On Tuesday, October 4th, the news broke that Matthew Barzal signed a new deal that will keep him on the Island for an additional 8 years ($73.2M Total, $9.15M AAV). Mat was due to become an RFA at the end of the 2022-23 season. He now joins several other Islanders to sign this offseason (most notably Dobson), as well as enlisting as another player with a lengthy contract here– Pelech and Pulock signed 8-year deals last summer, and Lee, Pageau, Cizikas, and Johnston are still in the books for the foreseeable future.
The 25-year-old center finished last season with 59 points (15 G, 44 A), and has 311 points (91 G, 220 A) in his 362-game career thus far. Barzal has dazzled Islander fans since his debut in 2017-2018, when he brought home the Calder Trophy as the top rookie in the league. The Islanders may have received a lot of heat for playing a boring style of hockey in recent years, but he has been a steady source of entertainment for all viewers. You can always find him charging down the wing with speed and cutting back in a split second or dangling every person in the O-zone six times over. I could watch his pre-game warm-ups for hours on end, and despite the OT struggles for the team, Barzal is one of the most mesmerizing players to watch in a 3-on-3 setting. Few players can utilize their edges like him.
The signing follows some recent comments made by Barzal about his intention to stay here, made on Sportsnet’s 32 Thoughts. He praised New York for its lifestyle (namely golf and Italian food) and included his appreciation for athletes that stay with the same team for their whole career. This comes as a relief, as the perennial lack of big free agent signings and the memory of John Tavares’ departure still lurk in my mind as an Islander fan, but Barzal’s future never worried me, in particular. He has always been loving of the Islander fan base, and made it clear once again after the deal was done today.
“I absolutely love the fans here, genuinely. They are seriously so unique. They’re one of a kind. Everyone is just such a die-hard Islander fan, I love it. We feel the support.”
He maintained that it was the love he felt from the fan base that made the decision easy for him, and it feels great as a fan to know that he is here to play for us. He has grown up over the last few years on the Island. He continues to get faster and stronger along with the rest of the team, who have now been largely together for the past several seasons. I am personally ecstatic about the identity of this Islanders team. This is the type of progression that many teams go through before they find long-term success. We’ve been through deep runs and shallow hopes, and now is the chance to keep moving forward with more wisdom and experience.
After a tough Islanders season in 2021-22, the young center will be looking to step up once again and remind the league why he is so valuable. I look forward to watching him make D-men look silly for another 8 years.