Garth Snow said he isn’t worried about his star and captain, John Tavares, being distracted by questions regarding Tavares’ future. Nor is the Islanders GM concerned for the rest of his group and whether they will be sidetracked by the ongoing search for a new and permanent home for the Isles, who kicked off training camp Thursday and take the ice for the first time today.
“He’s a competitor, he’s got high character,” Snow said. “He’s focused on being the best player he can be, the best captain for this team and helping this team win hockey games. Ultimately he wants the same thing we all want, which is to win a Stanley Cup. I know he’s focused on that.”
Tavares said much the same Thursday, adding that he and agent Pat Brisson are more than willing to discuss a contract extension during the 2017-18 season, the final one on Tavares’ current deal.
Tavares made it clear in talks with reporters last month that his desire to wait and see how things unfold with a number of uncertain situations around the team had little to do with numbers or negotiation.
Sources on both sides said there has barely been any real contract talk and that the lines of communication between Isles owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin, Snow and the Tavares camp have been primarily to keep the captain apprised of progress toward a new arena, not about dollars and term.
“We’re kind of open to anything,” Tavares said. “For me, it’s not something we talk about on a daily basis or even a weekly basis. It’s important to stay focused on the season and making sure I’m as committed as I’ve always been. The communication’s been great, continue to keep that open and let the process move along. As things continue to be talked about, if that’s what some of the conversations are, sure. We haven’t specifically said no, we’re not talking, none of that. We’re open to it all.”
The state’s request for proposals to develop at Belmont Park closes on Sept. 28. A decision on the submitted proposals will likely take months after that. So Tavares seems willing to wait until the end of this coming season, close to the July 1 start of free agency, to make his call.
For now, there is excitement in all corners for a team that missed the playoffs by a point last year after a furious second-half run under Doug Weight, now the permanent head coach.
“It’s the same game I’ve played since I was 3, the same feelings I get when I put my equipment on — that all doesn’t change,” Tavares said. “I’m fortunate enough to play this game for a living, very fortunate to play as long as I have in this league and I want to enjoy it as long as I can. Start of a new year is always exciting, there’s a lot we want to rebound from. It was a year we kind of let slip away from us. You never want to take any year for granted.”