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Islanders must win 'right now' to keep John Tavares, coach says

Contending for Stanley Cup is best way to reward potential free agent, keep him in New York, according to Doug Weight

by Mike Battaglino / Staff Writer

The best way for the New York Islanders to keep John Tavares for the rest of his NHL career is to contend for the Stanley Cup, coach Doug Weight said Thursday.

"He's been here seven, I think eight years, and we have to put him in a position to win right now," Weight told TSN 1050 Toronto radio.

Tavares, who made his NHL debut during the 2009-10 season, can sign a contract extension as of July 1, or can become an unrestricted free agent after next season.

"I want him to be here, and our organization wants him to be here, our owners want him to be here, and John knows we want him here," Weight said. "John's a genius, but a simple genius. He wants to win, and that's it. He wants to be a Hall of Fame player and he wants to win. And those are two great things."

The Islanders have made the Stanley Cup Playoffs three times in Tavares' eight seasons, missing them by one point this season. Last year, they won a series for the first time since 1993, defeating the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference First Round (on a clinching double-overtime goal by Tavares in Game 6) before losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games in the second round.

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

"What my goal is, simply -- I love John, he lived with me for two years, he's a wonderful guy -- but I want to win a Cup too," Weight said. "And I want to be a team that you guys are talking about every year [that], 'All right, so it's going to be the Islanders, the Lightning and the four teams that are going to come out of the East, for sure.' That's what I want."

Tavares, a center, had 66 points (28 goals, 38 assists) this season, down from 70 (33, 37) and 86 (38, 48) the two seasons before. He has 537 points (235 goals, 302 assists) in 587 NHL games.

"John is huge for us, he's a wonderful leader and captain," Weight said. "To me, people say all-star, and people say generational, and I get to watch him, and I got to play with him for a year then coach him for five and six, and he is generational. He's that good."

Tavares, 26, can sign a contract as long as eight years, either with the Islanders before next season, or with them or someone else after next season. 

"I want John to be the captain raising that Stanley Cup one day," Weight said. "We're going to do everything we can to keep him, and at the same time he will be just as accountable as every other son of a gun on that bench, and he knows it, and I love it."

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