John Tavares didn’t reject Islanders deal, but new arena is key

As you might have heard, John Tavares is one season away from unrestricted free agency, and every passing week is another level of mounting panic for New York Islanders fans.

The 91.9 Sports in Montreal reported that Tavares turned down an $84-million contract from the Islanders, assumed to be eight years. That’s Carey Price money, and would have tied Tavares with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane as the highest-paid NHL forwards against the cap that aren’t named Connor McDavid.

So it fell to Newsday beat writer Arthur Staple to do some rumor control, via Twitter:

According to sources around Isles and Tavares, he did not turn down $84 million. Sides have barely talked numbers. Everyone I’ve talked to maintains this is not about money.

Hey, that’s good! The idea that the Islanders are pitching their star player a massive contract and he’s turning it down because it’s not massive enough would be frustrating. But if it’s not about the money, then what?

From Staple:

[It’s] all about wanting to see how things progress with arena/team before committing. If/when Tavares sees what he wants to see from [the organization], guessing the negotiations would be quick. JT has all the leverage there. JT may not play much of this next contract at Belmont, but if he knows Isles are going there, it helps the org. That could matter to him.

Hey, that’s … bad. Expected, but bad.

The Islanders want out of Barclays Center, and the feeling is apparently mutual. The new target for a home arena is the undeveloped land around Belmont Park racetrack. While yet another arena in the New York metro area makes little sense to fans, it makes total sense to the people who would profit from it, including Rangers owner James Dolan.

So that arena could be a reality, but not for several years, and that’s if the project gets off the ground.

Tavares, meanwhile, has to make a decision on his hockey future by next summer.

There are many things that give Islanders fans the shrinking sphincter – fishsticks, long-term contracts to goaltenders, seeing Mike Milbury on television – but few compare to the stress and uncertainty of where the team calls home. In essence, the future of John Tavares with the Islanders is tied to whether or not an arena deal for the franchise materializes.

Shudder…

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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