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NHL: Islanders’ top priority is to re-sign John Tavares

After missing the playoffs for the second straight year, and eighth time in the last 11, the New York Islanders head into the offseason with much work to be done.

The most important task is signing captain John Tavares, who is set to be a free agent this summer.

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Tavares has said all along he hopes to be back with the only franchise for which he has played, but doesn't know what will happen. But with the regular season having just ended, he needs to take a breather first.

"Take some time to not even think about hockey for a few days," Tavares said Monday. "And then prepare for the offseason and training, and obviously the contract will come up here as well."

Tavares, 27, just wrapped up the final year of a six-year, $33-million contract, and would be the top free agent available July 1. The face of the Islanders since they selected him No. 1 overall in the 2009 draft, Tavares had 37 goals and 47 assists this season, finishing a goal and an assist shy of the career highs he set in 2014-15.

"This is where I hope to be and I've stated that," he said. "Just have to take some time and figure out what I want to do."

Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky and general manager Garth Snow have repeatedly said they want Tavares to return, and Snow reiterated that Monday.

"We want to be in a situation where he has the Stanley Cup in his hand, wearing an Islanders jersey, and we want him to retire as an Islander," Snow said.

Rangers fire two top assistants

After firing coach Alain Vigneault, the New York Rangers have also dismissed two of his top assistants.

Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton said that associate coach Scott Arniel and Darryl Williams were let go Sunday. Gorton said Lindy Ruff is still on staff and intends to speak with him before deciding on his future.

Gorton said the decision to fire Vigneault was made in the last week of the season. The announcement Saturday night came hours after a 5-0 loss at Philadelphia in the season finale.

The Rangers were 226-147-37 in five seasons under Vigneault. They were in the playoffs four times, reaching the Stanley Cup Final in his initial season in 2014. This season, they finished last in the Metropolitan Division, missing the postseason for the first time since 2010.

"AV has been a terrific coach in the league, he's been a really good coach for the Rangers," Gorton said. "After five years we just think it's time for a change."

All-Star moves

The NHL is moving up its All-Star skills competition and game next season.

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After years of holding the skills competition on Saturday night and the All-Star game on Sunday, the NHL is moving each event up a day for the 2019 weekend hosted by the San Jose Sharks. The skills competition will take place Friday, Jan. 25 and the game Saturday, Jan. 26 at SAP Center.

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