Islanders' Mathew Barzal focused on resuming season, not upcoming contract negotiations
The negotiations toward a new contract will come in the offseason. That’s because impending restricted free agent Mathew Barzal shares the belief of Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello that more hockey will be played, even with the NHL season on pause since March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I don’t think there’s been too much communication, and not because there’s been anything negative,” Barzal said Friday on a conference call. “Lou’s getting ready for a playoff run right now and I’m still worried about this season as well. I’m not too, too worried about it just because I don’t think the season’s over. I still think we’re going to be playing, so there’s bigger things we’ve got to worry about right now in terms of getting into the playoffs this year.
“At the same time, whenever we’re ready to sit down and get it done, I’d love for that to happen,” added Barzal, who is completing a three-year, $2.775 million entry-level deal.
Barzal is back home with his family in the Vancouver, British Columbia, area, but he stayed on Long Island for a couple of weeks after the season was paused, hoping he would be able to resume skating at the Islanders’ practice facility in East Meadow.
“I kept calling Lou to get updates because I was figuring if we weren’t going to be able to go back to the rink, I’d go back to Vancouver and hang with my family,” said Barzal, who leads the Islanders with 41 assists and 60 points in 68 games and is three goals shy of tying his career high of 22. “Lou gave me some really good advice, to just be patient. There’s a pause on life right now and we’ve just got to do the things we’re being told and that’s just how it is. That was really great advice he gave me. So I’ve just been trying to keep calm.”
The Islanders went into the forced hiatus on an 0-3-4 slide and a point out of a playoff berth with 14 regular-season games remaining on their schedule.
Barzal said he is “pretty confident” that the Islanders would have qualified for the playoffs if play had continued and said he is open to any format. That includes sequestering all the teams in one location.
“Yeah, I saw the rumors,” he said. “I’d be cool with playing a different style or a different format, something cool like that to offset this year just because it is a different year.
“I think the NHL has a great opportunity here if we do get a chance to play to make it a unique scenario because of what’s going on,” he added. “I just think they can be creative with it, if they do get the green light. Attract viewers for this one-time thing going on.”
NHL players are in self-quarantine through Wednesday — that still could be extended again — and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said this week that “nothing has been ruled out, nothing has been ruled in” with regard to whether the regular season will be completed or what the playoff format will be if play is able to resume.
Barzal, 22, does not think he would have an issue quickly getting back into playing shape if the season resumes, nor would he mind playing deep into the summer.
“It’s the NHL’s call,” he said. “They are the ones that need to make money and have us under contracts. Whatever they decide, I’m ready to go, and so will be our team.”