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.
But something interesting happened with Stamkos: he shut the process down. He put an end to the speculation. He stopped the rumors, the false hopes of other teams - including the Toronto Maple Leafs - and their fans.
If you look back on the reporting on Stamkos from June 2016, very little information came out of the decision. He signed his eight-year, $68 million deal with the Lightning, with a full no-move clause, and that was it. He declared he had "unfinished business" with the franchise that had selected him first overall in the NHL Draft.
Looking back on that now, it was like Stamkos - who is every bit the impressive, thoughtful, independent young man his pal Tavares is - said, "Enough already. I did my part. Heard from the other teams. I love the Lightning and I can get eight years today. Let's do this."
Stamkos ceased considering life with other teams and signed with the Lightning two days before he could have become an unrestricted free agent.
Credit: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports
Will Tavares make a similar decision to stay with the Islanders? The scenarios are different, without question. Stamkos viewed the Lightning as a perennial Cup contender. Tavares sees the Islanders as home, but a home that got its crap together just in the last two months.
And unlike struggling clubs like the Sabres and Red Wings who lusted after Stamkos, Tavares has more attractive suitors, including the San Jose Sharks.
If Tavares doesn't commit this week, it will not mean the Islanders have lost all hope. He can still sign with the Islanders on July 1 or later, but only for seven years or less.
So, yesterday it was the Maple Leafs and the incumbent Islanders visiting with Tavares in California. Today, it's the Sharks and Bruins followed by Tampa Bay and Dallas tomorrow. Others may get their chance, or at least drop lines in the water with phone calls.
And then Tavares will have a decision to make. Does he decide over the next few days that on July 1 he wants to hear a contract offer from at least one other team besides the Islanders? Or after listening to his representatives, doing his part for the NHLPA and considering all options, does he pull a Stamkos?
If arrangements for a press conference on Long Island aren't unveiled by Friday, we'll know Tavares is considering NHL life beyond the Islanders.