After acquiring a forward at the NHL trade deadline their first two seasons in the league, the Vegas Golden Knights traded for a defenseman and a goalie this time around. While he does not have a history with head coach Peter DeBoer, Alec Martinez is the type of player management sought after. He sacrifices his body to block shots, can move the puck and will bring playoff experience to the blue line.
While he was one of the more expensive defensemen in terms of assets given up by a team that acquired a blueliner, Martinez does come with a guarantee for another season as he has one year left on his contract. Other rentals like Andy Greene and Dylan DeMelo are free agents at the end of the season and will be able to leave the team they were traded to.
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The extra year on Martinez’s contract means the Golden Knights have a top-four defenseman locked in at a set cap of $4 million, which means management does not have to play a guessing game over the summer and can focus their attention on a backup goalie.
But before they start constructing next season’s team, they have to focus on (hopefully) playing in the playoffs, and Martinez brings two shiny trophies to help their locker room through adversity.
A big reason Martinez was brought in is because of his puck-moving ability and his play in the defensive zone, but he also brings a tremendous amount of playoff experience, including two Stanley Cups, one of which was clinched after he scored the game-winning goal in overtime.
During the Kings’ first Cup run, the team was a roller coaster throughout the regular season. They fired Terry Murray midway through the season, brought in Darryl Sutter, and did not look back. They snuck in as the eighth seed and steamrolled through the postseason, posting a 16-4 record and only losing one game on the road.
In 2014, the Kings were almost eliminated in the first round by the San Jose Sharks, going down in the series three games to none, but pulled off a miracle to reverse sweep their northern rivals and win the series in seven games. And unlike their first Cup run, they needed seven games in each series to make it to the Final, winning each Game 7 on the road.
When the Kings reached the Cup Final, they defeated the New York Rangers in five games with Martinez scoring the OT game-winner to clinch Lord Stanley.
This is the type of adversity that creates legends, and Martinez has been through every storm, coming out on top. During the Golden Knights Game 7 debacle last season against the Sharks, Martinez’s leadership will prove to be crucial on the ice and in the locker room.
Resurrection in Vegas
In 10 games for the Golden Knights, Martinez has doubled his point total in a fourth of the games. He has scored twice as many goals in Sin City than he did in Los Angeles and is up to 3 goals and 16 points. DeBoer has stressed getting into shooting lanes and blocking more shots, a big reason Martinez was brought in, and he has not disappointed. He is averaging over three blocks-per-game.
In his team debut, Martinez proved himself by scoring a goal and then created a spot in every fan’s heart by botching the celebration. Luckily the only thing that was hurt on this play was his ego.
The move to Vegas has helped Martinez find his offense again as he is playing in a more open system and is using his poise to create plays.
“You can see how smart he is, how composed he is,” DeBoer said. “He made a couple reads in that game where you can tell he’s a veteran presence back there. A young defenseman might have run out of position to chase a situation and he held and recognized and waited.”From ‘Celebration aside, Alec Martinez has strong Golden Knights debut’ Las Vegas Review Journal, 02/21/2020
His IQ and ability to read plays is something he can pass on to other players in the organization and help develop future Golden Knights.
Mentor to Young Golden Knights
At age 32, Martinez is the second-oldest defenseman behind Deryk Engelland and could potentially wear that crown next season if Engelland is not re-signed. With his past experience and leadership abilities, many of the young Golden Knights will look up to him.
He has played most of his five-on-five shifts with Shea Theodore and has played a big part in Theodore’s development late in the season. Since Martinez was acquired, Theodore has been able to use his skating ability to make plays because he knows he has a reliable partner who will be back to defend. Theodore has five goals, three of them game-winners, and two assists with Martinez in the lineup.
Players like Nic Hague, Zach Whitecloud and a number of Vegas’ other prospects will look to emulate the type of career Martinez has had. In today’s salary cap world, you need young players on their entry-level contracts to contribute and produce, and with Martinez on board, he will help develop these young players.
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While many fans were distraught over the Martinez acquisition at first and thought the price was too high, he has fit like a glove in DeBoer’s system and has made a seamless transition to the Golden Knights lineup. He will play a big role for the team should they go on a deep playoff run and will be a great mentor for future Vegas defensemen.
Love watching every level of hockey. I have been writing for DobberProspects since 2016 and excited to be a part of THW.