Lou Lamoriello hiring brings hope to keeping Tavares with Islanders

The John Tavares situation with the Islanders is, to put it lightly, a mystery at this point. Which is never a good thing.

What we do know is Tavares, who has been with the Islanders since being drafted first overall by the team in 2009, is free to sign with any team he chooses come July 1. Teams will be lining up, ready to pay top dollar for the 27-year-old superstar, the type of player that doesn’t hit the open market very often.

For everyone, from fans to media to teammates, it’s been a big waiting game.

The hiring of Lou Lamoriello as president of hockey operations for the Islanders is the much-needed piece of positivity for Islanders fans in this waiting game. The 75-year-old executive has reportedly already met with Tavares.

What all this means, who knows. Lamoriello comes to Long Island with a track record of not just getting franchises back on track, but getting them into contention if not more. He built a dynasty in New Jersey with the Devils. He helped build a roster in Toronto that is in position to do big things provided it can be kept together. But this probably isn’t a long-term move for Lamoriello. At the very least, the hope has to be to lay a foundation to build on going forward. A foundation that would start with Tavares being locked down long-term.

Nothing is certain. But things look better now than it did a few days ago.

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Best Centers: 6-10

6 – Ryan Getzlaf

Getzlaf has quietly put together a Hall of Fame resume since coming into the league in 2005. He’s recorded at least 57 points in every 82-game season going back to his second NHL season of 2006-07 (in which he helped the Ducks win their only Stanley Cup). Last season he put up 73 points in 74 games and led Anaheim to the Western Conference Final for the second time in three seasons. Personal prediction for Getzlaf this upcoming season – more goal scoring. Getzlaf has shot at a rate of just 8.9 percent over the last two seasons. That’s bound to turn around at some point.

7 – Anze Kopitar

Kopitar (52 points) failed to hit the 60-point threshold in an 82-game season for the first time in his career last year, his minus-10 rating was his lowest since 2008-09, his third year in the league. However, his possession numbers were on par with what they’ve been in years past, though his goals-for – which usually hovers in the 60-percent range – dipped to 50.34 percent last season. So there’s little to worry about with Kopitar, he’s still one of the best pivots on the planet and one of the premier workhorses up front, seventh in the NHL among forwards last season with 20:45 of ice-time per game, his 1:54 of shorthanded time per night the most among 32 forwards that averaged 3:00 of powerplay duty on a nightly basis.

8 – Jonathan Toews

Toews bounced back from a rough first half last season and helped the Blackhawks secure the top seed in the Western Conference, posting a 14-22-36 line in his final 33 games. Toews’ possession numbers were down while his goals-for percentage was 54 percent after four seasons north of 60. The dip in his numbers are probably more to do with what Toews has around him than Toews himself. Having old running mate Brandon Saad back in 2017-18 should help get those numbers back up.

9 – John Tavares

Someone who’s done a lot without a whole lot. Tavares is fifth in the NHL in points (483) and goals (211) since 2010-11. He’s one of four forwards to average more than 20:30 of ice-time per game since the 2013-14 season and one of the league’s premier powerplay options. It’ll be interesting to see what Tavares does running alongside Jordan Eberle this upcoming season.

10 – Steven Stamkos

The last eight seasons for Stamkos has been a tale of two four-season spans. The first four – starting with scoring a league-high 51 goals in 2009-10 and ending with him putting up 29 goals and 57 points in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season – Stamkos was challenging Sidney Crosby’s mantle for the best player in the world. He never missed a game, and the led the NHL in goals (185) and points (340) over that span of time. The script has been flipped over the last four, missing 115 games as he can’t seem to escape the freak-injury bug that has befallen him since, from the broken tibia he suffered in 2013 to the blood clots late in 2015-16 to the meniscus tear that limited him to 17 games last season. With all that said, in his only healthy season (2014-15), Stamkos played all 82 games, scoring 43 goals and leading Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup Final. The 27-year-old remains the face of the Lightning and one of the game’s premier players. Hopefully the luck turns around for him soon.

Metro Division: Facts, Figures, Predictions

*The Flyers are one of just seven teams to not have a Calder Trophy winner.

*The Hurricanes haven’t made the playoffs since 2009. Only Edmonton, who lost to Carolina in the 2006 Stanley Cup final, its most recent postseason appearance, has a longer drought.

*The Capitals are one of just four franchises that were in business prior to the 1979 WHA merger that have no Stanley Cup to its name. The others: Buffalo, St. Louis, Vancouver.

*Philadelphia has the second-highest all-time point percentage (.577) trailing only Montreal (.589). Columbus is the lowest, at .467. The Flyers have the second-most playoff appearances (38) among non-Original Six franchises. The Blues take the cake in that category, with 40.

*The Islanders recorded back-to-back 100-point campaigns the last two seasons, the first time that’s happened since 1980-81, 1981-82; the meat of the Al Arbour era in which the halls (or the LIE) were decked with Stanley Cups.

*John Tavares sits in just 12th place on the Isles all-time scoring list at 471 points, but he can do some serious damage over the next couple seasons. If he matches the 156-point output over the last two seasons (which he should do easily), Tavares will move into the top five on the Islanders scoring list. He’s within 200 of fourth place, a perch held by Clark Gilles, who put up 663 from 1975-86.

*Top three active players in points per game: Sidney Crosby (1.327), Evgeni Malkin (1.18), and Alex Ovechkin (1.151). Nicklas Backstrom is seventh, scoring at a rate of 0.985 in 652 career games going back to 2007.

*Crosby ranks fifth on the all-time list; behind Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy, and Bobby Orr.

*Assists per game: Crosby (0.849), Backstrom (0.732), and Malkin (0.722).

*At an average age of 27.2, the Capitals were tied with the 2006-07 Sabres for the third-youngest team to win the Presidents’ Trophy.

*Taylor Hall has posted more than 65 points just once (80, 2014), has played more than 65 games just twice. Thirty goals remains on the bucket list. Peter Chiarelli didn’t trade Jari Kurri.

*Ovechkin’s 525 goals since 2005-06 lead the NHL. But you knew that. The next closest? That would be Jarome Iginla, with 361. 361!!

*Here’s something you didn’t expect: Of the ten 52-goal seasons assembled in that time, Ovechkin accounts for just four. Remember that time Jonathan Cheechoo scored 56 goals? Yeah didn’t think so.

Predictions

1- Washington: Best team in the Eastern Conference, from top to bottom.

2- Pittsburgh: No team has repeated since the 1998 Red Wings. Hearing the Penguins really, really want to be that first team to defend a title since then.

3- Rangers: Jeff Gorton acquires Kevin Shattenkirk in a trade deadline deal.

4- Philadelphia: Warning to college campuses – NHL executives are going to begin raiding your hockey programs.

5- Islanders: Lots of questions marks on the Island.

6- Carolina: Don’t be surprised if the Hurricanes make the playoffs.

7- Columbus: Ditto the Jackets. Zach Werenski wins the Calder Trophy.

8- New Jersey: Not a bad team, just victims of a killer division.