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Training Camp

Tavares open to in-season contract talks with Islanders

Center content to 'let the process continue to move along'

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. -- Center John Tavares won't be putting contract negotiations with the New York Islanders on hold when the season gets underway.

Tavares, 26, said on the opening day of training camp Thursday that he and his agent, Pat Brisson, are willing to keep talking after New York opens its regular season on Oct. 6 at the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Islanders captain is entering the final season of his six-year, $33 million contract with an average annual value of $5.5 million. He has been able to sign an extension since July 1 and without one would become an unrestricted free agent on that date next year.

"I'm kind of open to anything," said Tavares, the No. 1 pick of the 2009 NHL Draft. "For me, I think it's not something that we talk about on a daily basis, even weekly basis. I think it's important to stay focused on the season and making sure I'm as committed as I've always been and be the best player and captain I can be for the Islanders.

"Like I've said, the communication has been great and we'll continue to keep that open and let the process continue to move along. As things continue to be talked about, if that's what some of the conversations are, yeah, we haven't specifically said, 'No, we're not talking,' or none of that. We're open to it all."

Tavares, who has 537 points (235 goals, 302 assists) in 587 NHL games with the Islanders, reiterated he doesn't feel his contract status will have a negative impact on his game. The Islanders missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs by one point last season; the season before, they won their first series since 1993.

"It's the same game I've played since I was 3," Tavares said. "The same feelings I get when I put my equipment on and step on the ice … that all doesn't change. I'm fortunate enough to play this game for a living, I'm very fortunate to have played it for as long I have in the NHL now and want to enjoy and relish every second of it.

"It's the start of a new year, it's exciting for myself and I think for our team. There's a lot that we want to rebound from and get better from. We've got some disappointment from the past season, a year that we kind of let slip away from us. You don't want to take any year for granted."

Video: John Tavares takes the No. 6 spot

Islanders general manager Garth Snow wasn't willing to get into specifics about the negotiations with Tavares on Thursday, but it's no secret he's hoping to sign him before Tavares becomes a free agent.

"I've said all along, we obviously drafted John and we think very highly of him," Snow said. "He's a player we want to see retire as an Islander.

"He's a competitor, he's got high character. He's focused on being the best player he can be, the best captain for this team and helping this team win hockey games. Ultimately, he wants the same thing that we all want in this locker room, and that's to win a Stanley Cup. I know he's focused on that."

As for Tavares' teammates, they did not seem too concerned about what the future holds. The goal is to find a way into the playoffs after falling short last season.

"Obviously, I think everyone would probably feel a lot better if he was signed long-term and you knew he was going to be a part of this for a long time," said forward Andrew Ladd, who signed a seven-year, $38.5 million contract (average annual value $5.5 million) with the Islanders as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2016. "You also respect the process he has to go through to make that right decision for himself. You play all those years to put yourself in the position to have the capability to decide where you want to play the next step of your career.

Video: John Tavares' future with the Islanders

"I've been in that same position, and it's an important decision. You need to take the time to make the right one, and I think everybody understands that with John. I don't think we feel that his head is going to be elsewhere. We know what kind of person he is, and his focus will be solely on getting this team to the playoffs and then winning a Stanley Cup."

Snow, who said Thursday he's confident in his own job security, hopes he made the Islanders better after acquiring forward Jordan Eberle from the Edmonton Oilers in a trade for forward Ryan Strome on June 22. How the Islanders fare this season could play a major role in whether Tavares wants to stay long-term or become a free agent.

"We like our roster," Snow said. "I think our strength is goaltending, [defense] and then through the middle. We added Jordan, and I think we were 10th in the League last year in scoring, so we feel we've improved that area. We're excited about this group."

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