John Tavares on signing with the Leafs: “I would not count on that”

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Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY SPORTS

After the Leafs failed to secure Steven Stamkos away from the Tampa Bay Lightning, many heads turned to the next homegrown superstar to hit the market in John Tavares. The theoretical 2018 Free Agent would certainly make any team significantly better, including the Maple Leafs, but there has never been the same level of smoke to the homecoming rumours as there were for Stamkos.

A little over a week ago, I wrote about keeping expectations low. Today, it looks like the man himself wants you to feel the same way. Tavares was on the Andrew Walker Show on Sportsnet 590 The FAN today and stressed that his hope was to stay with the Islanders long-term.

While Tavares seemed most excited while talking about the Toronto Blue Jays, breaking down his roster perspectives and how watching them as a fan is more nerve-wracking than playing his own playoff games with the New York Islanders, he also talked about how much he’s enjoyed playing in the playoffs with the team that he captains in Brooklyn. But when the topic of free agency came up, the tone got much more blunt.

“I would not count on that,” Tavares said when it was suggested that he’ll be a member of the blue and white in two years. “I think I’ve already shown my commitment and my appreciation and my desire to play in Long Island. I would love for that to continue for the long haul.”

“I think that if you look at some of the greatest players in the game, they’ve been able to spend their entire careers somewhere. I hope I’m in that same position. Obviously, being from Toronto, people are going to make those connections. It is what it is, it’s nothing that I can control. I just want to go out there and be the best player and best person I can be for the Islanders, day in and day out. I’m just going to focus on the upcoming season.”

That Tavares would feel this way is in no way surprising. The 25-year-old superstar is seen as more quiet and reserved, and the type of person who enjoys the balance that playing in Long Island gives him. There, he gets to have a big city lifestyle without the issues of overwhelming fame, and while the fanbase isn’t as massive, it’s most loyal are just as enthusiastic, if not more so. He also doesn’t appear to be too stressed about the financial side, having signed one of the most team-friendly contracts in hockey as his second deal.

To see him be direct about it, however, is a nice change of pace. Players across all sports tend to be ambiguous about the process, especially when pay raises are on the line. Driving up competition is always a good thing for their deals, but the Islanders will likely give him a blank cheque if need be and being so open about the process saves fans of all teams involved a lot of grief.

Unless the Islanders do something catastrophic or decide to move on from him, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he doesn’t sign a long-term extension with them a year in advance next July. That’s not the end of the world either. Stamkos would have been a useful shot of nitrous oxide to Toronto’s rebuild this summer, and while Tavares is the better and slightly younger player, their younger core will be two years more mature at that point and ready to start carving out their own adventures.