EAST MEADOW — Matt Martin has returned to the New York Islanders, a fan favorite getting another chance to star in what was once deemed the best fourth line in hockey alongside Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck.
Now he gets another chance to wreak havoc as the Islanders opened up their training camp on Friday afternoon from Northwell Health Ice Center.
“It’s exciting,” Martin admitted. “Obvsiously a lot of things have changed since I been here last, but still a lot of familiar faces, including [Cizikas and Clutterbuck].”
The 29-year-old was brought back to New York by new team president Lou Lamoriello, the man who signed Martin to the Toronto Maple Leafs two years ago where his presence as a physical, bottom-six forward wasn’t felt as much while falling out of favor with Mike Babcock.
With the Islanders, Martin built a reputation as one of the hardest-hitting forwards in the league, recording 350 hits or more in four of his six seasons in New York. That tenacity helped him play an important role as a team leader during the Islanders’ first-round playoff series win against the Florida Panthers back in 2016, the first postseason series victory experienced by the franchise since 1993.
The following offseason though saw Martin, along with Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen leave via free agency as former general manager Garth Snow broke apart much of the core of that team.
The Islanders haven’t made the playoffs since, though this offseason provided a bevy of changes including the arrival or Lamoriello, the hiring of Barry Trotz as head coach and the deaprutre of John Tavares.
With the roster of 68 invitees broken up into three groups, it was only fitting that Martin was put in the first gathering alongside Cizikas and Clutterbuck.
“It’s a lot different but at the same time, it’s very familiar,” Martin said. “I’m very comfortable here at the first day of camp and I’m excited to get the season started.”
But Lamoriello has also brought in a number of lower-line forwards like Leo Komarov, Valtteri Filppula and Tom Kuhnackl that could threaten Martin’s standing.
It’s not worrying Martin much.
“I think we’re going to have that opportunity and we’ll run with it like we did in the past,” Martin said. “We’re all good friends and we want to be successful… We’ll get the chance at camp to show that we’re capable.”