The kid who won the Calder is officially here to stay with the NY Islanders for the long haul after inking an eight-year contract extension, with a cap hit of $9.15M as first reported by Elliotte Friedman.
Loyalty is rewarded in Barzal's extension with the NY Islanders
Mathew Barzal has been very outspoken throughout this offseason, even before then, about wanting to stay with the Islanders for his entire career. He clearly values that as a part of his legacy along with building and keeping a winning culture with the team, which would explain why he decided to extend now rather than after another season of play.
"I'd love to play my career on Long Island. I take a lot of pride in that. All my favourite athletes of all time — Michael Jordan, Sidney Crosby … Tom Brady's in Tampa now, but for so long [was in New England]. That's just a really cool thing."- Barzal on playing with only one team
Barzal raved about how much he adapted from the western Canadian lifestyle to the more eastern lifestyle on Long Island when talking to Friedman on his "32 Thoughts" podcast while in Las Vagas for the Player Media Tour. He golfs quite a lot over the summer with his teammates, who he also spoke very highly about.
This was part of the vision GM Lou Lamoriello and previous head coach Barry Trotz had of creating a winning culture when they joined the Islanders organization and built it in their image. Playing for each other to do what is necessary to win games, including a strong defensive game, was a huge emphasis for them, and team leaders such as Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, and Josh Bailey bought into that right away, Barzal being no different.
Barzal knows he has to be better in his own end for this team to win and has stated that he will continue to work on it, and comes across as genuine. Lamoriello appears to be the most responsible for preaching loyalty to these players, and Barzal has nothing but respect and admiration for the soon-to-be 80 years old hockey executive.
"I'm a massive fan of him and the structure he brings in and you know, one day when I’m older, I’m gonna take things with me, you know, that I learned from him, hopefully, in a management role one day."- Barzal on Lamoriello
Barzal was entering his contract year going into the 2022-23 season, and even though he earned himself a $2.15 million raise per year with this contract, there is a possibility he could have left some money on the table in the open market. He was able to sign this deal after one of his weakest seasons since entering the league, albeit leading the team in scoring with 15 goals and 59 points in 73 games, along with a tolerable WAR% of 70%.
Many players of his caliber during their contract seasons use that as motivation to bring their offensive games to a new level, but Barzal chose to lock himself into the Long Island lifestyle until 2030-31 before negotiations could get to that point.
Of course, what comes with a contract of this nature is how it will pay off. Considering the NHL's salary cap is estimated to go up to around $92 million in the next few seasons, this contract has the potential to age nicely for the talented top-line center of a team that is looking to compete now and in the future. His analytics are not bad at all, considering his lower point totals for the past few seasons and his lackluster defense, with him still being recognized as an elite offensive presence on a team that is lacking that offensive firepower. His power-play presence will be key to watch this upcoming season under new head coach Lane Lambert, who, along with Lamoriello, wants to employ a little more offensive freedom into their schemes.
There was a time when Islanders fans didn't know what to think about Barzal's future with the team, understandably since the departure of another franchise star left fans wondering if he would do the same. Many who were sure of his loyalty to the team can point to the moment when John Tavares was thanked for his time as an Islander with a video played in front of 14,000 bitter fans at the Coliseum. Old teammates tapped their sticks for him, except Barzal, who would just stare him down, very telling of his opinion on Tavares' decision to leave the team that drafted him.
What matters now is that the Islanders have some certainty as to how their team will be constructed for the foreseeable future. And that the youthful face of the franchise, the one that gets fans out of their seats with his rushes up ice, will be doing so for the next nine seasons on the Island.