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Taub: Martin’s excellent season rewarding the Islanders’ faith in him

Lou Lamoriello loves to talk about chemistry. Chemistry when it comes to his team and how it measures to long-standing success. Chemistry when it comes to keeping guys around who he feels are loyal to him, the organization, and vice versa. That is why his decision to bring back Matt Martin is looking like a smashing success.

Even before Lou arrived three summers ago, Martin had been a constant for the Islanders. Whether its bone-crushing hits — and he’s thrown a lot of them in that time — or his willingness to stand up for his teammates fighting and jawing with the opposition, there’s been no shortage of highlight moments. When Martin left following the 2015-16 season for Toronto, the void left on the ice and in the locker room was undeniable. The Isles were not the same team without him, and that lasted for a long time, until it was Lamoriello who got him back to Long Island when he traded for him after taking over as team president.

Before this season began, Martin was an unrestricted free agent again and did have a few offers for his services from other clubs. But his love for the organization won out.

Martin signed a new four-year deal — one which could possibly keep him as an Islander for the rest of his career; the deal takes Martin till when he hits 35 years of age.

“I just wanted to see it through here and be a part of this franchise as long as I can be,” Martin said when the contract was announced back in January. “I call Long Island home now. They showed the trust and investment in me for four years. My goal is to go and pay that off to them. My heart was always to stay here. My plan was always to stay here.”

Some did question and even oppose the decision as to why the team resigned him with the league only continues to get younger and faster. But watching his play so far this season, he’s quickly proving to be as valuable as ever. Martin already has five goals and nine points in 30 games played, which for any fourth-liner might amount to a season’s worth of points. For him though, it’s the total opposite. Those five tallies are already tied with his mark from last season; the point total is already more than what he had through 55 games a year ago. Martin’s looked faster and more engaged on offense while also doing yeomen’s work without the puck. His line too — the “Identity Line” — has re-discovered their game and is bringing that energy each and every night.

“He’s a guy for our team who doesn’t get as much notoriety as other guys do, but he brings every night the energy, the passion,” teammate Jordan Eberle said about Martin before the season.

Quite frankly, Martin playing the best hockey of his career. And that’s saying something based on the fact he’s now on the wrong side of 30 and only a few years removed from scoring ten goals in a full season. Not only that: he’s showing why the faith in resigning him was the right call.

The Isles could have easily let Martin walk with Ross Johnston (basically his clone) having waited in the wings the past few seasons, but also because they added more depth in the offseason with the addition of Austin Czarnik. They didn’t though and it has paid off huge dividends this season, and might even more moving into the future. His $1.5M cap hit the next few seasons is essentially chunk change for the organization and has no adverse effect on them trying to accumulate more talent via free agency or trades.

The Islanders have big aspirations as they enter the home stretch of the season, Stanley Cup ones to be honest. Continuing to get strong play from Martin is one of the ways that will help them get there.

This season has re-affirmed how much Martin and the Isles need each other. More so, it’s proven the theory true of why he’s so important to the club as a whole.

 

 

Follow me on Twitter at @RTaub_

 

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