The New York Islanders have started training camp without rising sensation, Mathew Barzal. His name is on the Islanders camp roster, he’s checked in, had a physical and contract discussions continue between the two sides, but he can’t participate in a scrimmage without a contract and the unsigned restricted free agent is now officially in the holdout zone for an undetermined amount of time.
Despite several Islanders personnel downplaying his absence, it has to be concerning and creates an uncertain distraction – for the organization and fans alike.
Depending on the source, the two sides are close to a deal, but others claim it is more than just a small gap between ask and offer. The approximate consensus ‘ask’ is reportedly in the $7-to-10 million range. The Islanders could afford that price tag by combining their current cap space of just under $4 million with Johnny Boychuk’s unfortunate but timely long term injury room of $6 million.
That said, if Islanders spend most of that available room on Barzal then they may find themselves short on cap space to sign recently acquired Dmytro Timashov (Detroit Red Wings) – also an unsigned RFA. As a result, several Sportsnet analysts have expected a bridge deal for sometime now.
Long Island Reaction
The internet chatter from Islanders fans appears to be split between two rather obvious opinions – bend over backwards to sign Barzal – or he is not worth that kind of money, trade him. Fans of every team with the appropriate space — Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings — are all screaming for a Barzal offer sheet!
As a result of the nearly unspoken NHL executive RFA ‘code’, an offer sheet seems unlikely. Especially considering most GM’s are weary of crossing Lou Lamoriello. If the two sides are really that far apart then that leaves the potential for a Barzal trade.
The most obvious trade option right now might be a deal involving Columbus Blue Jackets, Pierre-Luc Dubois. Dubois wants out of Ohio, and the Islanders could save some money, sign Timashov, add some size, and loosen the cap issues that have been shackling them for sometime now. Actually not a bad solution.
Another completely hypothetical scenario for Lamoriello might be a deal with a team like the Florida Panthers. They have two very good young centers, Jonathan Huberdeau (27) or Aleksander Barkov (25). Both players carry an AAV of $5.9 million per season and under contract for at least two more years – Huberdeau three. By removing one of those contracts plus their current $6.6 million in cap room, the Panthers are a team that could could pursue Barzal if they chose too.
My guess is that Barzal and agent JP Barry stand firm on a minimum asking price and appropriate term. The Barzal camp knows his current value and want to get paid accordingly. If Lamoriello is unable to create the right kind of deal then they will need to look at alternative returns for this player.
With a shortened season the two parties likely want to reach an agreement sooner than later. However, the clock is ticking and the tension will build as the days continue to pass. Will that tension create a breaking point on either side?
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