The New York Islanders confirmed with amNewYork Metro on Saturday morning that they have agreed to terms with star restricted free agent Mathew Barzal.
The team will not disclose the parameters of the contract at this time, but a source told AMNY Metro that it’s a three-year deal with an average annual salary of $7 million. The 23-year-old center will make $4 million for the 2021 season, $7 million for 2021-22, and $10 million in the final year of the deal.
Barzal and the Islanders left an agreement late with just five days separating them from the regular-season opener at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers. Due to the Islanders’ financial cap space — or lack thereof it — the two parties were reportedly a ways apart in initial negotiations, with Barzal looking for a five-to-six year deal with an average annual salary coming in over the $9 million mark.
“I would say there was never any frustration,” Barzal said. “It was more so I love the game and I was anxious. I wanted to get out with the boys… I thought today, just being back… I was just happy to be back out there. I love playing hockey and we have a great group so it always makes it fun to be out there.”
He admitted that he would’ve signed a long-term deal but cited the uncertainties that are a byproduct of the pandemic, all while squashing any notion that he wanted to play elsewhere.
“The whole negotiation… was totally respectable on both sides,” Barzal said. “I think it’s pretty clear that I love it on the Island. The thought that I wanted to go somewhere else… I love being here. It’s a fun place to be and a fun place to play. None of those thoughts… never started to sink in.”
While the final legs of negotiations came to a head — all while Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello and teammates remained confident a deal would be done —Barzal was in New York recognizing COVID protocols to ensure he could immediately join the team upon the deal’s agreement.
“I’m glad it’s worked out and he can rejoin us today… happy it’s all done for him and our team and it’s exciting to get things started,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said.
Just moments after the Islanders confirmed it, Barzal was on the ice at training camp.
We have a new addition to today’s scrimmage… 👀 pic.twitter.com/PcwRXUHOnq
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) January 9, 2021
“Same ol’ Barzy,” Lee said of his returning teammate’s skill on the ice.
It wasn’t a moment too soon for head coach Barry Trotz, either, judging by his comments earlier this week.
“If you’re going to start the season, you have to get going right away,” Trotz said on Wednesday. “We’ve grinded, we’ve done what we do as an organization, as a franchise, and how we play, I don’t know if you can replicate what we’re doing if you’ve been out for a while.
“We’re going to have live bullets in a week from now. It’s going to be tough for anyone who’s trying to catch up.”
The star center is the most recognizable face of the Islanders franchise having led the team in points in each of the last three seasons.
“Barzy is a special guy, a special player,” Lee said. “He’s always got something great to say and always has some great play to make. He brings it every day… he’s someone who cares deeply not only about his game, but the guys around him and that makes him a special person. He’s the cornerstone of our team a little bit.”