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John Tavares ready to talk contract with Islanders

New York captain hoping to have extension in place prior to start of next season; can be unrestricted free agent after 2017-18

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. -- With the New York Islanders' season coming to a close, the attention turns to center John Tavares' future.

Tavares, 26, is entering the final season of a six-year contract that carries an average annual value of $5.5 million. He's eligible to sign a contract extension with the Islanders on July 1. He said Monday he's hoping to have a deal in place prior to the start of next season. Tavares can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season.

"You'd like to get something done as soon as possible," said Tavares, who had 66 points (28 goals, 38 assists) in 77 games before missing the final five games of the season because of a lower-body injury. "But at the same time it's a process and we've seen other guys go through it where it doesn't necessarily happen the first day it can happen. I'm just speaking out loud. We'll see how things go. Like I've said before and during the season, I've never had to worry about it because it's just not that time yet.

"Now as the time approaches we'll start going through the process of talking and getting there."

Tavares was selected by the Islanders with the first pick of the 2009 NHL Draft, and in eight seasons has 537 points (235 goals, 302 assists) in 587 games. He's been the captain since the 2013-14 season.

His situation is similar to what Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos experienced in the summer of 2015. Stamkos played through the 2015-16 season without an extension. He signed an eight-year contract with the Lightning on June 29.

Should he not sign an extension this summer, Tavares knows he will be asked consistently about his future next season. There is the possibility he won't want to negotiate during the season to avoid what could be a distraction to his play and the Islanders' season.

Video: BOS@NYI: Tavares weaves into zone and nets wrister

"I haven't really thought about that," Tavares said. "I just haven't really put much thought into it. I hope things work out. But I think first and foremost I want to get healthy. I think that's my priority right now. It's just kind of the way I approach things with my injuries, to get healthy and then take some time to decompress. I think look first and foremost at the season individually and how I can get better and our team can get better. As that process and the weeks and days go by, there will be more time for my side and the organization's to look at things going forward, and then we'll go from there and then the talks will start to come into play and worry about it then."

Then there is the question of where the Islanders will play their home games long-term. There have been reports they could leave Barclays Center in Brooklyn after the 2018-19 season with the hope of potentially building an arena either at Belmont Park in Nassau County on Long Island or next to Citi Field in Queens.

Tavares said he doesn't expect the uncertainty to play a role in whether or not he re-signs with the Islanders.

"Not necessarily," he said. "I think for me at the end of the day, I want to win a Stanley Cup. I think everyone here is absolutely committed to doing that. Hopefully we can work something out and I'm here.

"It's a lot more complicated process than probably people realize. I haven't even really gone through it yet, so I think just looking at a lot of situations that have kind of come over the last couple of years, I think not only from my side but from the team side, just with the management of the cap and obviously the financial side of it, kind of those details that come into it in the negotiation process … obviously you want to enjoy where you're playing and where you're living. But I've always stated that I've always enjoyed those things and I've always been treated really well here. There's no doubt about that for me, so hopefully we can get something done."

Tavares applauded the efforts of coach Doug Weight, who guided the Islanders to a 24-12-4 record after replacing Jack Capuano on Jan. 17. Weight is expected to speak with general manager Garth Snow and owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin about his future this week.

"I think you saw what he brought to the team and really sparked the great finish we had to the season," Tavares said. "He gave us a great opportunity to make it. A lot of guys responded individually as well. I think he did a great job in handling the group, and there's a lot of respect for Dougie. He was great for me as well, challenged me and tried to put me in a position to succeed individually. I thought he did a great job."

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