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The most curious case in the NHL?

No one seems to know where this one will go.

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There has been surprisingly little talk around the league regarding the future of New York Islanders star forward Mathew Barzal, and part of that may simply be due to the fact that no one seems to really know what the hell is going on here. Barzal is set to be a restricted free agent at the end of the 2019 - 2020 National Hockey League regular season and although you would expect negotiations between him and the Islanders to be in full swing already, there appears to be some doubt about whether or not the Islanders will even be able to sign him.

Barzal himself acknowledged the situation last week but did not seem overly concerned about anything. Instead the 22 year old forward appeared focused on his current performance, something that he believes will make negotiations easy if he plays well.

“That stuff will take care of itself,” Barzal said as per the New York Post. “We’re trying to play meaningful games in late April and May, so that’s the goal right now. I’m not really worried about contracts and stuff. That stuff takes care of itself with good play.”

What makes this situation particularly interesting however is the lingering rumor regarding Barzal and the Seattle expansion franchise. Barzal played for Seattle when he was a member of the Western Hockey League and the city is also very close to his home which is located in the province of British Columbia, Canada. British Columbia is just north of Seattle across the Canadian border and suddenly it becomes very easy to see why Barzal would be very comfortable playing in the NHL's newest market. The move would also grant the expansion franchise a bona fide star player right out of the gate, something that the NHL itself might view as a very enticing idea. 

Of course the Islanders would have to be willing to make the deal happen, and although it is probably a long shot at this point it is not outside the realm of possibility. Brett Cyrgalis who covers the Islanders for the New York post believes that, at the very least, the option is on the table for Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello. From Cygalis:

Would Lamoriello be so bold as to negotiate a deal with new Seattle general manager Ron Francis, in which they agree to pick Barzal in the expansion draft in exchange for, say, a future first-round pick plus quite a bit more?

That would be a tricky situation, but it is undoubtedly part of the equation.

All of that and we haven't even gotten to the fact that the Calder Memorial Trophy winner is due for a massive raise in pay, another wrinkle that will complicate things for Lamoriello. It all makes for one of the more curious ongoing storylines in the NHL at the moment, one made all the more interesting by the fact that no one seems to know how this will all play out.