Welcome, once again, to Screen Shots, a regular THN.com feature where we break down a few hockey topics for your reading pleasure. It’s our style to forego any flowery introductory talk, and get right to things, so here we go:
– The New York Islanders signed star forward Mathew Barzal to an eight-year, $73.2-million contract extension Tuesday. This should come as no surprise to longtime observers of Isles GM Lou Lamoriello, who has learned from contract disputes in his time leading the New Jersey Devils and didn’t have any financial battles with players in his time as GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He may not have spent all of the money wisely – Patrick Marleau’s $6.25 million contract gave the Leafs some experience and guidance as they rebuilt, but it became an albatross late in the deal and required Toronto to surrender a first-round draft pick – but Lamoriello did not stare down youngsters like Mitch Marner and found ways to keep the team and players satisfied enough with their deals.
Barzal has been on a roller-coaster ride in terms of his personal development, and an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million is going to push expectations on him higher than they are – and they’re currently high enough as it is – so Barzal is going to have to lead the way on offense for what is largely a blue-collar lineup.
A considerable part of New York Islanders coach Lane Lambert’s job is to get Barzal back to being a high-impact player on offense, but Barzal has to take ownership of his situation and find ways to make his teammates better. That’s what superstars do, and Barzal will be paid next year like a superstar. It’s on him now to prove Lamoriello’s raise for him was worth it.
– We’re nearing the beginning of the NHL’s regular season, and the Jason Robertson stalemate in Dallas continues. As per Cap Friendly, Stars GM Jim Nill has approximately $7.8 million in cap space, but that’s apparently not enough to get the 23-year-old under contract. In some ways, that is understandable – we’re talking about the Stars’ leading scorer last season, with 41 goals and 79 points in 74 games. It’s not Robertson’s fault that Dallas is being weighed down cap-wise because of the combined $19.35 million cap space taken up by veterans Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Nill needs to free up space to make Robertson happy.
It is not good optics for Nill – who has a one-year contract extension after this year that already doesn't inspire confidence – to have this saga to deal with up to and possibly into the regular season. The Stars need Robertson desperately, and if they have to trade a contract or two to make it happen, so be it.
– Given the catastrophic damage parts of Newfoundland and Labrador have dealt with due to post-tropical storm Fiona, the NHL pre-season game in Newfoundland Thursday will be a welcome distraction. The game, set to be played between the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens, is two years in the making – initially in 2020, the town of Twillingate, Nfld. won the Kraft Hockeyville competition, and although Twillingate is too small to host an NHL game, the nearby city of Gander will be the setting for Thursday’s showdown.
Regardless of who wins the pre-season game, Newfoundlanders will be the ones who benefit from it. There will be scores of youngsters inspired by what they see and set out to fuel their hockey dreams. That’s great for the NHL product, but also for the youngsters and fans themselves. Enjoy it, East-Coasters.