New York Islanders defenseman Calvin de Haan is confident center and captain John Tavares will eventually agree to a long-term contract.
Tavares, who has one season left on a six-year, $33 million contract he signed with the Islanders in 2011, can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Though Tavares declined to comment on negotiations, he reiterated a desire to stay with the Islanders during an interview with TSN on Tuesday.
"I think John's a loyal guy," said de Haan, who avoided arbitration by agreeing to terms on a one-year contract on Wednesday. Financial terms were not released, but TSN reported the contract is worth $3.3 million.
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"He's not a guy to beat around the bush with those kinds of things. He's straightforward about things like that and there's no reason why he should lie about things like that. At the end of the day it's going to be his decision but I don't see him leaving, personally. It's good he's mentioned it a few times over the course of the summer.
"You know as much as I do what goes on behind closed doors. We just have to focus on putting that little black thing in the net, defending and stuff like that."
Once training camp begins in September, de Haan, Tavares and the Islanders will focus on returning to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after finishing one point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second wild card from the Eastern Conference last season. It was a step back following back-to-back 100-point seasons for the Islanders, who were 17-17-8 when coach Jack Capuano was fired on Jan. 17 and replaced by Doug Weight.
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"We missed the playoffs last year, which [stunk]," de Haan said. "We were right there but it's something we try not to dwell on. We have a good team and we want to build on that and go from there, and hopefully do some damage in the playoffs. It's going to be a good team to play for and I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a good time.
"We're not a pushover. We're going to fight, scratch and claw our way to get to the postseason."
There are positive signs the Islanders can compete this season. New York went 24-12-4 after Weight, who had been assistant general manager, replaced Capuano. The Islanders finished the regular season on a six-game winning streak, and Weight agreed to return as coach on April 12.
"The record speaks for itself under Doug for that last half of the season," de Haan said. "We were one of the best teams in the League. It was a lot of fun playing for him. I hope we can carry on that chemistry and that winning mentality into the season."
The Islanders took a big step in that direction when they acquired forward Jordan Eberle in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers for forward Ryan Strome on June 22. Eberle is a five-time 20-goal scorer who had 51 points (20 goals, 31 assists) in 82 games last season with the Oilers, and is expected to be an immediate upgrade playing with Tavares on the top line.
"To add an asset like him, it's something that as a team and management, I think that's something you have to do," de Haan said. "I think it will be a great opportunity for him. I don't know what the lineup is going to be but I would assume he's going to be playing alongside J.T. and get a shot with him. We look forward to having a player like that. He's been productive in his career so far and hopefully he can continue with us."
There were also changes on defense after Travis Hamonic was traded to the Calgary Flames on June 24. Ryan Pulock, the No. 15 pick in 2013, is projected for a top-four role, perhaps with de Haan on the second pair behind Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk.
"I think the plan is for [Pulock] to hopefully step into a prominent role with this team," de Haan said. "It's a great opportunity for him. Hopefully things work out and he's ready to go."
De Haan is relieved that he and the Islanders came together the same day he was scheduled for an arbitration hearing in Toronto. He had NHL career highs in goals (five), assists (20) and points (25) last season.
"No one really wants to [go to arbitration] at the end of the day," de Haan said. "It's a good thing we got it done before. I'm glad we got something done and we didn't have to drag out the whole thing."