The New York Islanders have called a press conference for 1:00 PM Thursday to announce the signing of center John Tavares to a contract extension. According to published reports, the deal is for six-years and a total of $33 million.
Tavares, who will turn 21 later this month, has one year remaining on his entry-level contract. He will be paid $3.75 million this season including salary and bonuses.
The new deal kicks in for the 2012-13 season. The Isles will reportedly pay their first line center $4 million for the first year of the extension and $5 million for the following season. Tavares will receive a salary of $6 million per year for the remaining four years of the deal.
Tavares was the first overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He was named to the 2009-10 NHL All-Rookie team after scoring 24 goals and 54 points. In his sophomore season, Tavares improved his production to 29 goals and 67 points including 24 points on the power play and four game winning goals.
The signing of Tavares is a major coup for Isles GM Garth Snow. He has locked up the cornerstone player of his franchise for the next seven years at a price that is fair both to the team and to his budding star. In addition to his obvious skills, Tavares has shown a determination to improve his all around game and has been a leader of this young team on and off the ice.
The signing gives the Islanders a badly needed symbol of stability as well. On August 1, Nassau County residents defeated a referendum that would have authorized the sale of bonds to help build a new Nassau Coliseum. The team has indicated it will honor its lease, which runs through the end of the 2014-15 season. After that, however, the future home of the Islanders is unknown.
By keeping Tavares on Long Island, the Isles have shown they are dedicated to winning and to creating a stable future on the ice. It also shows that the Islanders are a team that can develop star players and keep them content, something that has been an issue for the franchise in recent years. The condition of the Nassau Coliseum and the uncertainty of the club’s future on Long Island have made it difficult to attract top level free agent talent to Long Island in recent years. Having a young star like Tavares locked up makes a statement to players around the NHL about the future of the franchise.
The Islanders are currently without a captain since Doug Weight retired over the summer. Tavares is definitely captain material; the only question is whether or not it is too soon to award him the coveted “C” at age 21. There has been a move towards young stars becoming captain of their team with Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby being the most prominent example. It is possible the Isles will announce Tavares as their new captain at Thursday’s press conference. Even if someone else is eventually named captain, expect Tavares to be appointed as an alternate for the coming year.
This is a very good move by Islanders GM Garth Snow. The cornerstone of the franchise is now locked up through his prime. It is yet another step forward in the rebuilding of the New York Islanders.