With the Islanders' 2017-18 season officially under wraps, the biggest storyline for the offseason will be what captain John Tavares decides to do for next season.
At the moment, his mindset is staying with the team that drafted from first overall back in 2009. But Tavares didn't close the door on checking out the free agent market as well.
"This is obviously where I hope to be. I've always stated that," Tavares said. "But obviously, I have some time to think about my situation and go from there.
"I've loved it here. The people have really embraced me, the team, the organization. It's been first-class since I've gotten here. There's obviously some great talent and some great things ahead. Definitely a lot of positives. I'll obviously have to take some time and figure out what I want to do and go from there."
The Islanders certainly want their captain back in the blue and orange sweater next season, with GM Garth Snow even saying, "We want to be in a situation where he has a Stanley Cup over his head and wearing an Islander jersey."
However, Tavares has every right to weigh each option this offseason, and he told the truth when he said he has earned that right..
"I think I've earned the right to take my time," Tavares said. "I don't know if it will be a week, two weeks, a month, two months, I don't really know. A lot of those scenarios and hypotheticals are things I haven't thought about or looked towards. I'm just still kind of realizing it's over and kind of sinking in that the season's done. That's still kind of what's fresh on my mind."
After nine seasons with the Islanders since he was 18 years old, Tavares also knows that a long-term deal is in the horizon no matter the team. A decision like this, especially in his prime, doesn't come by often.
"You don't know how many opportunities you get to get to this point and possibly see what the landscape is," he said. "I don't even necessarily know if that's really what I want to do yet. I've always stated how much I love it here. It's emotional either way. Great organization, great place to play. Obviously, I want it to work out here."
Tavares' decision to stick with the Islanders could be based on many factors. First, the front office may see a shift in power as Snow and head coach Doug Weight could be on the chopping block. Co-owner Jon Ledecky said Monday that "all aspects" of the team's hockery operations will be under review for next season.
Second, the Belmont arena will not be ready for play until the 2021-22 season at the earliest. The Islanders must be nomads in that span as they await the grand opening. And finally, no matter which way the front office goes next season, Tavares will likely need to see a plan in place to make the Stanley Cup Snow wants to see in his hands possible. No real moves were made at the trade deadline this season to give the Isles a push into the playoffs.
Luckily for the Islanders, Tavares realizes how much both sides what to win.
"I think they know how bad I want to win, and I think I know how bad they want to win," Tavares said. "I don't think they're here not trying to win. They do the best they can on a daily basis and give it everything they have and try to get the most of our group and have success and have an opportunity on a yearly basis to play for the Stanley Cup. I don't think that's any question, their commitment to having a winning team.
"I've known them for along time. There's a lot of trust there between them with me. I have a lot of trust in them going forward in how they're going to approach things. Obviously, those things are kind of out of my control. For me, I just may take some time to think about really everything that goes into making a decision like this and go from there. I have a lot of trust in those guys."
The max amount of years Tavares is allowed to re-sign with the Islanders is eight, while other teams have a max of seven.
Despite loggin a minus-12 on the ice this season, Tavares had stellar numbers with 37 goals and 47 assists over a full 82-game season this year.