Islanders Try to Focus on the Season Ahead, Not the Next One

Islanders Try to Focus on the Season Ahead, Not the Next One


The team’s owners, Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin, have been seeking another new home. Last Thursday, the Islanders submitted a proposal to New York State to build a new arena on the grounds of Belmont Park.

They have to wait for the state to make a decision on the site. (New York City F.C. of Major League Soccer was among the other parties to submit a proposal.)

The Islanders have until Jan. 1 to forge a new deal with Barclays, and by Jan. 30, either side can opt out of the current deal. The Islanders could choose to leave as soon as after this season; if Barclays Center triggered the opt-out, however, the Islanders would not have to leave until after the 2018-19 season.

The Islanders returned to the renovated Coliseum for a preseason game on Sept. 17 and played before a loud, capacity crowd of 13,917 that chanted for the team to come back.

But Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the N.H.L., said a return to their former home was not practical.

“I don’t view the Nassau Coliseum as a viable option,” he said last month at Citi Field, where the Rangers and the Buffalo Sabres will play an outdoor game on Jan. 1. “I don’t think it makes a lot of sense.”

The swirl of arena uncertainty does not seem to outwardly faze Tavares, whose six-year, $33 million contract expires after this season. He stands to be among the highest-paid players in the game, likely earning $9 million or $10 million per season when a new deal is secured.

“I can only control what I can control,” said Tavares, 27, who has led the Islanders in points in all but one of his eight seasons since they drafted him first over all in 2009. “I want to be the best player I can be for the Islanders, and obviously I want things to work out, so I’m here for a long time.”

Tavares’s contract status does not distract the ebullient Weight, who replaced Jack Capuano last January and presided over a strong second half that left the Islanders just short of a playoff spot.

“Obviously a signature would help, but we’ve got a team that’s known John a long time,” said Weight, who was a teammate of Tavares’s for two seasons. “We want to get better. He’s going to be a big part of it.”

Cal Clutterbuck, who has also played with Tavares in their junior days with the Oshawa Generals, said he was confident the captain would focus on the season, whether a new contract was in place or not.

“I don’t think he’s worried about it,” said Clutterbuck, who is starting his fifth season with the Islanders. “He knows they’d love to have him. He just wants to make sure he’s in a great situation and take his time. He’s earned the right.”

Tavares is likely to feel energized about playing on a line with a talented scorer like Eberle and Anders Lee, who enjoyed a breakout season last year, leading the team in goals with 34 and providing a physical presence in front of the net. Tavares is finally starting a season with two bona fide linemates, a luxury he has rarely had during his Islanders career.

“We’ll see how things start off; you certainly want chemistry with everybody,” he said. “I’m excited because we have a lot of talent, a lot of depth on our team. Whoever I’m playing with, I look forward to starting off on the right foot.”

The team is counting on the next generation of Islanders forwards too, including Josh Ho-Sang, 21, who scored four goals in his 21-game debut last year, and Mathew Barzal, 20, a playmaking center who was an Islanders first-round pick in 2015. Anthony Beauvillier, 20, another first-rounder two years ago, contributed nine goals and 15 assists in 66 games last season.

“I’m excited about our skill as a team,” Weight said. “We have a pretty deep team, and we’ve grown deeper.”



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