EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz wasn’t in a position to comment on the report about the length of the new contract for Matt Martin, but there was plenty of excitement about the prospect of having him around for a while longer.
Earlier on Tuesday, a report from Arthur Staple and Elliotte Friedman indicated that Martin had signed a four-year deal with a $1.5 million AAV. The news came as a bit of a surprise to many considering the length of the deal. For Jordan Eberle, it was happy news to hear.
“He’s a great friend and I was really happy to see that,” Eberle said. “He’s a guy for our team that doesn’t get as much notoriety as other guys do, but he brings every night the energy and the passion. He’s a huge part of (the fourth line energy) with his hits and physicality and the commitment level of him blocking shots. Fighting, sticking up for teammates.”
Matt Martin’s role as a physical player has been well established over the course of his NHL career. Martin finished the 2019-20 regular season with 242 hits and the energy that he, along with Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas bring, have helped change the course of games for the Islanders.
At one point the trio was dubbed the best fourth line in hockey.
The 31-year-old’s value goes beyond just the physical style of play that he employs. Martin is also credited as one of the leaders in the Islanders’ dressing room.
“He’s a good piece of the culture on the Island,” Trotz said. “And I think you saw in the playoffs how valuable Matt is on our team from a standpoint of bringing the physical attributes. … He’s just a good, reliable pro who I think is finding the back of the net a little bit more. I think he feels he’s a big part of what we do.”
In addition to his physical play, Matt Martin added a more offensive component during the Islanders’ run to the conference finals over the summer. Martin recorded five goals and six points over the 22 games.
It tied Martin’s entire goal total over the course of the 55 regular-season games he participated in.
“I think what’s happened is that Matt is a cagy veteran and he worked at his game,” Trotz said about the increase in offensive production from Martin. “He just continued to work at his game and sometimes you get to the point where things just slow down that half-second. That half-second is a mile in the game sometimes and I think he’s just very comfortable. His skill level has continued to increase. … He’s just gotten better and better which says a lot about Matt.
“He hasn’t gotten comfortable being where he is and being an effective player, but trying to even get better as he gets older. Hopefully, he’s like fine wine and gets better and better for us.”
The reported deal takes Matt Martin into his mid-30s with the Islanders and it is fair to wonder how long he can maintain that physical style of play. Trotz acknowledged that your body can wear down because of it as you get older, but you also learn from your experiences.
However, Trotz also pointed to how Martin has adapted his game over the years.