The former No. 1 overall pick has agreed to a six-year, $33-million contract extension, according to two sources familiar with the talks.
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The Islanders will announce the deal at a news conference Thursday that Tavares, 20, whose entry-level contract expires after this season, will remain an Islander through the 2017-18 season.
When the Islanders made Tavares the first overall pick in the 2009 draft, both he and the young team knew there would be growing pains. After two solid seasons for Tavares but no playoffs for the team, plus the disappointment of the failed arena vote this summer leading to uncertainty about where the Islanders will be after the 2014-15 season, the hockey world has often speculated that Tavares would be unwilling to sign a long-term deal when his entry-level contract expires.
But general manager Garth Snow, who also locked up Kyle Okposo (five years, $14 million) and Michael Grabner (five years, $15 million) earlier this summer, now has his top player in the fold for the long term, with this contract running through 2017-18.
"Once this [contract] is done, it'll finally show people that this is where I want to be," Tavares told Newsday on Tuesday morning. "At the end of the day, until it's signed, some people will think there's a possibility I don't want to be here. I don't quite understand it; I never have.
"Right now, my focus is on getting ready for the season. I'll keep saying that I want to stay here, I guess, until the contract's done. Nothing's changed for me."
The Islanders still have the lowest current payroll among the 30 NHL teams, at around $48.8 million. But they have 10 players under contract for 2012-13 at $30.8 million, and the salary cap is likely to go down after a new collective bargaining agreement is negotiated next summer.
The Islanders have also begun contract extension talks with Frans Nielsen, who would become a coveted unrestricted free agent next July 1 after his contract expires.
The team opens its training camp with physical exams Friday, and now the pressing need is to come to terms with Josh Bailey, the Isles' 2008 first-round pick. Bailey rejected the team's one-year, $850,000 qualifying offer in June and there has been little movement in talks between Snow and Pat Morris, Bailey's agent, over the past few weeks.
"We're still trying to find some common ground," Morris told Newsday in an email Wednesday night.
Time is short: The Islanders' team policy is that any exclusive-rights players not signed by the start of camp will not play for the team all season. So Bailey and the Islanders have until Friday morning to come to terms.