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New York Islanders John Tavares Was Exactly Who We Thought He Was

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 13: John Tavares #91 of the New York Islanders reacts in the second period against the Columbus Blue Jackets during their game at Barclays Center on February 13, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 13: John Tavares #91 of the New York Islanders reacts in the second period against the Columbus Blue Jackets during their game at Barclays Center on February 13, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /
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Every single New York Islanders fan heart broke as we found out that John Tavares decided to join the Toronto Maple Leafs. After that entire debacle, he was who we thought he was.

On July 1st, 2017 the New York Islanders could start negotiating with pending unrestricted free agent John Tavares. But by then it was already too late. Tavares already belonged somewhere else.

That wasn’t a typo or a mistake. In 2017, a full year before Tavares could explore his option to go elsewhere, the New York Islanders had already lost him.

To be fair, the franchise was in an absolute tailspin and had been for a year at that point. That certainly didn’t help the situation. But Tavares already knew where he wanted to go. He’d known for years he wanted to go back home.

The Bed Spread

News broke that John Tavares had signed for the Toronto Maple Leafs at around 1 pm eastern time on July 1st. And a few minutes later, at 1:06 pm John Tavares tweeted out this picture.

John Tavares doesn’t tweet often. Before this most recent tweet of him likely dreaming of the Stanley Cup wrapped in Toronto Maple Leafs blankets, his activity was sporadic at best. Maybe tweeting out an ad campaign he’s part of, or a handbag a cousin of his designed for him.

Having this ready to go shows how much going back to Toronto meant to him. It’s all he ever thought about. It’s all he ever wanted.

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In going to Toronto on a seven-year $77 million deal Tavares left a number of advantages on the table. At an $11 million AAV, he left millions on the table from teams who wanted to pay him more and from teams that had significant tax advantages. Money clearly wasn’t a factor.

He left term on the table. He could have secured an eighth year with the New York Islanders, the only NHL team he’s ever played for. His decision had nothing to do with long-term security.

Tavares’ decision was always about geography. Tavares wanted nothing more than to go back home and end the Toronto Maple Leafs 51 year Stanley Cup drought.

Loyal vs Committed

There’s no doubt that Tavares was and is a loyal player. He was just never loyal to the New York Islanders. He was certainly committed to the Islanders. He played for them and represented them well. He felt devotion to the Islanders. But his loyalty was always back in Toronto.

In speaking to the media after being unveiled as a Toronto Maple Leaf, Tavares had the following to say:

"As a kid cheering for the Leafs growing up, you start to get those feelings again. Once I went through the interview process and got that and just what it was like as a kid watching the Leafs and following my favourite players I just thought the timing was too good and it was an opportunity I didn’t want to turn down."

There’s nothing the New York Islanders could have done to hold onto John Tavares because it seems he was never ours. The New York Islanders may have drafted him first overall in 2009. And he may have played here for nine seasons and scored 621 points in 669 games.

But Tavares was never ours.

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Maybe if Tavares’ first nine years as an Islander were filled with winning seasons rather than losing ones he may have stayed. Maybe the pull from his hometown wouldn’t have been so magnetic. Or not. It seems Tavares wanted this badly.

Either way, we got Tavares’ character spot on. We knew he was a loyal guy. We just didn’t know his loyalty was elsewhere.

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