Keeping players on Long Island has never been a problem for the New York Islanders.
All things equal, with one recent and infamous exception, players want to remain on the Island once they land here. It's a wonderful place to live - especially when you have money.
For younger players that were drafted by the Islanders, like Mathew Barzal, the proximity to New York City is a major selling point. "I love it out there. I think it’s underrated," said Barzal last summer on the 32 Thoughts Podcast. "It doesn’t get talked about enough the lifestyle you can live on Long Island, being in New York, you just have so much around you."
Barzal inked an eight-year contract extension before the season, demonstrating how much he enjoys being here professionally and personally. The same can be said for players such as Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey, Casey Cizikas, Adam Pelech, and Ryan Pulock. All home-grown Islanders who potentially could play their entire career on Long Island. Then there are players that were acquired via trade and have wanted to remain, including Cal Clutterbuck and previously Jordan Eberle, before he was left unprotected in the expansion draft. Matt Martin was offered a great deal by the Toronto Maple Leafs and left as a free agent, only to be reacquired and then sign a contract extension.
Then there's Bo Horvat. Unlike his aforementioned teammates, Horvat signed an eight-year contract extension days after being acquired via trade from the Vancouver Canucks. At 27 years old (now 28), with a wife and young kids, he made the decision to make Long Island his own based on what he was told by his new teammates and players around the league.
"I don’t know why this place has gotten that reputation from a lot people. I think it’s such a hidden gem for many reasons: Living, family, the organization, the team, the facilities — I love it here and I’ve only been here for three months."- Bo Horvat
There are many reasons why the Islanders weren't considered front-runners for free agents in years past. The franchise had not achieved sustainable success and the arena drama between the aging Nassau Coliseum and Barclays Center made them appear minor league even if the lifestyle was great to live as a player.
However, since the hiring of GM Lou Lamoriello, there's been a serious about the organization that wasn't there for decades. That, coupled with making the playoffs four out of the last five seasons plus having a new home rink in UBS Arena and a practice facility, the team should be able to compete for the top free agents - if when they have the cap space to do it.
“Just the way it’s run, it’s first-class,” Horvat said in AMNY. “From top-to-bottom, everybody is taking care of you from Lou and ownership. The resources, the access to everything, it’s a world-class organization and I’m proud to be part of it… so I’m looking forward to spending another eight years here.”