I think by now you know that I love hockey. It is a great sport and I love hockey in this area with the Rangers, Islanders and Devils rivalry; it’s great when all three teams are really good.

The Isles are coming off of a disappointing season, in which there was a coaching change afterward. Lane Lambert replaces Barry Trotz as head coach. There’s lots of pressure on President and General Manager Lou Lamerillo to get the Isles back to the playoff success of a few years ago.

There was a step in the right direction as the team announced that Matt Barzal has signed an 8-year extension worth $73.2 million. Barzal is an original Islander drafted by the team in the first round of the 2015 draft. The center is coming off of a season in which he totaled 59 points. He is fast, gifted, an exquisite skater and puck handler, and he wanted to be here. It’s music to Isles fans ears.

Unlike John Tavares, who left the Islanders and signed with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs, Barzal made it perfectly clear that he loved being an Islander, loved everything about the organization. As he said, the New York lifestyle is elite. That is refreshing and a change for Islander fans as the British Columbia native looked at the Islanders as the only place he wanted to be.

It’s a great step and now a sign to other potential free agents that the Islanders are a destination and not a stepping stone to some other NHL franchise. There are still wounds from the decision by Tavares to leave in 2018, but the signing of the 25-year-old Barzal is part of the healing process.