As the first day of New York Islanders training camp opened on Sunday, there was one glaring absence. Mathew Barzal remained unsigned, but that didn’t sway the level of confidence that his fellow teammates had that a deal would get done.
About 13 players spoke with reporters over Zoom during the first day of camp and any of them that were asked about Barzal reinforced the idea that a new contract would get worked out. Barzal is currently a restricted free agent.
“They’re going to work this thing,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “Barzy, he’s one of the boys. He doesn’t want to be missing any more time than anyone else. It’s all going to get worked out. We haven’t thought twice about it. It’s not something that we really worried about.
“That’s just the other side of things that take some time and we have that right now.”
The Barzal watch has been on since the Islanders season came to an end in September after a deep run in the playoffs. The Islanders’ star was on the final year of his three-year entry-level contract and was due for a raise.
Barzal is likely looking at a two or three-year deal worth somewhere around $7 million per year after his third consecutive season of 60 or more points. He added 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) during 22 games in the playoffs last season.
It appeared that Barzal had been in touch with some of his Islanders teammates. After Ryan Pulock signed a contract extension in November, he said that he and Barzal had been speaking and Anthony Beauvillier said on Sunday that he and Barzal talked on a near-daily basis.
“I’m pretty confident it’s going to happen soon,” Beauvillier said. “Obviously it’s a question to ask him, but everyone is confident we’re going to have him soon on the ice. He’s a big part of our team and we obviously need him to win. I have no doubt it’s going to get done.”
The Islanders begin their on-ice work on Monday as the start of the regular season quickly approaches. If Barzal isn’t there for the first day or so that could change the coaching staff’s strategy, at least for the start of camp.
However, Islanders coach Barry Trotz said that Barzal’s potential absence wouldn’t complicate things.
“We know going into this you have to make sure you’re adaptable, either through testing protocols or injury or anything like that,” Trotz said. “It’s nothing unusual for us if we’re missing a person here or there. That’s part of NHL hockey and the world today. We’re just going to worry about who we can put on the ice and what we can do with them the next couple of days.”
The word throughout the day was that the team expects Barzal to be back with them in short order. No one put that more succinctly than Jordan Eberle.
“I know he loves being an Islander. I know he loves playing here and I know he loves the group,” Eberle said. “I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before something happens.”