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The Islanders’ first on-ice session of training camp came and went Monday and there was still no sign of Mathew Barzal.
With a 10-day camp and no preseason games ahead of the 2020-21 season, the No. 1 center’s continued absence amid his ongoing contract negotiations isn’t ideal. And although head coach Barry Trotz and the rest of his teammates have made it clear they aren’t concerned, Barzal isn’t doing the team any favors by staying off the ice.
Discussions between Barzal’s camp and president Lou Lamoriello have reportedly been consistent for weeks now. The flat salary cap indicates that a shorter deal (2-3 years) is the most logical route to take, but the salary may be the sticking point.
The Islanders are currently $3.9 million below the salary cap, not including the extra $6 million of space they’ll receive from placing Johnny Boychuk on long-term injured reserve with an eye injury. With that, the Islanders should be able to sign Barzal and make official the signings of Matt Martin, Andy Greene, Cory Schneider and restricted free agent Dmytro Timashov — whose rights were acquired from the Red Wings in December.
Timashov, who was drafted by the Maple Leafs in 2015 shortly before Lamoriello took over as general manager, is an unsigned RFA like Barzal — but he was on the ice Monday.
“He did a real good job. He’s a real solid player,” Trotz said of Timashov, who has 44 NHL games of experience with Detroit and the Maple Leafs. “What stands out about him, he’s got a really good skill level. He’s not physically a tall player but he’s a physically strong player. I think he has a really good upside and a guy that can play multiple positions. He fit in really well today.”
Cal Clutterbuck is coming off of two major injuries in the past two seasons, and one is still lingering.
The fourth-line staple had back surgery to fix a stress fracture, two rotated vertebrae and two slipped discs in the offseason heading into the last season. He then had his wrist sliced by a skate in December 2019, which also required surgery.
Although he claimed it wasn’t a big deal, Clutterbuck said Monday that he still has issues with his hand. There’s numbness in three of his fingers, as a result of the clean cut to his median nerve, and it could be permanent damage.
“It’s kind of normal now I have full function, I have strength,” he said. “It’s really not that big a deal. I feel good, I felt good last year too. The injury was unlucky and the back injury was not as difficult to overcome as I thought it was going to be and so I feel pretty good.”
The experience level of the Islanders’ defensive core took a hit when Devon Toews was traded to Colorado and Boychuk was forced to unofficially retire, but Trotz already has an idea who his top six defensive pairings will be.
It’ll likely be Nick Leddy-Scott Mayfield, Adam Pelech-Ryan Pulock and Andy Greene-Noah Dobson to start the season. Sebastian Aho, Grant Hutton, Samuel Bolduc, Parker Wotherspoon and Bode Wilde will battle for the remaining spots.
Trotz also said that Thomas Hickey, who hasn’t played an NHL game since the 2018-19 season, is in the mix as well.