John Tavares is officially a former member of the Islanders organization.
The former captain and first overall pick in 2009 signed a seven year deal worth $77 million with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday just an hour after the NHL’s free agency period opened. It had been reported a short time before that that the Islanders had been told that he would not re-sign with the team.
Tavares had been deliberating over whether or not to sign an extension with the Islanders since the season ended in April. Tavares continually told reporters during the season that he wanted to remain with the Islanders, but was going to go through the process.
Tavares opted to utilize the NHL’s free agent interview period last week and sat down with six teams, including the Maple Leafs.
“The Island has been home,” Tavares wrote as part of an open letter to Islander fans on Sunday. “It’s what I know, it’s part of me — it always will be. I can’t thank you all enough for the dedication you have all showed. I’m sorry if this decision pains you, as you can tell it wasn’t easy, but have trust in the future because it’s bright.”
Tavares had been a first overall pick by the Islanders in 2009 and had been the face of the franchise since then. He played in 669 games and recorded 621 points (272 goals, 349 assists) over nine seasons on Long Island and had led the Islanders to their first playoff series win in 23 years in 2016.