New York Islanders: Loyalty goes a long way with Matt Martin deal

With the New York Islanders still struggling on the Barzal front, Matt Martin comes back on a four-year deal with loyalty playing a major role.

When the New York Islanders kicked off training camp, UFA Matt Martin was partaking in the team workouts, on and off the ice. What was initially reported as a PTO has now turned into a four-year deal, worth approximately $6 million.

With RFA Mat Barzal is still without a deal, this news has Islander fans ripping their hair out. How could an aging fourth-liner get that much over that term with money being as tight as it is?

I know it is rather difficult, but forget the money and the term for a couple of minutes.

With general manager Lou Lamoriello, loyalty goes a long way.

After being drafted in the fifth round (148th) by the Islanders in the 2008 NHL Entry Level Draft, Martin has been an absolute workhorse each and every game. That and the work he does off the ice cannot go unnoticed.

The Ontario native has given the stereotypical fourth line a whole new meaning on the island, a line that head coach Barry Trotz is confident to throw out against even the toughest of opponents in the most critical of situations.

When Martin left to join the Toronto Maple Leafs back in the summer of 2016, who could blame him? At the time, general manager of the Leafs, Lou Lamoriello, loved the game that Martin brought each night. The Leafs had a ton of young talent, and they needed some protection, which is why he got a four-year deal worth $10 million.

Two years into that deal, it seemed Martin was not a fit in the gameplan of then-coach Mike Babcock, as Martin found himself a healthy scratch more often than not. And in the 2018 playoffs, he did not even crack the lineup once. But, like the professional he is, we never heard a peep of him wanting out.

General manager Lou Lamoriello and the Maple Leafs mutually decided to part ways after the 2018 season, as the old-fashioned Lou quickly found a new home with the Islanders, who had just relieved Garth Snow of his duties. Although his first order of business was keeping superstar John Tavares on the island (we all know how that worked out), he saw the importance of reuniting that fourth line.

And that he did, as he traded for Matt Martin, who was back on the island after a two-year hiatus. You saw what he meant to the Islanders fanbase in his first game as an opponent. And when he made his debut after his two-year absence, he received an elongated standing ovation.

Listen, Matt Martin is not the same player he once was, a player that used to see his hits total at the top of the NHL leaderboard and someone who dropped the gloves more often than not. But he is still effective at doing his job, which is to provide a spark each time his skates hit the ice. And he always stands up for his teammates when the time calls for it.

When you think of the Islanders’ heart and soul, his name comes to mind the quickest.

This past year, Martin averaged 10:25 minutes per game, scoring five goals with three assists. He laid the body 242 times in 55 games played. These numbers coming without linemates Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck, who both missed significant time due to skate lacerations.

But once the postseason began, this fourth line was healthy. And when healthy, this line is ultra-effective, making the team that more dynamic.

In the postseason, Martin scored five goals in 22 games, a mark he hit during the regular season in 33 more games. With an assist to go along with the goals, Martin’s offensive outburst was merely just that.

While we cannot expect him to showcase a scoring touch like that this season, Martin has always shown to his teammates, his coaching staff, and upper management how hard he will work to help his team win.

And for that, he gets rewarded.