(Photo credit: Robert Kowal)
They may not be officially eliminated, but with each passing day, it's looking likely that the New York Islanders won't be making the playoffs this year.
As of March 8, the Islanders sit six points back of the second wildcard spot that is occupied by the Columbus Blue Jackets. While six points isn't an insurmountable deficit, there are two teams ahead of them with more points — Florida and Carolina. So, for now, it's time to put the playoff talk to rest and focus on something more important to the franchise than just making the postseason this year.
What's going on with John Tavares?
Still the subject of considerable speculation, Tavares and the Islanders haven't been able to come to terms on a new contract for the 2009 first overall draft selection.
After nine seasons with New York, Tavares is slated to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time on July 1. It's a date that has been looming for the last couple of years but is now staring the organization right in the face.
Will they be able to keep the franchise's best player?
Tavares and his agent are scheduled for meetings with Islanders brass after the season ends to talk about the future of the franchise. What plans are in place to make the team a true contender? What about the new arena in Elmont?
These are the questions that Tavares will need answered before he decides to sign another long-term contract with the only team he's ever played for. And though it's weighing on the minds of Islanders fans everywhere and the team's front office, the 27-year-old isn't letting it get in his head.
“It’s not something I worry about so much on a daily basis,” Tavares told the New York media shortly after the trade deadline. “I’m very fortunate to be playing in the NHL and have the opportunity that I have and the success that I’ve been able to have.
“I’m not going to over-think it all the time.”
As stated, even if he's not over-thinking the contract, everyone else around him is. From his own organization to potential suitors like the Toronto Maple Leafs, everyone wants to know if he'll be the biggest name to hit the free agent market in NHL history.
No matter what he decides, Tavares is set to cash in on his next contract. The bar has been set by Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers with his $12.5-million-per-year cap hit. There's no doubt that Tavares, a proven veteran, will look to surpass that amount, and become the highest-paid player in the NHL next season.
**NOTE: All quotes used were acquired via the New York Islanders**