Mathew Barzal has the ability to block out any sort of exterior chatter, especially when it comes to his future with the New York Islanders.
The 25-year-old center is entering the final year of his contract as the Islanders’ central playmaker within an organization that has certainly felt the stinging spurn of other potential franchise players in recent years.
On the first day of on-ice activities at training camp, however, Barzal continues to draw the hard line that can’t see himself playing anywhere else.
“Any time you’re on your last year of a deal it’s in the back of your mind,” Barzal said. “My heart is here and I know that I’ll get something fair and both sides will be happy about it.”
It’s a message that Barzal relayed to Sportsnet during NHL Media Day last week — and a message of admiration that is mutually felt by general manager and team president Lou Lamoriello.
The Hall-of-Fame executive, who is normally tight-lipped about players, claimed that he was Barzal’s “biggest fan” earlier this week, though he wouldn’t delve into any updates about negotiations.
With two weeks left before the regular season starts, a deadline is usually set for contract negotiations to stop when the games begin to count.
But that isn’t the case for Barzal.
“For Lou to say that the other day was a huge compliment and I’m a massive fan of him and the structure he brings,” Barzal said. “Hopefully, there’s two weeks before the season and we can hammer something out. If not, I’m not really worried about it.
“I’m open to anything. I’m not really a superstitious guy. When it comes it comes. I don’t go home, pace around, and think about it all day. Just work my hardest, try to prove to them… I want them to want me — want me to be here for a while and I feel like Lou does just from having chats with him. Hopefully, we can get it done. That’s all I can say.”
Barzal added that there is “always respect” between him and Lamoriello regardless of the status of his deal, which makes him “want to run through a wall for somebody like that.”
Such tenacity will only help the center’s game as he’ll once again be looked upon to facilitate an offensive that has battled inconsistencies throughout his NHL tenure. His 59 points (15 goals, 44 assists), were the lowest he’s had as a pro in a season of 60 games or more.
“At the end of the day, team success translates to individual success,” Barzal said. “As long as this team is winning and we’re in the playoffs and in the hunt for the Stanley Cup, individual success will come. Just focused on setting a good example at camp, set the pace, and be the player I know I can be.”
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