After the now-infamous departure of John Tavares from the New York Islanders via free agency, all eyes on Long Island turned to promising young center Mathew Barzal to fill the void and lead the team’s offense to continued success. Needless to say, he’s succeeded, notching 311 points in 362 games so far in his young career. This season is the first time the team won’t win a playoff round since Barzal took over the no. 1 center role, and it’ll also be the first time they won’t make the playoffs at all.
As all eyes turn toward the future, though, fans will notice Barzal has one season left on his three-year, $21MM bridge deal he signed prior to 2020-21. With him once again being a restricted free agent, Barzal left the door open on a long-term extension after exit interviews, via James Nichols of The Fourth Period. While he’s yet to replicate his 85-point rookie season, he’s still chugged along at a 60+ point pace every season since then. Knowing general manager Lou Lamoriello, a long-term extension is likely something he’s interested in as well. But it’s unclear how much Barzal’s cap hit will change, considering the lack of significant offensive development during his bridge deal – does he still project to hit the 80-90 point plateau again, or is he an extremely strong no. 2 center on a Cup winner as his recent point totals suggest?
- A report out of Sweden via HockeyNews.se today says that Buffalo Sabres forward Rasmus Asplund plans to join the team for the upcoming 2022 IIHF World Championship. Asplund played in 80 out of 82 games this season in Buffalo, setting new career highs with eight goals, 19 assists, and 27 points. He also took leaps and bounds defensively this season, showing signs he can develop into a true shutdown forward for the Sabres. Defenseman Henri Jokiharju also announced he’ll be joining Finland at the same tournament.
- A former Calgary Flames prospect is staying in Russia for two more seasons. Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the KHL announced today they’ve reached a two-year extension with defenseman Alexander Yelesin, who appeared in four games with the Flames during 2019-20, recording no points. An undrafted free agent, the defensive defenseman played just two seasons in North America before the Flames opted to leave him unsigned. The team still retains his rights if he ever decides to return to the NHL, but that won’t come until 2024-25 at the soonest when he’ll be 28 years old.