during the third period against Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports (Jean-Yves Ahern)

Islanders GM and president Lou Lamoriello saw franchise player John Tavares walk out the door last week, but says the Isles did everything in their power to prevent it.

"We did everything we possibly could to keep John," Lamoriello said Thursday on Sirius XM NHL radio. "He's a quality player. He's now with another team. That's the past."

Tavares bolted the Isles for his hometown Maple Leafs, while also passing on joining the Sharks, Bruins, and others. And with Tavares gone, the Isles should be on a three-year plan as they prepare for their new arena, says SNY contributor Chris Botta...

Tags: John Tavares
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Sep 17, 2017; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of the ice before a game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers at NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Sep 17, 2017; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of the ice before a game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers at NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

The Islanders now have two former Capitals coaches on their staff for next season.

The team announced Lane Lambert will reunite with head coach Barry Trotz as an associate coach on his staff.

Lambert held the very same role under Trotz last season during the Capitals' Stanely Cup run. He spent four seasons with Washington after coaching three seasons with the Predators as an assistant. 

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Jan 22, 2018; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Matt Martin (15) shoots the puck against the Colorado Avalanche at Air Canada Centre. The Avalanche beat the Maple Leafs 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports (Tom Szczerbowski)
Jan 22, 2018; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Matt Martin (15) shoots the puck against the Colorado Avalanche at Air Canada Centre. The Avalanche beat the Maple Leafs 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports (Tom Szczerbowski)

The acquisition of Matt Martin makes little sense, and -- on the heels of Lou Lamoriello's free agent signings so far -- raises more concerns about the plans of new management. 

I love it.

Welcome back, Matt.

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Mar 24, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark (35) warms up after replacing starter Robin Lehner (40) during the second period against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports (Danny Wild)
Mar 24, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark (35) warms up after replacing starter Robin Lehner (40) during the second period against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports (Danny Wild)

The Islanders agreed to terms on Tuesday with goaltender Robin Lehner on a one-year contract.

Lehner had a .908 save percentage and 3.01 goals-against average in 53 games last season with the Sabres.

Lehner, who is from Sweden, was drafted in the second round of the 2009 draft.

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Mar 8, 2018; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson (65) skates with the puck in the third period against the Buffalo Sabres at Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY (Marc DesRosiers)
Mar 8, 2018; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson (65) skates with the puck in the third period against the Buffalo Sabres at Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY (Marc DesRosiers)

After the gut-punch of the loss of John Tavares on Sunday, anyone could understand the desire to rebound. Who among us hasn't been dumped, only to dream of bouncing back with someone just as dazzling?

Otherwise, count me in the minority when it comes to clamoring for the Islanders to make a trade for Erik Karlsson. The Islanders will inquire, and would be right to investigate, but it is not the right move at this time for the club. The reasons...

The Price

Tags: John Tavares, Josh Ho-Sang, Chris Botta
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Matt Martin (15) Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports (Isaiah J. Downing)
Matt Martin (15) Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports (Isaiah J. Downing)

Forward Matt Martin is returning to Long Island. 

The Islanders made a deal with the Maple Leafs to send G Eamon McAdam in return for Martin, who they drafted in the fifth round back in 2008. In the deal, the Islanders are taking on Martin's $2.5 million he is owed this season and the 2019-2020 season as well.

Martin played seven seasons for the Islanders, where he totaled 88 points (42 goals, 46 assists) in that span. Even more impressive was winning five straight Bob Nystrom Awards, which goes to the Islander that best exemplifies leadership, hustle and dedication.

Tags: Matt Martin
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Isles fans angry over Tavares 00:01:34
Islanders fans give their reactions to the news of John Tavares signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Islanders fans called in to SNY en masse to bid John Tavares farewell.

Some were furious with Tavares, some understood his decision, and others had vitriol for ownership and departed GM Garth Snow.

What are your feelings about Tavares bolting for Toronto?

Tags: John Tavares
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Anders Lee (27) Mathew Barzal (13) Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports (Raj Mehta)
Anders Lee (27) Mathew Barzal (13) Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports (Raj Mehta)

Isles Country was devastated to see John Tavares decide to take his talents home and play for the Toronto Maple Leafs next season. And though fans may see only darkness ahead for the Islanders, NBC hockey analyst Pierre McGuire believes there to be light at the end of the tunnel. 

After analyzing the process Tavares took during his interview period that led up to his ultimate decision, McGuire understood why Tavares decided to fulfill his "childhood dream" to play for the Leafs instead of the organization that drafted him first overall back in 2009. 

"I'm not surprised," McGuire told SNY. "When you grow up in a Canadian city and you grew up dreaming about playing for that team whether it'd be Montreal or Vancouver or Toronto, that's a hard thing to not want to foresee or go through. So I understood that part of it after the fact."

Tags: Anders Lee, John Tavares, Mathew Barzal, Scott Thompson
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Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Tom Kuhnhackl handles the puck against New Jersey Devils defenseman Will Butcher during the second period at PPG PAINTS Arena. (Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports)
Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Tom Kuhnhackl handles the puck against New Jersey Devils defenseman Will Butcher during the second period at PPG PAINTS Arena. (Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports)

The Islanders announced they signed five players, including former Pittsburgh Penguins forward Thomas Kuhnhackl, on Monday.

New York re-signed goaltender Christopher Gibson to a two-year, two-way deal, and also announced it signed Seth Helgeson to a two-year deal, Mike Sislo to a one-year deal and Matt Lorito to a two-year deal with the first year being a two-way one.

Kuhnhackl, 26, totaled two goals and six assists in 69 games for the Penguins last season, and has recorded 11 goals and 28 assists since entering the league three seasons ago.

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John Tavares (91) Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
John Tavares (91) Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

On the day after, as the Islanders turn the page after the most soul-sucking moment for the club and Country in this century, some thoughts as we await Lou Lamoriello's next move…

Lamoriello did not agree to run the Islanders because he was convinced Tavares was staying with the team

Take this to the bank: Lamoriello's decision to tackle this major project did not come down to whether one great player was going to re-sign with his team. His life in the game has always been about the image of "team," not "individual" accomplishments. If anything, Tavares' defection should only further energize the new boss. If this is to be Lamoriello's final act in the game, what better way to close a magnificent career than with the complete exorcism of a team haunted by three decades of mismanagement?

Tags: John Tavares, Chris Botta
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Feb 19, 2018; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders goalie Christopher Gibson (33) warms up before a game against the Minnesota Wild at Barclays Center. Gibson was added to the roster this morning when goalie Thomas Greiss was placed on IR. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Feb 19, 2018; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders goalie Christopher Gibson (33) warms up before a game against the Minnesota Wild at Barclays Center. Gibson was added to the roster this morning when goalie Thomas Greiss was placed on IR. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

The Islanders extended G Christopher Gibson for another two years, the team announced Monday.

Gibson signed a two-way deal worth $650,000 in the NHL and $225,000 in the AHL next season, and for the 2019-2020 season, his pay increases to $700,000 and $250,000 respectively. 

Tags: Christopher Gibson, Scott Thompson
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Mar 3, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) looks on against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at PPG PAINTS Arena. The Penguins won 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports (Charles LeClaire)
Mar 3, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) looks on against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at PPG PAINTS Arena. The Penguins won 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports (Charles LeClaire)

John Tavares asked the Islanders not to trade him during the season. He then flirted with five other teams before bolting the Isles for his hometown Maple Leafs. 

Maybe the Islanders never had a chance to lure Tavares back, with the dream of playing for the Leafs trumping anything the Isles could've done to convince him to stay.

What was your initial reaction to the news? How do you think Tavares handled the decision? What will you miss the most about him? Where do the Isles go from here? 

Tags: John Tavares
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Tavares not returning to Isles 00:02:46
Chris Botta breaks down what the future holds for the New York Islanders after John Tavares' decision to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

As the confusion, sadness and anger sets in with the news that the days of John Tavares as a New York Islander have come to an end, it is constructive to accept the magnitude of the loss.

While he fulfills what he has described as a "childhood dream" to play for the Maple Leafs, Tavares' departure is the latest (and hopefully final) massive blow to the reputation of the Islanders organization -- as big a blow as any New York sports team has endured since free agency first came to baseball five decades ago.

This absolutely a stain on the franchise -- the final piece of the legacy of former general manager Garth Snow, with blame shared by the refusal of current owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky to do anything for two years to upgrade a miserable organization.

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Mar 27, 2018; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators left wing Tom Pyatt (10) defends against New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) in the third period at Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports (Marc DesRosiers)
Mar 27, 2018; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators left wing Tom Pyatt (10) defends against New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) in the third period at Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports (Marc DesRosiers)

Former Islanders captain John Tavares wrote goodbye letters to the Islanders organization and their fans after he decided to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The 27-year-old Tavares spent all of his first nine career seasons with the Islanders dating back to 2009-10 when he was 19 years old.

Tags: John Tavares
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New York Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey skates during the warmup period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. (Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey skates during the warmup period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. (Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports)

The Islanders announced they re-signed defenseman Thomas Hickey to a four-year deal on Sunday.

Hickey, 29, had five goals and a personal-best 25 assists last season.

Tags: Thomas Hickey
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New York Islanders center John Tavares skates against the New Jersey Devils during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 31, 2018, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) (Julio Cortez/AP)
New York Islanders center John Tavares skates against the New Jersey Devils during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 31, 2018, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) (Julio Cortez/AP)

Islanders captain John Tavares has signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs on a seven-year deal with an average annual value of $11 million.

The Islanders had extended an eight-year offer to Tavares on Saturday afternoon, reports Arthur Staple of The Athletic. But on Sunday morning, he informed the team of his decision not to return.

The Islanders were expected frontrunners to re-sign the veteran center.

Tags: John Tavares
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Philadelphia Flyers center Valtteri Filppula (Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports)
Philadelphia Flyers center Valtteri Filppula (Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports)

The Islanders announced they signed forward Valtteri Filppula to a one-year deal on Sunday.

Filppula, 34, totaled 11 goals and 22 assists in 81 games for the Philadelphia Flyers last season.

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Leo Komarov shoots the puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Air Canada Centre. (Tom Szczerbowski/USA TODAY Sports)
Toronto Maple Leafs center Leo Komarov shoots the puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Air Canada Centre. (Tom Szczerbowski/USA TODAY Sports)

After John Tavares announced he was signing with the Maple Leafs, the Islanders signed former Toronto forward Leo Komarov to a four-year, $12 million deal, TSN's Bob McKenzie reports.

Komarov, 31, scored seven goals and 12 assists in 74 games with Toronto last season. 

A former sixth-round pick, Komarov has totaled 52 goals and 70 assists in 327 games since debuting in the 2012-13 season.

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New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) plays against the Detroit Red Wings in the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (Paul Sancya/AP)
New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) plays against the Detroit Red Wings in the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (Paul Sancya/AP)

The latest John Tavares update is that there is no update.

As of Sunday morning, none of the six teams in the Tavares sweepstakes, including the Islanders, have been notified of a decision, according to multiple reports

A decision still could be made on Sunday, though, as the NHL remains on #TavaresWatch...

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Apr 7, 2018; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Islanders right wing Chris Wagner (21) attempts to pass the puck during the second period against the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports (Raj Mehta)
Apr 7, 2018; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Islanders right wing Chris Wagner (21) attempts to pass the puck during the second period against the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports (Raj Mehta)

Former Islanders C Chris Wagner is heading to the Bruins on a two-year, $2.5 million contract, reports Andrew Gross of Newsday.

Wagner spent one season with the Islanders after stints with Anaheim and Colorado. He played in 15 games with the Islanders, tallying one goal.

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New York Islanders forward John Tavares (91) celebrates his goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes) (Jeffrey T. Barnes/AP)
New York Islanders forward John Tavares (91) celebrates his goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes) (Jeffrey T. Barnes/AP)

The NHL is collectively awaiting John Tavares' free agency decision as the superstar picks where he'll continue his career, be it with the Islanders or elsewhere.

In the meantime, fans have delivered with humor. Check out some of the best #TavaresWatch tweets below.

Tags: John Tavares
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Mar 26, 2018; Raleigh, NC, USA; Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson (41) looks up during the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-1. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports (James Guillory)
Mar 26, 2018; Raleigh, NC, USA; Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson (41) looks up during the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-1. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports (James Guillory)

After giving up an NHL-worst 296 goals last season, the Islanders could use a defensive makeover. 

Team President Lou Lamoriello appears focused on doing just that. The Isles selected D Noah Dobson with one of their first-round picks (No. 12 overall) and now they are reportedly interested in Senators G Craig Anderson, according to Postmedia's Bruce Garrioch

Anderson, 37, requested a trade earlier this month. Last season was his statistically-worst campaign since 2005/06, as he posted .898 save percentage and a 3.32 GAA..

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Oct 7, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) in the third period against Buffalo Sabres at Barclays Center. Islanders win 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports (Nicole Sweet)
Oct 7, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) in the third period against Buffalo Sabres at Barclays Center. Islanders win 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports (Nicole Sweet)

Free-agent-to-be John Tavares could make his decision later today.

Tavares, 27, narrowed down his list of teams to five -- the Islanders, Sharks, Maple Leafs, Lightning and Stars -- and has met with each over the past week. He met with with new Islanders head coach Barry Trotz and GM Lou Lamoriello on Monday, and Tavares had previously been a impressed with the Lamoriello hire.

The Islanders drafted Tavares No. 1 overall in 2009, and he has scored 272 goals, 349 assists and 621 points since debuting at 19 in the 2009-10 season. 

Tags: John Tavares
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 (Jerome Miron)
(Jerome Miron)

At Islanders rookie minicamp, the players got to take part in 4-on-4 scrimmages and did not disappoint the crowd at Northwell Health Ice Center.

Oliver Wahlstrom, who was selected with the No. 11 overall pick in last week's NHL Draft, scored this incredible goal. Watch below.

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Feb 5, 2018; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) skates to a face off against the Nashville Predators during the second period at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports (Dennis Schneidler)
Feb 5, 2018; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) skates to a face off against the Nashville Predators during the second period at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports (Dennis Schneidler)

"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.

Tags: John Tavares, Chris Botta
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New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) plays against the Detroit Red Wings in the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (Paul Sancya/AP)
New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) plays against the Detroit Red Wings in the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (Paul Sancya/AP)

The Islanders were one of the first teams to pitch John Tavares, who is about to hit free agency. And if the odds are to be believed, they should be confident in their ability to bring him back

Aside from the Islanders, the Stars, Maple Leafs, Sharks, Lightning, and Bruins are pursuing Tavares. So, who has the best odds to land him?

According to BetOnline, the Islanders are the favorites to land Tavares, which would mean retaining their franchise cornerstone. The Isles come in at +125, followed by the Sharks (+275), Maple Leafs (+500), Bruins (+700), Stars (+800), and Lightning (+850).

Tags: John Tavares
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New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) plays against the Detroit Red Wings in the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (Paul Sancya/AP)
New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) plays against the Detroit Red Wings in the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (Paul Sancya/AP)

You won't have to wait much longer to learn if the Islanders are still the slight favorites in the hunt for John Tavares. The Steven Stamkos talks of two years ago taught us that.

Although unrestricted free agency begins Sunday, July 1, Tavares will have completed his "listening period" with other teams by Thursday, and possibly Wednesday night. If, when that process is finished, Tavares does not commit to the Islanders soon after - with a press conference by Saturday at the latest - we will know that sincere interest in other teams remains.

Two years ago at this time, Stamkos embarked on his listening period, as overseen by his team at the powerful Newport Sports - the agency led by Don Meehan.

Tags: John Tavares, Chris Botta
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John Tavares (91) Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
John Tavares (91) Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

The Islanders were one of the first teams to present their pitch to top free-agent C John Tavares during the interview period that began on Monday, per SportsNet's Chris Johnston

The meeting on Monday night lasted approximately two hours and 15 minutes, and it appeared successful as Isles GM and president of hockey operations, Lou Lamoriello, and new head coach Barry Trotz walked out smiling. 

Tavares has been an Islander his entire life, and though entering the interview period may seem like a slight to the only franchise he's known, Lamoriello doesn't mind it at all. It's his right to do so.

Tags: John Tavares
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 (Eric Hartline)
(Eric Hartline)

The Islanders invited 30 forwards, 17 defensemen and six goaltenders to their mini camp that began on Monday.

Among the forwards invited include Joshua Ho-Sang, Michael Dal Colle and Michael Babcock, while Sebastian Aho and David Quenneville are among the defensemen. 

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