Mathew Barzal’s contract with the New York Islanders may only expire in the summer of 2020 but there’s still reason to be following closely to see how other RFA negotiations play out this year. Forwards Mitch Marner, Mikko Rantanen, Brayden Point, Brock Boeser, Matthew Tkachuk, Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor and Travis Konecny all remain without contracts heading into the season.
Looking ahead to next year’s RFA class and which forwards willl be coming off their first contract, the big names are Alex DeBrincat, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Nico Hischier, along with a supporting cast of Dylan Strome, Jake DeBrusk and Jesper Bratt, among others. While the list includes some exciting names it doesn’t even come close to this year’s class in comparison.
This summer’s class includes three forwards who have averaged at least 70 points per 82 over their career and six total above a career PP/82 of at least 60. Kyle Connor also comes in just below that, with a 59 career PP/82 average. But between the 2020 RFA forward class entering a second contract, there’s only one player above a career PP/82 average of 60 (DeBrincat) and four more over 50. Those numbers will likely go up as Dubois, Hischier, Strome and DeBrusk will likely continue to develop and produce more as they do.
But comparing Mathew Barzal’s career PP/82 average of 72.6, his comparables are a lot closer to the players we’re seeing holdout this season. Of course there's the winger versus center debate and how much it could affect a difference in a contract but the fact is that when Barzal’s camp sits down to negotiate, the contracts signed by the current RFA holdouts are likely the contracts he’ll be looking to use as comparables. Especially if he outscores some of these RFA wingers next season, it would be pretty difficult to argue that he should be making any less on his second deal.
Take someone like Brayden Point. A center with a career PP/82 average of about 71 would act as a perfect comparable for Barzal and once his contract is finalized, we’ll probably have a pretty good idea of what Barzal’s deal is going to look like. Essentially if you're Lou Lamoniello, you're hoping these RFA deals come in lower than expected.
We know it’s pretty likely that Barzal will be re-signing a long-term deal that would walk him to free agency rather than taking a bridge-deal. But the money factor, which is less predictable, is likely going to be influenced by what we see from the RFAs in the coming weeks or months.