In a recent article on Sportsnet, Elliotte Friedman detailed the specific timeline of John Tavares’ decision to leave the New York Islanders this summer in free agency. Throughout the process, it was clear Tavares’ teammates had his backs during what was a rollercoaster for the entire franchise.
The season presented many hurdles for the former Islanders captain, and it was arguably his toughest season as a professional.
“The most disappointed I ever saw John with the team was when Kyle Okposo left [before the 2016–17 season],” a current Islander told Friedman. “He almost never showed it, but he was upset at that. He really leaned on Kyle. This [deadline] was worse, though. Everyone was down.”
Tavares was focused on overcoming the Islanders struggles, and tried to focus only on the ice. However, Islanders owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin gave Tavares power over the course of the year, allowing him to dictate meals, organizational moves, and even schedules.
“Some of us joked about it. We started telling him to ask for other things, and he’d say, ‘Guys, I don’t want to take advantage of this.’ We’d be landing from a flight, and get a group text that there was practice in eight hours. We’d say, ‘John, get us the day off.’ If he honestly thought we needed it, he’d agree,” said a current Islander.
A former Islander thinks this was the beginning of the end. Once Tavares’ mind was able to wander off the ice, a departure became a possibility.
“It added pressure and stress. He wants to concentrate on hockey. This gave him things to worry about that he shouldn’t have had to worry about. He won’t have to concern himself with any of this in Toronto.”
After the season ended in a colossal failure, the Islanders captain returned home to Toronto where he took some time off. He planned his weddings and his summer schedule, and did not start negotiating with the Islanders.
When Lou Lamoriello came on board, talks begun, and many people around the NHL thought Tavares would re-sign.
“We were four days from the free-agency window,” Brisson told Friedman. “By then, we figured it was so close, we should just hear what the teams had to say. I thought it was 70-30 he was going to stay in New York.”
The entire NHL world knows how this narrative ended, and it would be an understatement to say it did not go in the Islanders favor. Tavares was reportedly moved by Toronto’s video presentation that included a Tavares banner raised over Scotiabank Arena. He also was attracted to their organizational direction and young skill on the ice.
Even though many view Tavares’ departure as betrayal, players have moved on.
“As with many other teams, the Islanders’ players have a group text. It’s there to confirm schedules, set up team events and generally goof on each other. When a player leaves the organization, he sends a goodbye note and removes himself from the chat,” Friedman noted. “Tavares texted a heartfelt goodbye, and his name was deleted.”
There is a new era of Islanders hockey, one that begins tomorrow. While John Tavares will not be apart of it, the current roster is content and already moved on.