Mathew Barzal said he’s confident he’ll sign a contract with the New York Islanders for next season and beyond, but there haven’t been talks during the NHL season pause.
The center, who can become be a restricted free agent after this season, leads the Islanders with 60 points (19 goals, 41 assists) in 68 games. A first-round pick (No. 16) by New York in the 2015 NHL Draft, he was voted the Calder Trophy winner as NHL rookie of the year in 2017-18 and has 207 points (59 goals, 148 assists) in 234 games.
“To be honest with you guys, I don’t think there’s been too much communication, and not because there’s anything negative or anything, it’s just [general manager Lou Lamoriello is] getting ready for a playoff run right now, and I’m still worried about this season as well,” Barzal said Friday. “I’m not too too worried about it, just because I don’t think the season is over yet. I think we’re still going to be playing.
“There’s bigger things we’ve got to worry about right now in terms of heading to the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs this year. But at the same time, whenever we’re ready to sit down and get it done, I’d love for that to happen. At the same time, I’m not a person that’s just going to rush this thing or get nervous about it or whatever. I’m just going about my day, and it’ll happen when it happens.”
Lamoriello said last month the Islanders would match an offer sheet if Barzal were to sign one.
Barzal and his teammates headed back to New York from Calgary when the NHL paused the season March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. The Islanders (35-23-10) lost their last seven games (0-3-4) before the pause and are one point behind the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets for a wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference, with Columbus having played two more games than New York and Carolina.
But Barzal echoed coach Barry Trotz, who told NHL.com in an interview published Tuesday that he believed the Islanders would make the playoffs.
“I think everyone knows our record wasn’t great the last [seven] games, but there was some positive stuff,” Barzal said. “It was just a matter of results at that point, because our mindset was still the same and we were still as competitive as ever. Just tough bounces, it’s a tough time of year, every game is crucial, it comes down to one or two plays every game. It just seemed like we couldn’t find those plays. We still had 14 games left. We just had had a team meeting where we kind of put it all out there and realized we do have 14 games, we’re not in the playoffs right now, we’ve got to buckle down. I think everyone was excited to go on the last little run of games there because it’s fun competing for a playoff spot.
“My first year, we weren’t in the playoffs I think with 11 or 12 games left. It was really no fun. You just really didn’t have a sense of competitiveness, whereas being in the playoff fight the last two years has been a blast for me and my teammates. I was pretty confident we were still going to make the playoffs.”
With the season paused, the 22-year-old is staying at his parents’ home in Vancouver.
“I’m getting some homemade meals and eating like a king,” Barzal said. “I can’t complain there. I’m trying to stay busy, trying to work out as much as I can. That’s pretty much all I can do right now.
“I have a lot of energy when I’m around the rink, just like messing with guys and just being around my teammates and having fun at the rink, that’s my favorite part of life really. Not being able to do that has been just tough. I’ve been going crazy. I’m killing my dad in Ping-Pong and I’m killing my sister in Ping-Pong and I’m like getting excited about it because there’s nothing competitive in my life right now. That’s all I’ve got. It’s been tough, but I’m just trying to keep busy.”