New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello has a significant decision to make either during the 2022-23 season or soon after regarding the contract of Mathew Barzal. Lamoriello would not get into any details regarding Barzal extension talks when we spoke with him back on Aug. 22.
When we spoke with Mathew Barzal the day after the 2021-22 regular season ended, he said all the right things that he wanted to remain with the New York Islanders, even going as far as to say he takes pride in playing for one team for his whole career.
Barzal is coming off a 15-goal, 44-assist season, with 59 points being the second-lowest point total of his career.
Because of Barzal’s style of play and the lack of weapons brought in to help him, he is an interesting case when thinking of contract value. We have seen some big-time players get big-time money this offseason, players that have outproduced Barzal.
But on Wednesday, Ottawa threw a curveball, which had New York Islanders fans sweating a bit about Mathew Barzal’s potential new deal.
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The Ottawa Senators and potential superstar Tim Stützle put pen to paper on an eight-year contract extension worth $66.8 million, carrying an AAV of $8.35 million.
In his rookie campaign, the shortened 2020-21 season, Stützle notched 12 goals with 17 assists in 53 games, finishing ninth in the Calder Trophy voting. In his sophomore season, 2021-22, the German centerman scored 22 goals with 36 assists for 58 points.
The 20-year-old is about to embark on his third NHL season, and it seems like a lot of money for a player who has shown signs of growth, but has not broken out yet.
Then again, he is only 20.
As for a quick comparison between Stützle and Barzal, Stüztle scored more goals in 2021-22 but had fewer assists. He played more minutes than Barzal, 18:25 TOI compared to Barzal’s 18:01 TOI. Stüztle also had more hits and blocks than Barzal did, 125-36, 52-17, respectively.
However, here’s why Tim Stützle’s contract will not impact Mathew Barzal’s future deal.
First, this was what Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorian elected to do with his young star. Suppose other players on other teams outperform Stüztle and use him as a comparison during their arbitration hearings. Stützle’s situation makes him incomparable given his raise, which is the only real basis besides belief in the player.
Secondly, taxes do play a large part in contracts. That’s why you see so many players choose teams in Florida, given that there is no state income tax.
In Ontario, where Ottawa is located, there is a tax rate of 53.53 percent. That would mean that after yearly taxes, Stützle will bring home $3.78 million of that before paying his agent, escrow, etc. Although there is no information on how Dorion and Stüztle’s camp agreed on a number, taxes likely played a significant role.
As for Mathew Barzal and Long Island, the average tax rate is less than 48 percent. Barzal’s salary cap hit of $7 million means that he takes home around $3.64 million of that before paying his agent, escrow, etc.
For Barzal’s next deal, which could come in anywhere from $8-$10 million AAV, let’s say, depending on how he plays this season and whether or not he signs long-term, Barzal is looking at bringing home $4.16 million to $5.2 million based on that guestimate.
Next up is age, experience, and situation of their respective teams.
Stützle is entering his age 21 season, with just two years of NHL experience on what has been a struggling Ottawa Senators team. But they are trying to turn around the franchise, and with Stützle’s deal, the Senators now have captain Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson, Mathieu Joseph, and Thomas Chabot all signed at least through the 2025-26 season.
The average age of all those players is 23, a very young core, not including 24-year-old Alex DeBrincat, who has one year remaining on the deal he signed when a member of the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Ottawa Senators finished the 2021-22 season second to last in the Atlantic Division with a record of 33-42-7 and will have growing pains on their path to becoming more competitive.
The New York Islanders have already established themselves as a competitive team, with playoffs no longer the goal–winning the Stanley Cup is. The team is not so young, with this specific group’s window to win being right now.
Based on how some of their prospects develop, like Aatu Räty, William Dufour, and Simon Holmstrom, to name a few, along with the development of Noah Dobson and Alexander Romanov on the backend, the Islanders have the chance to extend that window.
The Islanders have money tied into aging players and a few players potentially coming off the books following the 2022-23 season.
Mathew Barzal’s contract will have something to do with other players in the NHL and the contracts they previously signed, but it won’t be because the Ottawa Senators took a gamble on Tim Stützle.
The New York Islanders faithful tends to think that their free agents will get paid a fortune based on production and outside examples, but just look at Adam Pelech or Ryan Pulock and then breathe.