That means he will be able to get true market value and sign wherever he wants. And general manager Lou Lamoriello understands does not begrudge the star center the opportunity.
"I have no disappointment. No discouragement," Lamoriello said on Saturday, per ESPN's Greg Wyshynski. "He's earned every right to make whatever choice he has. The most important thing is that we hope in the end that he's an Islander."
Tavares' agent Pat Brisson revealed, per Wyshynski, that his client is currently scheduled to visit at least five teams. The Dallas Stars, San Jose Sharks, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs and Vegas Golden Knights are all expected to meet with the free agent.
While New York fans may not like the fact that Tavares could be considering going elsewhere, the general manager understands it's a business.
"I don't look at it like it's a surprise," Lamoriello said. "I respect him. He has a right to do that. The important thing is that he's an Islander at the end."
Tavares has gone on the record in the past to make it known that he would be open to an extension with the Islanders:
"I mean, I've always stated how much I enjoy playing on Long Island, and the organization, how well they've supported me. Obviously, we've had some new ownership come in. They've brought some real good commitment and show their vision for the future. I'm excited about where the Islanders are headed and hopefully we can work something out."
Those comments were made back in January 2017, and no deal has been reached since. As a result, he now has the opportunity to test the open market.
A two-time Hart Trophy finalist, Tavares has piled up 272 goals, 349 assists and 621 points in 669 games for the Islanders in his nine-year career. He had 37 goals, 47 assists and 84 points in 2017-18.
"I think the John Tavares situation is in good hands," new Islanders coach Barry Trotz said this week, according to the Sporting News' Jim Cerny. "I've reached out to him, as well, and we had a great conversation."