After the John Tavares experience, the New York Islanders fanbase is cautiously optimistic, and understandably so, when the current face-of-the-franchise talks about wanting to spend his entire career on Long Island. But at training camp on Thursday, Mathew Barzal struck a different tone when speaking about his desire to stay with the organization than the former captain ever did.
Earlier this week, SportsNet's Elliotte Freidman reported that the Islanders and Barzal had begun talks about a contract extension weeks before the start of the 2022-23 season. The Islanders center is entering the final year of a three-year bridge contract that will keep him a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) heading into the summer. A deal does not have to get done now, but based on Barzal's comments on Thursday, it's not something he's opposed to.
" There’s still two weeks before the season and we can hammer something out. If not, I’m not really worried about it just because my heart’s here and I know that it gets something fair and for something both sides would be happy about."- Mathew Barzal
His heart is here. That's great to hear, of course. We also know he loves the golf courses, the food, and the culture that are made available when living in the greater metropolitan area. But what was more encouraging to hear was the admiration the matured Barzal has for the organization and its General Manager Lou Lamoriello.
"I think the great thing about here is just having Lou is there’s always respect. It’s never bashing and there’s never, ‘Your worth, this or that’, it’s always fair. It’s always honest. And when you have that mutual respect, I think you always want to go run through a wall for a guy like that. So that’s kind of where my head’s at."
"He’s ready to prove a lot of things, and I got total confidence, and I’m his biggest fan."- Lamoriello on Barzal
The compliment to Lamoriello's ways of working following the GM's public praising of Barzal's work ethic and leadership. "We expect a lot out of him. He expects a lot out of himself,” Lamoriello said on Monday. “And he’s worked very hard during the summer for that. You know, he’s without question one of our leaders, you know, without question, probably our most talented player, and he’s committed without question."
Lamoriello is tight-lipped, especially about contract negotiations, so while specifics were not shared, outwardly commending Barzal in that manner speaks volumes about his feelings towards the player, the status of negotiations and the likelihood of a deal getting done - possibly before the puck drops on the 2022-23 season. Lamoriello articulated that Barzal is committed to winning, the next step is the two sides committing to each other.