Mathew Barzal hopes to have a new contract before the start of the season. Even if not, the Islanders’ top playmaker is still willing to negotiate during the season.
Either way, on Day 1 of training camp, he seemed comfortable that something would eventually get done as he enters the last season of a three-year, $21 million deal.
“I’ve said it before, I would obviously really like to have a deal here,” Barzal said on Thursday at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow. “Hopefully, there’s still two weeks before the season and we can hammer something out. If not, I’m not really worried about it just because my heart is here and I know I’ll get something fair and something both sides will be happy about.”
“Anytime you’re on your last year of your deal, it’s in the back of your mind. At the end of the day, team success translates to individual success. As long as this team is winning and we’re in the hunt for a Stanley Cup, individual success will come.”
The 25-year-old Barzal will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next offseason so the Islanders will likely retain his services one way or the other. But agreeing to a long-term deal — Barzal can sign for a maximum of eight seasons with the average annual value likely to be around $9.5 million — seems to be what both sides want.
President and general manager Lou Lamoriello said on Monday of Barzal, “I’m his biggest fan.”
Barzal said that mutual respect with Lamoriello fuels his confidence in a new deal being reached.
“It’s never bashing,” Barzal said. “It’s never, ‘You’re worth this or that.’ It’s always fair. It’s always honest. When you have that mutual respect, you always want to run through a wall for a guy like that. That’s kind of where my head is at.
“When I’m older, I’m going to take things with me that I learned from him hopefully in a management role one day.”
Barzal, who had 15 goals and 44 assists in 73 games last season, said he wants his game to become more consistent while working on his back-checking and ability to strip the puck.
Finding suitable linemates — an issue all last season for former coach Barry Trotz — is a priority for new coach Lane Lambert.
“It’s a fair question,” Lambert said. “But, as I told our players, we’re looking forward. We won’t look at the past and why that was. We’ll figure out a way to move forward.”
Barzal skated with Zach Parise and prospect Simon Holmstrom on Thursday.
Notes & quotes: Lambert on his first day on-ice as Islanders coach: “It was good. It was about what I expected. There were no surprises." . . . Defenseman Isaiah George, who appeared to injure his leg on Monday during development camp, and forwards Collin Adams and Otto Koivula did not practice . . . Defenseman Bode Wilde, a second-round pick in 2018 who did not receive a COVID-19 vaccine and was loaned to play in Europe last season as a result, is not at training camp.