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John Tavares has no plans to leave Islanders

by Brian Compton / New York Islanders

New York Islanders captain John Tavares, who can become an unrestricted free agent two seasons from now, said Tuesday he has no intention to leave his only NHL team.

"I think I've always showed my commitment, my appreciation and my desire to play on Long Island," Tavares told Sportsnet 590. "I would love for that to continue for the long haul. I think you look at some of the greatest players in the game have been able to spend their entire career somewhere. I hope I'm in that same position."

That would rule out a return home to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs, which has been a popular rumored destination for the Mississauga, Ontario native.

"I would not count on that," he told the Toronto radio station.

"Obviously being from Toronto, people are going to make those connections, and it is what it is. There's nothing that I can control. I just want to go out there and be the best player, best person that I can be for the Islanders day in and day out. I'm just going to focus on tomorrow and the upcoming season."

Tavares, 26 on Sept. 20, has two years remaining on a contract with an average annual value of $5.5 million. The Islanders can begin negotiating a contract extension next July 1, and general manager Garth Snow recently said he would like to reach an agreement with Tavares next summer.

Tavares, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, led New York with 70 points last season and has 471 points in 510 NHL games. The Islanders won their first series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 1993 when they defeated the Florida Panthers in six games in the Eastern Conference First Round.

The Islanders will have a different look after three forwards -- Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin -- left as a free agent. New York signed left wings Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera and right wing PA Parenteau.

"Certainly some of the biggest turnover we've probably had in a long time," Tavares said. "There's obviously been some big pieces moved before … guys like Matt Moulson, Mark Streit. But (these were) guys that have been Islanders and drafted by the Islanders, been there since Day One and really part of this group that's gone to this point. That's on me and I think our group; we didn't accomplish what we would have liked to and we wish we could have had more success. But we've been through a lot together, overcame a lot, been through a lot of the down times. It gets to a point in everyone's career, decisions are made and things change.

"Those guys are happy with a fresh start. I know they appreciated being Islanders and would have loved for something to work out. But sometimes it doesn't always work that way, so we certainly will miss those guys, we wish them the best -- not against us so much -- but [they are] some of my closest friends and guys that really helped me along with my game and my career. Truly great people, and it'll definitely be a big change, but we've added some good players."

The 70 points (33 goals, 37 assists) in 78 games were the fewest per game for Tavares since 2010-11, his second of seven NHL seasons.

"Obviously we have some young guys that are really coming through our system and some young guys that are on the roster now that are looking to take the next step, and for myself to get back to the level that I know I can reach and I want to keep pushing for more," he said. "It should be exciting next year. We have some great pieces, and I like our makeup."

The Islanders have new majority co-owners, with the transfer from Charles Wang to Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin taking place July 1, and are coming off their first season at Barclays Center in Brooklyn after playing at Nassau Coliseum in Hempstead, N.Y., for 43 years.

"They drafted me there, gave me a great opportunity to play this game that I love and fulfill my dream," Tavares said. "Obviously they've put a lot of high expectations into me, and I don't take that lightly, and I've always enjoyed being there from Day One. I would love to see it through and obviously lift the Stanley Cup there."

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