New York Islanders: Grading the Mathew Barzal deal that makes perfect sense

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

Let’s grade the Mathew Barzal extension with the New York Islanders.

After holding out for much of camp, a breakthrough was finally made on Saturday after Mathew Barzal signed a three-year, $21 million contract.

It keeps the superstar forward on Long Island through the 2022-23 season and probably beyond because, by that point, the Islanders should have enough cap space to be able to give their most prized asset a long-term deal.

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However, for now, we’re going to assess the contract that was signed this weekend by Mathew Barzal and the Isles, and then attempt to give it a final grade.

Bridge Deal Makes Sense For All

It was believed that the holdup to this contract getting signed was that both the New York Islanders and Mat Barzal wanted a longer-term deal, perhaps similar to the one Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner signed in 2019, or the one signed by Mikko Rantanen of the Colorado Avalanche recently.

However, due to a perfect storm of Isles General Manager Lou Lamoriello not being able to clear enough contracts off the books and the current financial state the NHL is in due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, both sides settled for a three-year bridge deal.

And it was the right decision.

For starters, it gives Lamoriello and the Islanders three years to create the cap space they will need to sign Barzal to a longer and much bigger deal at the end of the 2022-23 season, with Barzal eligible for a $8.4 million Qualifying Offer according to CapFriendly.

As for Barzal, he now has three years to continue on his current upwards trajectory and, if he’s able to take that next giant leap in his game, then expect a blockbuster payday to follow with the NHL and the world hopefully in a better place by the time we get to the 2023 offseason.

Mathew Barzal (13)
Mathew Barzal #13 of the New York Islanders. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The most important aspect of this deal for the New York Islanders, however, is the fact that they retain the services of one of the best and most exciting young forwards in the National Hockey League for at least the next three years.

While Barzal has had to sacrifice some of his natural flair and swagger in order to fit into Head Coach Barry Trotz’s rigid, defense-first system, the 23-year-old is still an offensive juggernaut for the Islanders.

He recorded 60 points (19 G, 41 A) in 68 regular-season games in 2019-20, while he exploded in the postseason with 5 goals and 12 assists for 17 points in 22 Stanley Cup Playoff contests.

Furthermore, Barzal has 207 points (59 G, 148 A) in 234 career NHL games, and that offensive production should only get better the older the center gets, and perhaps having one or two more elite weapons placed around him will also help.

Boasting elite puck-handling skills, elite vision, stellar skating, an incredible wrist shot and high-end vision, Barzal is pretty much the complete package when it comes to an offensive forward.

Yes, he needs to hone his defensive game and work on his ability in the faceoff circle, where he has a career win percentage of 42.0%, but that will come under the guidance of Barry Trotz.

It wouldn’t be surprising either if Mathew Barzal’s ATOI spikes in 2020-21 given that the Islanders will probably lean a lot more on their star asset in a 56-game schedule, and that could result in a huge offensive output.

Mathew Barzal (13)
Mathew Barzal #13 of the New York Islanders. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

Grading The Trade

As we mentioned above, a three-year bridge deal makes a lot of sense for both the New York Islanders and Mathew Barzal right now.

After all, Barzal was never going to get the term or the money that Mitchell Marner got with the Toronto Maple Leafs or Mikko Ratanen got from the Colorado Avalanche because of the current financial landscape in the NHL.

The Islanders were also not in a position to commit to a big AAV given their cap constraints in a flat cap world, with the team now currently over the flat cap of $81.5 million by $3.09 million.

Now, per CapFriendly, they can place defenseman Johnny Boychuk on LTIR (Long-Term Injured Reserve) which would get them cap compliant by Opening Night next week, although they still have to make the signings of goaltender Cory Schneider, defenseman Andy Greene and forwards Matt Martin and Dmytro Timashov official, so there is still some work to be done.

However, the biggest and most important priority this offseason for the New York Islanders was to get their jewel in the crown with huge upside locked down to a new contract, and they’ve accomplished just that.

Better late than never, as they say.

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Of course, they will now hope that Mathew Barzal earns every cent of his $7 million AAV and, if he does just that and continues to light up the NHL while taking this franchise closer and closer to the promised land, then the New York Islanders and GM Lou Lamoriello will be more than happy to cough up a lot more money in three years time.

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Overall, this is a pretty good deal for the New York Islanders and Mathew Barzal and, given the elite forward’s high upside, it will only age well over the next three years if the franchise cornerstone continues to do what he does best.

And that is to torment the rest of the NHL.