This season, star center Mathew Barzal is entering the final year of the three-year bridge deal he signed with the New York Islanders before the 2020-21 season. Barzal holds a $7 million cap hit this season and will be a restricted free agent this summer. Despite the success the Islanders have had since John Tavares left for Toronto, the fan base has not forgotten what it feels like to lose a generational talent. Barzal, however, is a restricted free agent and the Islanders will have exclusive negotiating rights with him. However, there will be cause for concern if the contract negotiations drag on, especially considering what happened with Matthew Tkachuk earlier this summer.


Barzal’s Market Value

This offseason, elite forwards have not helped Barzal with the annual average value (AAV) on their contracts. Most recently, J.T. Miller signed a seven-year contract worth $8 million per season, which would only be a $1 million per season raise for Barzal. Comparing the two, the 29-year-old Miller is coming off a 99-point season, a number 25-year-old Barzal has not reached.

A better example is the recent contract extension Tim Stutzle signed, worth eight years at $8.3 million per season. The league is trending toward paying younger players over market value when they come off their entry-level deals and gambling on them reaching their potential. The Islanders should hope that Barzal wants an eight-year deal and sign him no matter the price tag, especially since his bridge deal was worth $7 million, so they will not be taking a massive hit to their cap space. Based on that, his long-term deal should come in between $8 million and $8.5 million.

The Matthew Tkachuk Model

When this deal was reached before the 2020 season, it was seen as a positive that Barzal would still be a restricted free agent (RFA) by the end of it because the team would have exclusive negotiating rights. Now, Matthew Tkachuk has set a precedent that could work in Barzal’s favor. If the cap hit is too high, or he does not want to sign, the Islanders will be able to trade him for a haul wherever he wants to go. This is the main reason fans should be less worried than they were heading into Tavares’ contract year.

The Tkachuk trade from the Calgary Flames to Florida Panthers shows that if Barzal wants to leave, the Islanders will be able to get a solid return for him.