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Eberle not talking contract with Islanders

Forward can be UFA after this season, focused on proving New York can be successful without Tavares

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. -- Jordan Eberle said there has yet to be any dialogue with the New York Islanders about a contract extension.

The 28-year-old forward is entering the final season of a six-year, $36 million contract he signed with the Edmonton Oilers on Aug. 30, 2012, and can become an unrestricted free agent after this season. He's been eligible to sign an extension since July 1.

"To be honest, I haven't had any conversations with anybody," Eberle said after an informal skate at the Islanders practice facility Tuesday. "Going into the summer, I was trying to focus on me and being the best I can be, and come into the camp the best I can be. Once that happens, you start trying to fill a role and try to make this team as good as it can be."

Eberle had 59 points (25 goals, 34 assists) in his first season with the Islanders after being acquired in a trade from the Oilers for forward Ryan Strome on June 22, 2017. But New York (35-37-10) missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second straight season, resulting in changes in the front office and behind the bench. Lou Lamoriello was named president of hockey operations May 22, and he fired Garth Snow as general manager and Doug Weight as coach June 5. Lamoriello named himself GM and hired Barry Trotz, who won the Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals last season, as coach June 21.

Video: Will Mathew Barzal be able to lead the Islanders?

"Anytime you miss the playoffs, there's always going to be changes," Eberle said. "I think for me, I kind of just tried to focus on myself and try and get better. I think the game's really progressed in a way that it's a lot faster. Even the last three years, I've noticed the speed of the League is a lot higher than it used to be. In the summer everyone's focus should be to try to get faster. I know it's such a cliche, but it really means a lot now just based on how quick the League's gotten, so that's something I really focus on.

"I think with the changes that we've had, I think it's always fun to prove yourself. I think there's going to be some competition in camp and that always makes your team better, and myself included. You want to be a part of that. You want to be able to prove yourself."

The Islanders lost center John Tavares during the offseason; he signed a seven-year, $77 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 1. Tavares, the No. 1 pick of the 2009 NHL Draft, was Islanders captain for the past five seasons.

Even without Tavares, Eberle believes New York is in position to surprise.

"It's obviously a loss for our team, but you've got to move on," he said. "I think we're kind of put in a category right now where we're kind of the underdog role, and sometimes that's good to be. You look at a team like maybe New Jersey last year, who had similar expectations coming in, and look how well they did. Sometimes you play better without that added pressure. We've got enough guys to fill depth here, and guys are going to fill in and we'll be fine."

Without Tavares, Mathew Barzal likely will be the Islanders' No. 1 center this season. Barzal led the Islanders with 85 points (22 goals, 63 assists) and won the Calder Trophy last season, mostly playing with Eberle as his linemate.

"Obviously, he had a great year last year," Eberle said of Barzal. "I think something that made our team so dynamic was we were tough to match up against. It's not so much [Barzal]; I think when you talk about [Tavares] leaving and minutes being filled, I don't think it's going to be filled with [Barzal]. I think it's going to filled with other guys that are going to have to step up, myself included."

Video: Mathew Barzal comes in at No. 49 on the list

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