John Tavares is done for the NHL season with a knee injury suffered in the Olympics, and Islanders general manager Garth Snow is not keeping his frustration to himself.
An MRI exam in Sochi, Russia, revealed a torn medial collateral ligament and a torn meniscus in Tavares' left knee, which was crunched by Latvian defenseman Arturs Kulda in Wednesday's 2-1 quarterfinal win by Canada. Tavares likely will need surgery, which would mean as much as a six-month rehabilitation, but that still would allow the Islanders' captain to be ready for the 2014-15 season.
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Snow gave permission for Tavares to remain in Russia with his Canada teammates, who face the U.S. on Friday for a berth in the gold-medal game. But the GM, himself a 1994 U.S. Olympian, expressed his displeasure with the fact that his team has lost its best player for the remainder of the season.
"Are the IIHF or IOC going to reimburse our season-ticket holders now? It's a joke," Snow said. "They want all the benefits from NHL players playing in the Olympics and don't want to pay when our best player gets hurt.
"This is probably the biggest reason why NHL players shouldn't be in the Olympics, it should just be amateurs. And it could have happened to anyone; it just happened to be us that lost our best player. A lot of people pay to see John play. It wouldn't matter if we were 10 points clear of a playoff spot or 10 points out. We lost our best player and he wasn't even [injured while] playing for us."
There have been other negative comments about NHL players' participation in the Olympics, including Flyers owner and chairman Ed Snider loudly proclaiming before the tournament began that he objected to the season stopping for two weeks.
Snow did express his displeasure when Kyle Okposo was left off the U.S. roster, but the GM most certainly was defending one of his top players rather than genuinely advocating for Okposo's inclusion. The Islanders did not permit Lubomir Visnovsky to play for Slovakia, citing medical concerns over his lengthy absence because of a concussion.
Those seem like very minor issues now, though, with Tavares sidelined. The Islanders barely had a playoff pulse even with their best player, sitting 12 points out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with only 22 games to go. Without Tavares for the rest of the season, the Islanders will be scrambling to find consistent offense. They will be scrambling even more if, as expected, they trade Thomas Vanek by the March 5 deadline.
Ryan Strome, who played in the AHL All-Star Game during the Olympic break, likely will be called up from Bridgeport to fill Tavares' roster spot and possibly his top-line center spot. Anders Lee, who leads the Sound Tigers with 19 goals, also might get a call before the Islanders resume their season Thursday.
Snow said his plan heading into the trade deadline has not changed. Vanek, who turned down a seven-year, $50-million offer last month, and defenseman Andrew MacDonald, who turned down a four-year, $16- million offer earlier this season, are pending unrestricted free agents who are being shopped by Snow. The Olympic trade freeze ends on Sunday, 10 days before the trade deadline.
"We're still going to do what we have to do," Snow said.
He added that he isn't upset with Tavares or any of the other NHL players who went to Sochi.
"I don't begrudge the players. I wore my country's jersey and I know how much every guy wants to represent his country," he said. "But NHL players just shouldn't be over there. There's too much at stake."