Islanders Captain John Tavares suggested on Tuesday that he wants to remain in New York for the long haul.
Early in the day, he made a guest appearance Tuesday at the Gatorade GCamp, taking part in a light skate with 14-to-19 year olds who represent the best the amateur game has to offer.
Afterwards, word got out on Twitter from Joe Buono, who runs IslesBlog, that the captain spoke to Sportsnet 590 - The Fan about his much discussed future, even though the captain is two years removed from unrestricted free agency.
Needless to say, as I waited for my day to end in the financial market, I didn't expect anything other than a lighthearted summer conversation about one of Tavares' passions, his hometown Toronto Blue Jays, who just recently acquired Melvin Upton, Jr. in a trade. I should have known better.
The Toronto media has not let Tavares' "definitive" and "certain" move to Toronto in two years die. They just kept banging on the drum in an effort to drum up listens, page views and controversy. Needless to say, the captain was not buying any of it.
The discussion started as expected with some Jays talk, when things got real...real quick. When asked 'what will be the best part about playing in Toronto in two years' Tavares countered quickly and with authority.
"I would not count on that. I think I've shown my commitment, my appreciation and my desire to play on Long Island," Tavares said. "I would love for that to continue for the long haul. I think that you look at some of the greatest players in the game have been able to spend their entire careers somewhere. I hope I'm in that same position."
"Being from Toronto, people are going to make those connections and it is what it is," Tavares continued. "That's nothing I can control. I just want to go out and be the best player and person I can be for the Islanders day in and day out and I'm just going to focus on tomorrow and the upcoming season."
One would figure that would have been enough for the host, Andrew Walker, to move on. Nope. The next question was a direct shot across the bow in regards to the latest news of the Islanders potentially moving to Willets Point or Belmont Park or Alaska for that matter. Walker phrased his question and awaited Tavares' response: "Now on the back of your hockey card, it could say Islanders from year one to year 20. But it could be Queens or Brooklyn or Nassau or... you're all over the place."
"Yeah, there's a lot of stuff floating out there," Tavares said. "But I've always told people, until you've played there or been there -- I've been around the team, been around the organization, our fanbase -- you really don't know what it's like.' 'There's a lot of opinions that are really... far off and don't really have a good pulse of what's going on or what the organization is all about. They drafted me there, gave me a great opportunity to play this game I love and fulfill my dream."
"They've put a lot of high expectations in me and I don't take that lightly. I've always liked being there from Day 1, so I'd love to see it through and lift the Stanley Cup there."
A captain saying captain things. And basically saying to the entire hoard of Toronto media -- "enough." As Tavares has proven in his tenure with the organization, he likes to focus on two things and two things only: Getting better as a player and pushing the team on the ice forward.
He does not like distractions, a prime example of his leadership in that department being last year when he campaigned for the move of gameday skates back to Long Island for the betterment and comfort of his teammates.
Even though his offensive output was down 16 points in the first season in Brooklyn, he had his finest season as a pro. He led the Islanders through the tumultuous waters of a move and secured their first playoff series win in a long, long time with a dramatic Game 6 "do-it-yourself" goal against Roberto Luongo and the Florida Panthers.
Tavares didn't give up any leverage in making these comments today. It should not be expected that he is just going to jump and sign the first piece of paper general manager Garth Snow puts in front of him next summer, when the two can open up extension talks.
But, at the end of the day, he will not be interested in how much upfront money he can make nor will he will be interested in a "different challenge." If the organization shows a continued ascension like they have over the course of the last four years and has a vision for the next eight, he will show his true colors at the negotiation table -- loyalty and commitment first.
There is no doubt whatsoever the feeling has always been, and will continue to always be mutual.