John Tavares opted to leave the New York Islanders after nine seasons, signing a seven-year, $77 million contract with his hometown and childhood team, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Leaving the Islanders was a difficult choice for the captain, who was praised for years about his loyalty to an otherwise dysfunctional franchise. It was New York who drafted Tavares first-overall in 2009, and he was the player they put the "C" on.
But in piece for The Players' Tribune, Tavares explained his decision to join the Leafs while thanking the Islanders and their fans for all of the support during his nine years with the franchise.
"The passion was just contagious," Tavares wrote. "Our nickname for our fans became “the Faithful” — I’m not sure how it got started, but it just seemed to fit.
Moments like my first NHL game against Pittsburgh … our playoff series against Pittsburgh … our playoff series against Washington … our countless rivalry games against the Rangers … and of course our playoff series win over Florida. Those are memories that I’ll never let go of."
Tavares then went on to talk about his love for the Toronto Maple Leafs as a kid, and that they were "basically" his "first human memory." He talked about watching Doug Gilmour, seeing games as a six-year-old and how it was always a dream to play for his childhood team.
Finally, at the end of the letter, Tavares offered a sincere apology to the Islanders fan base:
"I want to apologize, from the bottom of my heart, for things not working out — and for the fact that, under my captaincy, we fell short of our ultimate goal. But I gave it all that I had … and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for how you gave me all that you had in return.
Isles fans … thanks for reading, thanks for caring.
Thanks for everything."
Tavares certainly isn't lying when he talks about wanting to play with the Leafs, as he reportedly turned down more lucrative offers (including a $91 million deal from the San Jose Sharks), to join them.
Tavares' decision to leave the Islanders also didn't surprise too many fans and pundits. This was a team that was always changing coaches and constantly failed to build a contender around Tavares. They made the postseason just three times in his tenure, winning a single playoff series.
Now, Tavares joins a Maple Leafs team loaded with young stars in Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander. He has the chance to help his childhood team win its first Stanley Cup since 1967, and Tavares just couldn't say no to that opportunity.
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