"I look forward to honoring this long-term commitment. This is an exciting team to be a part of right now. We have a group that I feel will contend every year for a championship, and I'm privileged to be a part of the Islanders' future." -- John Tavares
Not wanting any part of restricted free agency next July, the No. 1 pick in the 2009 Entry Draft signed a six-year extension Thursday with the Isles worth a reported $33 million.
In 161 career NHL games, Tavares has 53 goals and 68 assists, including 29 goals and 67 points in 2010-11. The Oakville, Ont., native has also represented Canada at the last two World Championships, totaling 16 points (12 goals, 4 assists) in 14 games.
Tavares had frequently talked about enjoying Long Island and wanting to stay after his entry-level contract ran out next summer.
"This is about me being an Islander and wanting to be here for a long time," said Tavares, who surrendered two years of unrestricted free agency by signing the deal. "We started talking this summer and we were very close and believed something that can get done. Once we were that close, we felt like there was no reason to kind of let it hang over our heads."
In all likelihood, there would have been speculation next summer about offer sheets had Tavares and the Isles not agreed on a new contract. There have also been reports in the past about No. 91 leaving town the first chance he had. But time and time again, Tavares expressed his desire to remain with the organization long-term.
On Thursday, he proved it.
Congrats to JT. great player, teammate and even better friend..well deserved...now pay me some rent haha.
"It's a great place to live. There's always so much to do. We have a lot of fun here. It's fun coming to the rink every day. We work, we compete and we push each other. I think that's all going to pay off. I believe we're headed in the right direction and we have a great future."
General manager Garth Snow has done a solid job of locking up several key members of his rebuilding process in recent months. Prior to the end of last season, he re-signed Matt Moulson, a two-time 30-goal scorer, to a three-year contract. Not long after the season ended, he got both Kyle Okposo and Calder Trophy finalist Michael Grabner to agree to five-year deals.
And now, the face of the franchise and the cornerstone of this rebuild, enters the 2011-12 season knowing he's going to be an Islander for at least seven more seasons. Perhaps all these moves will change some perceptions?
It's great to have Tavares on LI for another 6 years..great player and teammate..just gotta improve his video game skills.. #Isles
"Stuff like this can prove a point to a lot of people and hopefully we can send that message."
Snow said the reality of playing for the Isles and living on Long Island are vastly different than a lot of the perception.
"I know that whether it's a player or a staff member, people that have come here and played for this organization end up falling in love with it," Snow told NHL.com. "It's obviously a situation where people didn't have the utmost respect for (owner) Charles (Wang) and the organization."
While several pieces are now in place long-term, there is still one big issue to resolve for the Islanders. The team's lease with Nassau County expires in 2015 and there is no deal in place for either a new building or a renovation of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. But Tavares is optimistic there will be positive news on that front shortly.
"It's a great place to play," Tavares said of Long Island. "We need a new arena, and hopefully that gets resolved soon. But it's a lot of fun here -- and it's a great bunch of guys. We're headed in the right direction and we're going to get there. I really believe in this team and this organization.
"Charles is a great owner and he's been great to all of us. Garth has been great to all of us. We get treated well with a lot of respect. They want us to win. We're doing things the right way. It's starting to come. This is a big year for us."
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL