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Barzal's next contract with Islanders 'will happen when it happens'

Center can become restricted free agent after season, willing to be patient

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Mathew Barzal said there have been no substantive talks with the New York Islanders yet about extending his contract, but he's willing to be patient.

The 22-year-old center is entering the final season of his entry-level contract and would become a restricted free agent on July 1, 2020, if he doesn't agree to another contract before then.

"I'm not in a rush at all," Barzal said at the NHL Player Media Tour on Thursday. "At the end, if the term and money is there and it's right for both sides, then something will get done midseason or whenever. But I'm not in a rush at all.

"It's not even on my mind, the contract thing. That will happen when it happens. I'm an RFA, I'm not a UFA, so I'm not waiting to hit July 1 to see the market. It's more just when the deal gets done that's right for both sides. I want to be on the island."

Video: Top 10 plays of 2018-19: Barzal

Barzal has been an interested observer while a host of restricted free agents have remained unsigned through this offseason and are in jeopardy of potentially missing the start of training camps next week. That group includes forwards Mitchell Marner (Toronto Maple Leafs), Brayden Point (Tampa Bay Lightning), Mikko Rantanen (Colorado Avalanche), Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor (Winnipeg Jets) and Matthew Tkachuk (Calgary Flames), and Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy.

But Barzal, a first-round pick (No. 16) by the Islanders at the 2015 NHL Draft, said he's not worried yet that he might end up in a similar situation next year.

"It's something in the back of my mind, obviously," he said. "It's the situation, it's the reality of it. My contract is coming up this year and there's a lot of RFAs that are unsigned and it's kind of been fun watching from the outside not being in it. Just watching these guys and just seeing the media and all these rumors and everyone thinks they know what's going on and, really, I don't think anyone knows what's going on.

"[But] it doesn't wear on me at all. It's how it is and I'm excited for the year. I'm not really looking at dollars. I've never played for dollars or anything. After playing in the playoffs last year, I'm hungry to get back to there and it will all take care of itself."

Barzal helped the Islanders surprise many by qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and led New York with 62 points (18 goals, 44 assists) in 82 games last season. That came after he won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie in 2017-18, when he had 85 points (22 goals, 63 assists) in 82 games.

Although his point production dropped, Barzal said he believes he became a more complete player last season within the defensive structure installed by Islanders coach Barry Trotz and hopes to continue that this season. He said his focus is more on that than his contract.

"I'm pretty confident in my game itself," Barzal said. "I don't feel like I've reached my full potential at all in the last two seasons. So, I'm looking to have a big season and our GM is Lou Lamoriello, he wants to build a winning culture. This year, I think for me, I need to prove that I'm on board and really want to be a part of that, and I do. I do want to be a part of that and be a part of that core that hopefully turns the Isles into a playoff contender every year."

Barzal sent a text message to congratulate forward Clayton Keller after he signed an eight-year contract extension with the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday. Keller also could have been eligible to become a restricted free agent next July 1, but the 21-year-old doesn't have to worry about that anymore. Barzal said he was happy for Keller, but it won't change his approach to the final season of his contract.

"For some guys certainty is great, and he deserves the contract he got," Barzal said. "But in my situation, it just depends on what's right for both sides.

"If there was something right tomorrow for both sides, we'd get it done, but I just don't think either side is in a rush right now. I'm an RFA, I'm not a UFA, I don't have to rush anything, I don't think, for a security standpoint from the team. I haven't even really thought about it. I'm looking forward to the year. I just wanted to have a good summer."

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