Islanders’ new owners insist Tavares won’t become a free agent

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As the ink was drying on Steven Stamkoscontract extension, many joked that Toronto Maple Leaf fans turned their free agent daydreams to John Tavares.

With Tavares’ current hyper-bargain deal not expiring until after the 2017-18 season, that’s a situation that is pretty far off, but the New York Islanders’ new owners seem confident that they’ll avoid that sort of Stamkos drama.

As Lighthouse Hockey and others note, Jon Ledecky said that Tavares “isn’t becoming a free agent” during last weeks town hall meetings.

Those are bold claims, especially since the Islanders can’t even attempt to sign Tavares to an extension until next summer, the year before his deal expires.

Some would look at losing Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen as a blow to the team’s Stanley Cup dreams, even if Andrew Ladd is a solid addition.

However you feel about this specific summer, the new ownership group insists that their checkbook is open, and New York Newsday notes that they’re hoping to roll with the heavyweights in free agency.

“We should be the world-class destination for free agents,” Ledecky said during the meeting. “If you think about a capped world, everybody can spend to the cap, and we certainly have no constraints on our GM and our staff to spend. We want to create and continue to progress toward John Tavares lifting that Stanley Cup, so we should be world-class in everything we do.”

At minimum, Ledecky and Scott Malkin are making an impression, even winning over skeptics like New York Post reporter Larry Brooks, who praises the duo’s attention to detail.

Brooks’ piece is a fascinating peek into the challenges the two face in addressing fans on Long Island and in Brooklyn, noting that Ledecky emphasized that “We’re the New York Islanders.”

Retaining Tavares would be an enormous step in the direction of indeed becoming a world-class destination, and the Isles have time to back up their big words and surround their star with quality support.

If nothing else, Ledecky and Malkin seemed to make a world-class first impression.