Published On: Sun, Aug 21st, 2016

Tavares still processing departures of Okposo, Nielsen

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Mike Stobe / National Hockey League / Getty

John Tavares will soon be faced with the reality of change in the New York Islanders locker room after an offseason of notable roster moves.

Gone are forwards Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo, both of whom were valued teammates in the captain’s eyes.

“It hasn’t even really sunk in, maybe until you don’t see them at training camp or during the season, and that hasn’t happened yet,” Tavares told Arthur Staple of Newsday. “I don’t think people realize how much I lean on Kyle and Frans, as well as guys like Travis (Hamonic), Clutter (Cal Clutterbuck), Johnny Boychuk.

“Having those different perspectives is a huge help. And personally for me, you go through a lot of ups and downs and you’re trying to manage a lot of things. When you have people you can rely on, especially with those friendships I have with Kyle and Frans are deep.”

One of the veteran players brought in to fill the void left by the departure of Tavares’ alternate captains is winger Andrew Ladd, with whom he is already familiar and looking forward to adding to the locker room.

“I know Ladder a bit – he’s got a great family, he’s a leader and the two Cups he’s won, he’s been through a lot in his career,” Tavares said. “He’s someone to definitely really count on and will make a great impact in our room. Someone who’s been through it and succeeded will be great for our young guys. He’ll be someone I lean on in a lot of areas.”

Tavares himself can become an unrestricted free agent in 2018, with the opportunity to sign a contract extension as early as July 1, 2017. Ownership has made it quite clear they intend to lock him up as soon as possible, using some of the money saved by not re-signing Okposo and Nielsen to boost the star’s current team-friendly average annual valuation.

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