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Changes? Islanders Identity Line Could Lose Casey Czikas

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Casey Cizikas

It was a thought the New York Islanders didn’t have to pay too much mind to as they looked to win the franchise’s first Stanley Cup since 1983. Now that it is all over, the Islanders have to contend with the possibility that Casey Cizikas, one of the team’s most impactful players, might not be here when the puck drops for the 2021-22 season.

Cizikas just finished the final year of his five-year, $16.75 million contract and will become an unrestricted free agent if the Islanders and his camp can’t come to an agreement on a new deal. Cizikas is expected to receive a pay increase after playing a significant role on the Islanders’ identity line, along with Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin.

“I haven’t thought about it too much personally,” Cizikas said during his exit interview with reporters. “That’s a conversation for another day. I think right now I’m just focused on being with the guys. Spend these last few days before everyone heads their own way, spend them together. Do things together and I think that’s what I’m looking forward to right now.”

The thought of an Islanders team without Casey Cizikas is hard to fathom right now. He has become a mainstay in the lineup and became part of a line that embodies what head coach Barry Trotz wants out of his team on a nightly basis.

Cizikas broke made his NHL debut during the 2011-12 season, but he made his impact felt during the 2013 season and creating one of the most physical lines in the league. Since then, Cizikas along with Martin and Clutterbuck have helped dictate the course of games with their hard-nose, physical brand of hockey.

And they’ve created a bond that runs equally as deep.

“Casey and I have been playing together for nine years, eight years now,” Clutterbuck said. “I almost feel like he’s just a part of me as a hockey player at this point. Play with the same centerman for the bulk of your career and not only that, he’s one of my best friends. He’s just Casey. He can light up a room, especially when I can be grumpy sometimes he’s always there to be a puppy dog.”

Clutterbuck did also tell reporters that he wasn’t expecting to give it much thought and that it would work itself out.

While Clutterbuck is taking that approach, another member of the “best fourth line in hockey,” as it was once dubbed, is looking at things a little differently. Matt Martin did have the thought cross his mind at one point or another during the year and how different it could be without him.

“That’s one of my closest friends right there,” Martin said. “From a life standpoint too it could be a lot different, but obviously I think Casey would want to be back. I think that the team would want him back and hopefully it works itself out. These things seem to happen every year. It is a business and we just have to see how it plays out.

“Hopefull we’ll see him back here.”

Martin is in a unique position with all of this surrounding his fellow fourth-liner. Martin had himself been in a similar spot after the 2015-16 season and signed in free agency with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Martin would eventually work his way back to Long Island, but he said he would be happy to share any advice with Casey Cizikas should he ask.

“He’s got my number, he knows he can call me if he wants to talk about this stuff,” Martin said. “He’s got his own decisions to make. I’m not going to try to involve myself in that for no reason. I think I know where his heart is and I think, obviously, the team would love to have him back.”

The process will play out the way it will for Cizikas and the Islanders. With limited cap space and other players to worry about re-signing, finding space for Cizikas will be a challenge for Lamoriello.

Time will tell with how this plays out, but now the real possibility of Cizikas leaving is setting in.

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