Matt Martin has always represented what it means to be a New York Islander. The work he does off the ice matches his on-ice production as one of the best fourth-line forwards in the league. Martin generated chemistry with Casey Cizikas when the two came into the league nearly a decade ago and became the best fourth line in the NHL along with Cal Clutterbuck.
With Martin a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs after he signed with them during the summer of 2016, Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello made one of his first big moves by reuniting Martin with the Islanders on July 3, 2018. Lamoriello sent Eamon McAdam to the Maple Leafs in a one-for-one swap.
McAdam was an Islanders’ 2013 third-round pick and only played a total of 36 games in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He mainly alternated between the ECHL and the AHL. Since the trade, he was signed by the New Jersey Devils on Aug. 22, 2019, but has yet to make his NHL debut. He struggled in the ECHL with the Adirondack Thunder in 2020-21 with a goals-against average (GAA) of 3.25 and a save percentage (SV%) less than .900. Moreover, in eight starts in the 2021-22 season with the Jacksonville Icemen, he had a .915 SV% and a 2.53 GAA, and at 27-years old, it looks unlikely he will make it to the NHL.
For Martin, after playing in 82 games in 2016-17, he only skated in 50 games the following season for Toronto and was a healthy scratch in the 2018 Playoffs the year prior to being traded away.
“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised that I was being moved,” Martin said. “It’s no secret how the second half of the season played out for me last year. I had a pretty good idea when I was not moved at the deadline, I’d get moved in the summer.”
In his first season back with the Islanders in 2018-19, Martin scored six goals and had 14 assists. He registered his first goal that season in an exciting win over the San Jose Sharks and then scored two more in his first 10 games. While it doesn’t always get seen in box scores, Martin’s most significant impact has been his defensive style of hockey. With Cizikas and Clutterbuck, that line consistently matches up against the opponent’s top lines. In the 2020-21 season, the veteran forward only scored six goals and added five assists, but playing in 54 games, helped the Islanders beyond the offensive production, leading to 32 regular-season wins and a third consecutive trip to the playoffs.
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The strong defensive play was evident in the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2019 when New York’s fourth line matched up against Sidney Crosby, holding the world-class scorer to one point and a minus-4, helping the team win their first playoff series under head coach Barry Trotz. Likewise, Martin alongside his linemates of Cizikas and Clutterbuck, played a crucial role in the Islanders’ consecutive Stanley Cup Semifinal appearances in 2020 and 2021, eliminating opposing forwards with a strong forecheck in the offensive zone to set up scoring opportunities.
Martin now does not regularly lead the league in hits anymore as well as fights, but can still throw the body among the best of them in the league. He had a run of five straight years of leading the NHL in hits before his numbers dropped. In any event, his ice time increased to 11:04 in the 2020-21 season, and Martin is a key player on the Islanders forward unit.
His role with the team this season will dictate whether or not the Islanders can not only have another successful season under Trotz but also make a run at a Stanley Cup. The Islanders are a team that thrives on their later forward lines to add depth to the overall team and the play from Martin is crucial to the success of the roster as a result.
In the end, the Islanders benefited from making a move for a player that impacts the lineup every day. Martin was rewarded for his strong play on the backend of the forward unit with a four-year, $6 million contract in the 2020 offseason that will keep him with the Islanders until 2025.
McAdam will continue to have to fight for a chance in the NHL. It happened to not be in New York as young goaltender Ilya Sorokin has made a massive impact in the net since coming over from the KHL at the start of the 2020-21 NHL season. They also received tremendous seasons from Robin Lehner, Thomas Greiss, and Semyon Varlamov, forcing McAdam to have to find a new home on a different team.
Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November 2020 and covers the New York Islanders. In addition to covering the Islanders, Fink has written for multiple sports blogs and platforms covering the NHL, NFL, MLB, and college sports. Follow Mike on Twitter @Finks_thoughts for more Islanders and general hockey insights.