Andrew Ladd would have preferred for John Tavares to remain with the New York Islanders, but the forward believes there are still reasons for optimism.
Ladd, who had 29 points (12 goals, 17 assists) in 73 games last season, pointed to the hiring of Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz as reasons why the Islanders can be successful in 2017-18 despite the loss of Tavares, who signed a seven-year, $77 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday.
Tavares, who was selected by the Islanders with the No. 1 pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, played his first nine seasons with New York before leaving as an unrestricted free agent. He had been Islanders captain since the start of the 2013-14 season.
After missing the playoffs for a second straight season, New York (35-37-10) hired Lamoriello as president of hockey operations on May 22. Lamoriello fired general manager Garth Snow and coach Doug Weight on June 5. Lamoriello named himself GM and then hired Trotz on June 21, two weeks after leading the Washington Capitals to a Stanley Cup championship.
Video: Taking a look at the New York Islanders' future
"It's tough to lose John as a player and a person and what he meant to that organization," Ladd told Sportsnet 960 in Calgary on Wednesday. "He spent nine years there. Within the community and what he did on the ice was a special person and player, so it stings to lose him. But at the same time, that's part of the business that we're in and we move on and move forward.
"He's on a different team and we're not worried about him anymore. We've just got to worry about what we're doing and what we need to do to have success. We've got a new coach, a new general manager and a lot of things guys should be excited about."
Ladd also believes center Mathew Barzal is ready to take another step after winning the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie last season. Barzal led the Islanders with 85 points (22 goals, 63 assists) as a 20-year-old.
Video: WSH@NYI: Ladd nets Barzal's feed on odd-man rush
"When you lose someone like John, it's nice to have someone as special as Mat Barzal to step up and be able to fill in for those minutes that are going to be needed to have someone fill," said Ladd, who has been an alternate captain for the Islanders the past two seasons after signing a seven-year contract on July 1, 2016. "He's a special player. I've played with the Patrick Kanes and [Jonathan] Toews and Eric Staals and Mark Scheifeles of the world. This kid is special. To do what he did in his rookie season and dominate at times … it seemed like every time he got the puck through the neutral zone, he was getting in with possession every time. Rarely do you see that, especially out of a kid in his first year. We're extremely lucky to have someone like him."