EAST MEADOW, NY–New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal did not have to sign an eight-year extension. The pending restricted free agent could have decided to see how the 2022-23 season played out, with a new coaching staff, before deciding about his long-term future.
When we spoke to Mathew Barzal following the end of the 2021-22 season, the 25-year-old center shared that he valued playing with one franchise for an entire career and that Long Island was home. Although his new eight-year extension allows him to test the waters at the age of 34, there’s no other place Barzal wants to play.
Following Tuesday’s morning skate, Mat Barzal elaborated on all the reasons for deciding to spend the next eight years with the New York Islanders.
“I love it here. I genuinely do. I think anyone that plays here knows that it’s one of the, I think, it’s really one of the top places to play in the league,” Mat Barzal said. “From the practice rink, UBS, the boys in the room, Lou being here, a fresh coaching staff, and the city itself, [being] 30 minutes from New York City, I mean, the lifestyle is elite.”
“And I have loved it here literally every minute, so yeah, there’s really no other place I’d rather be.”
As for when he decided that Long Island was to be his home for the foreseeable future, Barzal noted that there really was no decision to be made.
“I don’t think there was ever really any decision. It was more like, I just love it here and never had any talks with anyone about going anywhere else, doing anything else, playing this year out,” Barzal shared. “It was all about wanting to get signed, wanting to commit to the boys and this organization. And that’s really what it’s about.”
“Just the commitment to this organization and to the guys in this room, and I’m so happy that I get to spend eight years with a lot of these guys. It’s going to be really fun.”
If you talk to anyone in the New York Islanders locker room, they all share that the room is like a family. It’s a major reason why despite a lackluster 2021-22 season, general manager Lou Lamoriello elected to keep the group together.
Barzal has grown up with this steady family, and the players in the locker room mean the world to him.
“Some of my best friends [are] in here. I really have grown up in this locker room,” the former 16th overall pick shared. “Great veterans that have helped me along the way, equipment managers…seriously just helped me grow up so much the last six years, and I love these guys in here. I really do. Beauvillier, just all the boys, really.”
“It’s been a good ride so far. And hopefully, we can keep it going.”
The Islanders have recently locked up a few guys long-term, like the defensive duo of Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock, and Barzal hopes more of his teammates remain long-term.
“Hopefully, we can get some more guys locked in here, you know, in the [next] couple years and just ride with this group because I feel confident.
“I think anytime you go to war with guys that are, you know, [are] your best buddies and at your bachelor parties and your weddings and it’s just, you want to win for each other, and I feel like we have a real strong bond here. I can’t wait to spend the next eight years with those guys…Hopefully, we can win and have that and bring that [Stanley Cup] home, bring that back to Long Island.”
Another factor that influenced Barzal’s decision to remain on Long Island for eight years was the fan base.
The New York Islanders faithful are a passionate bunch. From the dynasty years through the struggles of the late ’90s and early 2000s to the organization’s turnaround over the last few years, their support has never wavered.
A 20-year-old Mathew Barzal made his NHL debut in October of 2016 and became an instant fan favorite. And as much as the fan base has shown their love and support for Barzal, through the franchise’s success and failures, Barzal reciprocated the love following the announcement of his eight-year extension.
“Well, first thing, I absolutely love the fans here,” Mat Barzal said. Genuinely, they’re seriously so unique. They’re one of a kind. It’s like everyone is just such a diehard Islander fan.”
“I love it, and we feel the support, and I’ve felt the support the last six years, and I think if it was different, maybe my mindset would have been different through the negotiations. But seriously, like they’ve given me so much love and support, and that played a huge part in it.”
The other day at the New York Islanders’ “Meet and Greet” following their scrimmage at UBS Arena, the line to meet Mathew Barzal had to be cut off. That should tell you all you need to know about how much Barzal means to the fan base.