There was no flashbulb or “aha!” moment for Mathew Barzal when it comes to his love for Long Island.
The 25-year-old has been here for much of the last seven years since he was drafted by the New York Islanders in 16th overall in 2015. So when speculation began about his future heading into his contract year in 2022-23, he made it known that his “heart is here.”
He backed up that talk on Tuesday when he agreed to an eight-year, $73.2 million deal to keep him with the Islanders and in his adopted hometown for the foreseeable future.
“It just kind of develops. Right from when I got drafted, I kind of knew,” Barzal told amNewYork on Wednesday about his admiration for Long Island. “I really loved it here and it felt like it was home. I come from a small town in Vancouver and it’s a little smaller here, but the city is 30 minutes away and I can’t tell you how much I love New York City. It’s been a gradual thing where this has become home. This is where I want to be.”
Over the life of this contract it’ll be his responsibility to be a fixture of an Islanders team that will look to take the next step toward becoming perennial contenders. If that was abundantly clear enough as the organization’s most gifted playmaker, it is now with his new deal in hand.
“There was never really a decision. I never had talks with anyone about playing anywhere else,” Barzal said on Tuesda. “It was about getting signed, getting committed to the boys and this organization.”
That rare mixture of excitement and relief has trickled down to his teammates, including Kyle Palmieri — who is expected to be a main benefactor of Barzal’s talismanic ways by flanking him on the right wing.
“It’s obviously well deserved,” Palmieri said. “It’s probably not something he wanted to think about all year and get asked about it. It’s nice that it’s out of the way. We’re excited that he’s signed for that long. We’re all happy to have him.”
But even Barzal himself admitted on Wednesday that it’s a new day. The time to celebrate that life-changing deal has already passed. Now it’s on to a new season, which is just eight days away.
“The next step for me is literally about winning. I want to be the best player I can be and one of the best players in the league an be that guy for this organization,” Barzal said. “It comes down to just winning, genuinely. Committing here for eight years is like trying to bring a Stanley Cup here back to Long Island. That’s the ultimate goal.”