General manager Garth Snow made it clear: John Tavares isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. At the same time, Snow said the Islanders are unlikely to add players if it means giving high draft picks as the NHL’s Feb. 26 trade deadline approaches.
The Tavares situation has morphed into something of a saga. Any expectation that the potential free agent was merely waiting for clarity on where the Islanders would play in the futur — Belmont is the planned destination — has not resulted in a commitment from Tavares to remain beyond this season.
Is Tavares waiting to see if the team makes the playoffs? Is there an understanding that he will stay? Is there some unknown issue?
No one is saying.
“I’m not trading John, I’ve stated that,’’ Snow said Wednesday. “I know I sound like a broken record but any conversations I have with John or his agent (Pat Brisson) remain private.’’
Asked if was a gamble not to engage in trade talks because Tavares can merely walk away this summer, Snow said, “I think any team — I mean we’ve been through it as well — every team has free agents. Every team has players they want to sign. We drafted John at 18 years old and think the world of him. We want him to retire an Islander. This is all part of a process that he earned under this collective bargaining agreement, to take his time and be thoughtful about what he wants to do for the rest of his hockey career.’’
Snow would not say if there have been any negotiations but it is believed that money will not be an obstacle. Tavares and his agent have remained steadfast in saying that making the playoffs is Tavares’ lone objective.
To that end, Snow said he will not make moves out of panic as the Islanders remain close to a berth. “We have obviously two first-round picks, two second-round picks . . . We’re a team that’s right on the edge of getting in the playoffs and not being in the playoffs.
“So, are we going to at this point in time, be giving first round picks and high picks for rental players? I don’t think we’re in that position. Just doesn’t make sense.’’
Snow did point to injuries as being “one hundred percent’’ the reason why the Islanders are in a precarious position for the playoffs. “Not making excuses, I’m stating a fact,’’ he said referring to season-ending injuries to Calvin de Haan and highly regarded prospect Devon Toews. Johnny Boychuk may be close to returning after an absence of over a month, but Scott Mayfield will be out a minimum of four weeks, Doug Weight said, with a lower-body injury sustained after blocking a slap shot by the Predators’ P.K. Subban on Monday.
Weight said if the roster remains as is, “We’ve got to be ok. We’ve got to deal with what we have and I feel like we’re good enough to be a damn good team on a consistent basis.’’
Weight said the next six games, starting Thursday in Buffalo, could be telling. “It’s a big time right now, there’s no ands, ifs or buts.
“We gotta make hay, we gotta dig in and we gotta play better than they do. This is six games that can certainly — it’s not going to make the playoffs — but it can put you ahead of three or four teams that you’ve been chasing for the last month. Obviously, we know the importance of that.’’
Notes & quotes: Mathew Barzal was “a little bumped around,’’ and did not practice. Weight said he expected him to play against the Sabres.