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Islanders sign Mathew Barzal to 8-year extension for reported $9.15 million annually

NEW YORK -- The Islanders may have issues luring top offensive players to UBS Arena, but keeping their own does not appear to be a problem at all.

The Isles took a step to secure the present and the future on Tuesday, announcing they signed top center Mathew Barzal to an eight-year contract extension. Various reports have said the deal is for $9.15 million per season. 

"I genuinely (love it here). I think anyone who plays here knows that it's one of the top places to play in the league. From the practice rink we have, UBS (Arena), the boys in the room, Lou being here, a fresh coaching staff, the city itself -- the lifestyle is elite," Barzal said. "I absolutely love the fans here. They're seriously so unique. They're one of a kind. Everyone is such a die-hard Islander fan."

Barzal's extension will kick in next season. He is currently in the final year of a three-year, $21 million deal. 

A first-round pick in 2015, Barzal is set to begin his sixth full NHL season. The 25-year-old, known for his playmaking ability and speedy skating, is coming off a 2021-22 campaign in which he scored just 15 goals. His 59 points were tied with Brock Nelson for the team lead.

Barzal won the Calder Trophy, given to the league's top rookie, in 2017-18 when he posted 22 goals and 85 points, but hasn't come close to matching that production since. His slip could be attributed, in part, to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the NHL to shorten the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, and because the Islanders have relied more on a defense- and goaltending-first approach in recent years.

That's not to say general manager Lou Lamoriello hasn't tried to put more offensive skill around his best player. The Islanders were reportedly in the running for several top free agents and in the mix on the trade front a handful of times over the last few seasons, but for a variety of reasons were unable to get deals done.

"When you have somebody that you've drafted and he plays his whole career [there], it is something special... It's a message to the fans as far as this is a great location to play when a player like Mat makes that decision," Lamoriello said.

Lamoriello said it was important to get Barzal's done before the season started because he would have worried it would have become a distraction. He added the negotiations were amicable throughout the process.

The Islanders open the regular season on Oct. 13 against Florida at UBS Arena.

After making it to the Eastern Conference finals in 2019-20 and 2020-21, the Islanders took a step back last season, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2017-18.

Barzal has 91 goals and 220 assists in 362 career regular season games and 13 goals and 25 assists in 49 career playoff games.

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