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Mathew Barzal and Pierre-Luc Dubois: Contract Negotiations Heating Up

Young stars Mathew Barzal and Pierre-Luc Dubois remain unsigned restricted free agents, but talks are heating up.

Like everything 2020, it seems a bit curious that two young players in need of a new contract remain unsigned for the 2020-21 season. However, 22-year-old Pierre-Luc Dubois and 23-year-old Mathew Barzal are still free agents, even if they are restricted. While a January 13th start date seems to have been tentatively agreed upon, the jury is still out as to whether or not the NHL can get all their ducks in a row to start on time.

Related: What You Need to Know: NHL and NHLPA Reach Tentative Deal On 56-Game Season

With that in mind, it gives teams like the New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets some time, but not a whole lot. As such, there’s a bit more urgency to get the Barzal and/or Dubois deals done.

Latest on Mathew Barzal

The New York Islanders have run into a cap crunch as they need to figure out a way to sign Barzal and recently acquired Dmytro Timashov – with just shy of $4 million room available. GM Lou Lamoriello will get some cap room back due to the unexpected and unfortunate retirement of defenseman Johnny Boychuk. Lamoriello still maintains Barzal is an organizational priority.

According to Barzal’s agent, JP Barry, the two sides have been in “constant communication” and have discussed an array of different short and long-term options.

Matthew Barzal New York Islanders
Matthew Barzal New York Islanders

The former 16th overall selection (2015) has been excellent during his first three full NHL seasons. Amazingly, he has maintained an 0.89 per game point pace in 234 NHL games. The Islanders probably didn’t expect the Coquitlam native to reach those offensive totals so early in his career. While the team must be thrilled at the early productivity, it has caused some serious financial navigation for Lamoriello.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman expects the two sides will eventually land on a bridge deal. He explained his rational by saying: “I just don’t know how they’re going to be able to get to a Barzal six- or seven-year number without major surgery. Even a two- or three-year deal could be somewhat painful surgery” (from NHL Rumour Roundup: Latest on Travis Hamonic, Mathew Barzal on December 15th, 2020).

It would be hard to believe the two sides don’t land on some kind of a deal, and soon.

Latest on Pierre Luc-Dubois

According to Pat Brisson, Dubois agent, conversations with the Columbus Blue Jackets have been ramping up of late – good news for both parties. The situation with Dubois is far less complicated than Barzal and the Islanders. Meaning, the Blue Jackets currently don’t have the same cap constraints. In fact, the team has north of $9 million in cap space. That also makes it a bit strange that the two parties have yet to reach a deal.

Pierre-Luc Dubois hat trick versus Maple Leafs
Pierre-Luc Dubois hat trick versus Maple Leafs

The third overall pick from 2016 has also had a productive first three seasons as a national leaguer. A big center at 6-foot-3 and nearly 220 pounds, Dubois has been durable not having missed a regular season game to date. The Ste-Agathe-des-Monts native has not been as productive Barzal but also not far behind at an impressive 0.68 point per game pace over 234 NHL games. He is a model NHL center with a combination of size, touch, sense, and leadership.

This could arguably be the tip of the iceberg in terms of what these two players might contribute over the long term. It is great to hear contract talks are getting serious, but what exactly is the hold up. Anyway you slice it – Dubois and Barzal are great examples of how the RFA process in the NHL needs to be updated.

NEXT: Scribe Raises Questions Over Nugent-Hopkins Value to Oilers

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