Other than president Lou Lamoriello’s statement wishing John Tavares well with the Toronto Maple Leafs and noting the great individual success he had in his first nine NHL seasons, reaction was muted from the Islanders’ organization after the loss of their franchise player via free agency.
But Tavares’ decision was the talk of the NHL on Sunday.
“Welcome aboard @91Tavares!” said Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, like his new teammate a No. 1 overall pick in the NHL Draft. “Pumped to have you in the blue and white and now call you a teammate.”
With Tavares gone, Islanders fans must pin their hopes for the future on new president Lou Lamoriello, who won three Stanley Cups running the Devils; new coach Barry Trotz, who just lifted the Cup with the Capitals, and center Mathew Barzal, who just won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie.
“Hey @NYIslanders fans. Let’s skip the jersey burning thing and just move on,” actor/director Kevin Connolly said via Twitter. “Best of luck to @91Tavares in TO . . . Tomorrow’s a new day #Barzal”.
Connolly, who grew up in Patchogue, starred in HBO’s “Entourage” and directed “Big Shot,” an ESPN “30 for 30” documentary on former Islanders owner John Spano, added via Twitter: “You can’t blame the guy for wanting to go home. Stick that ‘C’ right on Barzal chest and bring us Erik Karlsson.”
Fellow actor Ralph Macchio, who grew up in Huntington and greets fans, via video, at Barclays Center before Islanders games, said on Twitter: “Very unfortunate how this played out. Rough day in IslanderNation. I feel you and am with you. Time to bank on Lou, Barry and Barzy!”
The San Jose Sharks also pursued Tavares and were one of six teams to meet with him at the Los Angeles CAA office of agent Pat Brisson. The Sharks offered Tavares a reported $13 million per year. Tavares signed a seven-year, $77-million deal with the Maple Leafs.
“I want to thank John Tavares and Pat Brisson for their interest in the San Jose Sharks and their professionalism throughout this negotiation process,” Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said in a statement. “While we are naturally disappointed in the final decision, it’s extremely heartening to know that the top players in this league consistently view San Jose as a place they want to play.”
“I know John. He’s being pulled from many different places,” added the Sharks’ Logan Couture, who agreed to an eight-year, $64-million extension Sunday. “Knowing him personally, I’m definitely happy for him, playing for his childhood team.”
Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri tweeted out a photo of the two as junior hockey teammates, with him wearing No. 91, Tavares’ NHL number, and Tavares in No. 61.
“I saved u 91 this time . . . welcome home @91Tavares.”