Why John Tavares has no incentive to return to the Islanders

Yahoo Canada Sports
(Getty)
(Getty)

As the John Tavares sweepstakes look to be decided over the next couple days, at least one lingering yet necessary question remains: Why on earth would JT stay with the New York Islanders?

There’s several factors surely playing into the possibility of Tavares remaining with the only NHL team he’s ever known, but many of those can be either replicated or replaced by some or all the offers he’s received from the five other major suitors bidding for his services — a formidable group of organizations including the Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning, San Jose Sharks, Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins – who have all presented pitches to the pending free agent over the past few days.

So what exactly can the Islanders offer Tavares — besides the classic “loyalty” and “played with one team your whole career” tags — that any of these other teams can’t? Not a whole lot, frankly.

He’ll get to stay where he’s comfortable

Ahh, home. That’s what Long Island (or Brooklyn?) has been for Tavares for nearly a decade. The 27-year-old has surely gained a sense of comfort in the area after being in the market for the first nine campaigns of his NHL career.

Unfortunately for the Islanders, however, one of the clubs trying to pry their franchise player away from them is the Maple Leafs, who just happen to play out of Toronto, which just happens to be his literal home and where he just happens to have all his family and friends situated and where he grew up playing for a minor hockey team literally called the Toronto Marlies. Selling JT on the premise that New York is “home” may be a tough one.

Besides, if the draw of playing in the Big Apple was something Tavares truly coveted, why wouldn’t he have invited the Rangers and/or Devils into the bidding process, too? Begs the question of how at-home JT actually feels in the New York City area.

Islanders can offer an eight-year term

In fairness, a lot of players do value things like loyalty and spending the entirety of their career with one franchise. But realistically, it rarely ever happens. There’s also that thing called ‘money,’ which most players (and human beings in general) understandably covet more than almost anything else — especially when you’re earning most of it in such a short and unpredictable window. 

So New York is surely peddling the fact the Islanders and ONLY the Islanders can offer Tavares an eight-year extension and, by the constructs of the current CBA, they are technically correct, sort of. Any other team besides the Islanders could always present him (and some reportedly have) a one-year deal in the $15 to $16-million and then have JT sign a seven-year extension extension as early as January 2019—just a few months into next season.

This would match the same eight-year term that the NYI can offer and actually come in at a higher dollar value because of the extra few million he’ll earn in Year 1, but it comes with a risk and the (very, very slim) chance of a serious injury cutting into his future earnings before the extension is signed. There’s also that whole income tax thing — Tavares would net over $5 million more with Tampa or Dallas (teams based out of states with no personal income tax) over the duration of a seven-year deal than he would over an eight-year term with the same AAV in New York while grossing nearly $1.5 million more per season. 


But all of the exposure and endorsements!

The usual go-to selling point for teams based out of the Big Apple is all that personal branding and marketing jazz — the theory that just because you play in New York means sponsorship and endorsement deals will fall at your feet from the smog-filled sky above. That’s not quite how it works though, especially in hockey, and especially on Long Island.

The Islanders are like the 12th most popular professional sports team in that market. They are by-in-large irrelevant compared to their baseball, football, basketball and other hockey counterparts, so the endorsement and brand benefits one would usually reap just for being in the city are heavily diminished when suiting up for the Islanders.

If he’s looking to cash in with big money sponsorships (which all signs have pointed to being extremely low on his list of priorities), than there’s two markets that, without a doubt, bring him much more opportunity for prosperity in that department — the Bruins and Maple Leafs.

Team is on the up-swing

Though the club is coming off two straight playoff misses and has failed to qualify for the postseason in six of Tavares’ nine seasons, the Islanders have a few good young pieces in place and had a very good draft this year, but for someone as competitive and hungry for a championship as JT is, that may not do the trick, because each and everyone one of the competing franchises already have all of this in place, and then some.

The Isles have also shored up its management team with the addition of Lou Lamoriello and beefed up its coaching staff by hiring Stanley Cup champion Barry Trotz to take over behind the bench. Though these are key steps towards stabilizing the historically tumultuous franchise, it took nine whole years for this team to figure it out. If Tavares is looking to win now, which many have listed at the top of JT’s list, then basically every team on his radar— maybe with the exception of Dallas — has a much better chance to do that then the Islanders. Oh, and let’s not forget about that pesky arena situation, too.

So yeah, that’s basically it. That’s what the Isles can offer in hopes of keeping their superstar. Will it be enough? No way to tell yet, but it probably shouldn’t be.

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