Welcome back to Around the League — a column in which we examine news from around the National Hockey League, oftentimes through a Canucks-tinted lens.

Mat Barzal just got paid, in every sense of the word.

On Tuesday, the New York Islanders announced that they had signed the Coquitlam-born centre to an eight-year contract extension worth a total of $73.2 million.

What it means for the Canucks

First and foremost, the contract extension means that any hope Canucks fans had of brining Barzal home are probably non-existent now.

In all seriousness, any time a contract is signed, it means that agents and teams alike will have a more recent contract to point at as a comparable during negotiations.

Advertisement
Ad

So in that context, the Barzal contract would indicate the same thing that the Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou contracts did for the Canucks: Elias Pettersson’s next contract isn’t going to come cheap.

Now, just how much of a pay raise Pettersson gets will be determined by his production this year and next before his current bridge contract expires, but as we’ve said countless times this summer and preseason, we think Elias Pettersson is going to be good. Real good.

That being said, even if he isn’t at the level we think he’s going to be at the next two seasons, Barzal’s production has actually been similar to Pettersson’s to this point in their careers.

Barzal hasn’t produced at a point per game rate since his rookie season back in 2017-18, and hasn’t reached the 20 goal mark in the four seasons since.

Advertisement
Ad

With the cap going up, the Islanders are clearly betting on Barzal’s production becoming a bit more consistent, and are attempting to lock up a core piece as early as possible.

Barzal’s current three-year $7 million AAV contract — one that looks very similar to Pettersson’s current contract — doesn’t expire until the end of this season.

Barzal’s current contract served as a comparable when the Canucks were negotiating Pettersson’s bridge deal ahead of last season, and you can expect that this new contract will once again serve as a comparable for Pettersson’s camp in two years.

Last season, Barzal, who is a year older than Pettersson, registered 15 goals and 44 assists through 73 games; while Pettersson came alive in the second half of the season and tallied 32 goals and 36 assists through 80 contests.

Advertisement
Ad

In terms of points per game, last season — in which he scored a career-high 32 goals and 68 total points — was the worst season of Pettersson’s career.

Here are the points per game rates from the last four seasons of Barzal and Pettersson’s careers:

2018-19 PPG:
2019-20 PPG
2020-21 PPG
2021-22
EP: .93              MB: .76
EP: .97               MB: .88
EP: .80              MB: .82
EP: .85             MB: .81

As mentioned earlier, the only season in which Barzal had a points per game rate above one was in his Calder Trophy-winning rookie season.

So Pettersson is the better scorer of the two, and this isn’t even taking into account the fact that by both the eye test and just about every advanced metric available, Pettersson is the more reliable defensive centre.

Pettersson is a more complete player than Barzal, and if he can produce with the level of consistency over a full season that has escaped him to this point in his career, Pettersson will be due for a large payraise.

Advertisement
Ad

And even if he doesn’t, he’s still going to command a number close to — if not higher than — the figure the Islanders just gave Mat Barzal.

What it means for Bo Horvat

Former Canucks assistant general manager Chris Gear weighed in on what Barzal’s contract might mean for Bo Horvat, and the result isn’t particularly surprising.

If there’s anyone who knows how NHL contract negotiations work, it’s Gear, and the tune we’ve heard from around the league is that anything under roughly $7.5 million annually for Horvat would be considered a hometown discount.

Advertisement
Ad

It’s hard to say that Barzal is a comparable for both Pettersson and Horvat — the Pettersson comparable is obviously much stronger for a number of reasons — but the Horvat camp may use the Barzal deal as a comparable for point-producing centres as whole.

Barzal’s deal may not have risen the ask of the Horvat camp, but it certainly didn’t decrease it.

That we know for certain.

At the end of the day, the contracts being signed right now are keeping the rising salary cap in mind, so while the dollar figures may seem high today, they won’t look nearly as expensive when the cap is at $92 million instead of $82.5 million.