New York Islanders: Holdout drama over as Mathew Barzal gets his deal

Mathew Barzal #13 of the New York Islanders. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)
Mathew Barzal #13 of the New York Islanders. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images) /

Mathew Barzal is finally getting paid by the New York Islanders.

After a lengthy standoff between the two, peace has broken out after the New York Islanders signed RFA forward Mathew Barzal to a three-year, $21 million contract, as first reported by David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period. 

The deal carries an Average Annual Value of $7 million and Barzal will be an RFA with Arbitration rights once the contract expires at the end of the 2022-23 season.

This news will come as a massive relief to Islanders fans who have been made to sweat over the last 10 plus days as Barzal wasn’t present at Training Camp due to his contract holdout, while General Manager Lou Lamoriello and Head Coach Barry Trotz will also be thrilled that their biggest asset can now get back on the ice ready for the start of the 2020-21 NHL season next week.

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Granted, the Isles probably would have wanted a longer-term for their most prized possession, but this is a deal that works out well for both parties.

For instance, Barzal gets his money and a lot of it for the next three years, while also getting the opportunity to put himself in line for a huge payday once again in the not too distant future if he can continue on this current upwards trajectory.

And, for the New York Islanders, they get their superstar forward under contract for at least three years which will allow them to move other contracts off the book in order to be in a position to give Barzal a long-term deal in three years time.

After all, it was reported by Darren Dreger of TSN that both Lamoriello and Barzal wanted a six-year contract but, due to the cap crunch the Islanders find themselves in, both sides eventually settled on a bridge deal.

It also means that the biggest remaining Restricted Free Agent is now off the board, and both the Islanders and Barzal can shift their focus to the 2020-21 season and continuing to establish this team as a powerhouse.

With two deep postseason runs in as many years, including a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2019-20, the Islanders are poised to win now and Barzal is central to their hopes of bringing the glory days back to Long Island.

Recording 207 points (59 G, 148 A) in 234 career NHL games, Mathew Barzal is a transcendent talent and he’s exactly the type of player you want to build an entire franchise around.

Blessed with elite skating and puck-handling abilities, coupled with a stellar wrist shot and high-end vision, the 23-year-old is a premier offensive threat who can make things happen in an instant.

Granted, the right shot has had to sacrifice some of his natural flair and swagger in order to fit into Head Coach Barry Trotz’s rigid but hugely successful defense system, the kind of team-first approach that is a prerequisite condition of playing for a Lou Lamoriello led team.

However, despite having to make some adjustments to his game, Barzal is still a bluechip offensive producer for this Islanders team, putting up 60 points (19 G, 41 A) in 68 regular season games in 2019-20, while he exploded in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 5 goals and 12 assists for 17 points in 22 contests.

Barzal’s ice time jumped up last year to an ATOI of 20:03 during the regular season, and his possession metrics were also impressive as backed up by his 51.7% CF% and 57.8% oZS%.

Mathew Barzal (13)
New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (13). Mandatory Credit: Gerry Thomas-USA TODAY Sports /

Now, there is probably room for improvement when it comes to certain defensive facets of the game, including inside the faceoff circle where Barzal has a career winning percentage of 42.0%.

But, it is worth keeping in mind that the center is still only 23-years-old and he’s only going to improve, while continuing to work under the guidance of Trotz will ensure that he becomes a more polished player defensively.

More important to the Islanders, though, is Barzal’s offensive upside and he has shown time and time again that he is one of the best young forwards in the game, using his blistering speed and insane passing ability to open up games torment opponents.

Could Barzal use another weapon or two around him in order to truly flourish with the Isles? Perhaps and you will have to think that will be a priority for Lamoriello the closer this team gets to the Stanley Cup and once they can move some contracts off the books.

But, for now at least, Mathew Barzal will continue to be the sparkling jewel in the crown for the New York Islanders and he will be expected to carry this team on his shoulders deep into the postseason once again.

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And, if he can do that while continuing to establish his reputation as an offensive juggernaut, then expect the player to receive an even bigger payday in three years time.