COLUMBUS, Ohio — Of course, Mathew Barzal was aware of the Devils locking up Nico Hischier, the first overall pick in 2017, with a seven-year, $50.75 million deal on Friday. It’s just human nature for one impending restricted free agent to take notice of another agreeing to a lucrative extension.
The Islanders’ top-line center, represented by CAA’s Pat Brisson, will be an RFA without arbitration rights come July 1. Right now, that’s not foremost on his mind.
“At this point, it’s really just between my agent and Lou [Lamoriello] right now,” Barzal told Newsday on Saturday before the Islanders concluded a two-game road trip against the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. “I don’t talk to Lou about contract stuff. If it happens in the next two months or if it happens in June, it doesn’t really matter to me. I’m just focused on the season right now.
“It’s something that eventually is going to happen,” Barzal added. “I’m pretty good at just kind of pushing that stuff aside and just worrying about what’s going on right now.”
Which is not to say Barzal is not paying attention to the RFA market. He said he believed Hischier’s deal is one that eventually “could look really good for New Jersey.”
“He’s a great player, I think he deserved it,” Barzal said. “I think the first two years it’s a good deal for Nico. He’s going to be a pretty good player. After that, I think it’s pretty team friendly.”
Barzal is not going to talk numbers publicly. But Hischier’s annual average value of $7.25 million could be well shy of what Barzal ultimately seeks and, at 22, he may not be willing to agree to a deal that would take away any of his years of unrestricted free agency. He can be an UFA at 27.
It’s quite possible the more comparable contract will be the six-year, $55.5 million deal ($9.25 AAV) that 22-year-old right wing Mikko Rantanen signed with the Avalanche on Sept. 28.
Center Auston Matthews, the first overall pick in 2016, got a five-year, $58.17 million ($11.6 AAV) from the Maple Leafs that starts this season and Toronto also signed 22-year-old right wing Mitch Marner to a six-year, $65.36 million ($10.89 million AAV) deal on Sept. 13.