- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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Twenty minutes before a team-scheduled news conference, Tavares officially signed a six-year contract extension that will keep him an Islander through 2018.
The deal is worth $33 million, a source told ESPNNewYork.com Wednesday. Tavares will receive $4 million in the first year, $5 million in the second, then $6 million each of remaining four years, a source told ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun.
The new face of the franchise, who turns 21 next week, thanked fans, teammates and the organization for their support since he became the first overall pick in the 2009 draft.
And despite a recently failed arena referendum and uncertainty about where the team will play after its lease expires in 2015, Tavares reciprocated by giving a multiyear commitment.
"This is where I wanted to live, play and ultimately lead our team to a Stanley Cup," Tavares said.
General manager Garth Snow said talks began in July with Tavares and his agent, Pat Brisson.
"Obviously it was a priority to get John signed," Snow said. "We could've waited another year to do that, but when you have a special player like John my own preference is to be proactive."
When initial discussions began, Tavares said, the two sides did not have a large gap to close. That spurred both sides to come to a resolution quickly.
"We started talking and both sides were very close," Tavares said, "and we felt that if we were close there was no reason to let it hang over our heads."
Tavares is returning after a sophomore season where he finished with 29 goals and 38 assists. He heads into the 2011-12 season on the last year of his entry-level deal.
During a turbulent season that included a 13-game winless streak and a coaching change, speculation was rampant that Tavares would bolt the beleaguered franchise as soon as he became a free agent.
"I don't know if I'd say it bothered me as much as I just didn't quite understand it," Tavares said. "People might have a misperception about our hockey team, and I know we can get buried under the radar, but I know what it's about here."
Said Snow: "It's obvious than when people make the type of commitments they have, that they have the utmost respect for [owner Charles Wang] and the organization.
Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPNNewYork.com.
14hDanny Knobler, Special to ESPN.com