The Islanders opened training camp Sunday without their top scorer and best player, Mathew Barzal, as he continues negotiating his next contract ahead of the 2020-21 season.
And while head coach Barry Trotz attempted to downplay the 23-year-old star center’s absence from the team’s off-ice testing day by saying it’s an opportunity for younger players to step up, the rest of the Islanders are more than confident Barzal will be signed and on the ice in the coming days.
“They’re going to work this thing out,” captain Anders Lee said on a Zoom call Sunday. “Barzy, he’s one of the boys. He doesn’t want to be missing any more time than anyone else. It’s all going to get worked out. We haven’t thought twice about it. It’s not something we really worry about, that’s just the other side of things that take some time.”
“I have all the confidence that it’s going to come together when it’s supposed to,” Josh Bailey added. “We’re all still focused. I’m sure Barzy is ready to go and chomping at the bit. He’s a huge part of our team and we’re looking forward to when that day comes, hopefully soon.”
During his pre-training camp media availability last week, Lou Lamoriello said he didn’t have anything new to report on the ongoing conversations with Barzal and his camp. But the Islanders general manager confirmed Barzal was in New York and quarantining in accordance with the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.
Lamoriello stated it was his intention, as well as Barzal’s, to be with the team at the start of camp. But with on-ice sessions set to begin Monday morning, that seems less and less attainable.
According to Trotz, the coaching staff plans to focus on the players who are on the ice. If anything, Trotz believes Barzal’s absence simply gives a younger player a chance to prove himself.
But the third-year Islanders coach admitted that it does have some impact on the group.
“Any player, it doesn’t matter if it’s Mathew, if it’s anybody who’s on our club, when they’re out, it does affect the group,” he said. “So you ask other players to fill in that void and you get a job done. To me, it’s opportunity. I’ve had a number of players in the past who were injured and it allowed other players to come in and really make the hole into their own. Their own sort of game, their own role and those are the opportunities.
“We talk about that, we know there’s going to be people in, people out, unpredictability, you get an opportunity, you have to go with it. We’ve been in that situation many times, we’ll continue to fill in those holes if someone’s not there. We go forward, that’s how we’re built.”
Nearly every Isles player who spoke Sunday acknowledged how big a part Barzal plays on the team. He was a major presence during last season’s playoff push, in which the team came two wins away from advancing to the Stanley Cup finals, chipping in five goals and 12 assists in 22 playoff games.
And while the rest of the team patiently waits for an agreement to be reached, fellow French-Canadian Anthony Beauvillier said he’s spoken to Barzal nearly every day and is convinced negotiations will wrap up soon.
“I’m pretty confident it’s going to happen soon. … Everyone’s confident we’re going to have him on the ice soon,” Beauvillier said. “He’s a big part of our team and we obviously need him to win. I have no doubt that it’s going to get done soon.”
View original post