The upcoming offseason for the New York Islanders shapes up to be one of the most important in franchise history. They can begin contract negotiations with their captain and superstar John Tavares, but also have to sort out the tiny problem of where they’ll be playing their home games. But there are some new developments on both fronts.
Not only did Tavares reportedly have offseason hand surgery, Arthur Staple of Newsday also reports that the team is preparing to offer Tavares an eight-year contract, reportedly worth north of $80 million contract on July 1. Tavares signed a six-year deal with a $5.5 million AAV in Sept. 2011, and is entering the final year of that contract this coming season.
New Islanders owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky have been preparing the full-court press for Tavares ever since they bought the team, and now their moment of reckoning is coming. Eight years is the maximum length of contract NHL teams can offer players.
Part of that pitch, of course, is where the Islanders will be playing for the majority of that eight-year contract, and it might not be at Barclays Center. Also according to Newsday, Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment has taken the first preliminary steps towards opting out of the 25-year deal between team and arena. The two sides have until Jan. 1, 2018 to renegotiate the terms of their agreement.
If they don’t agree, then either side has until the end of Jan. 2018 to opt out. If the Islanders choose that option, they can leave as early as the end of next season. If Barclays Center wants out, the Islanders would be evicted at the end of the 2018-19 season.
The Islanders literally might build an arena DIRECTLY NEXT to Citi Field and they aren't in the Winter Classic being played there
— Kevin (@KMKTNF) May 10, 2017
Reports have been swirling that the Islanders are angling to build an arena at Belmont Park in Queens, and the winds have been blowing in that direction for some time. Other rumors have suggested that MSG owner James Dolan might help in building that new rink.
Making the situation even weirder, the Islanders’ current landlords — who also operate the newly renovated Nassau Coliseum — might be attempting to push the team back there if they don’t stay at Barclays Center. That likely won’t fly with the new Islanders ownership or NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
The islanders and their fans when we're kicked out of the Barclays with no home https://t.co/ruuGkmFXKP
— #FireGarth (@notbrockbottom) May 1, 2017
If everything sounds like a mess, that’s because it is. All of the arena talk doesn’t make the pitch to John Tavares any easier. He’ll obviously have a ton of suitors if he does want to leave the Islanders. And if he doesn’t want to re-sign with the team, general manager Garth Snow might be forced to trade him in order to get something back for him.
Either one of these issues would be a large task to deal with for a NHL team. But the Islanders are faced with both this offseason. Pitch the franchise’s most important player on signing a contract tying him to the team until he’s 35. At the same time, figure out where the team will play beyond next season. It’s a fairly delicate dance that won’t result in any clear answers for some time. That should keep Islanders fans extra nervous not only through July, but for potentially much longer.