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 wingers 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 a 2013 third-round pick of New York and only played a total of 36 games in the 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 August 22, 2019, but has yet to make his NHL debut. He struggled in the ECHL with the Adirondack Thunder this past season with a goals-against average of 3.25 and a save percentage less than .900.
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 ten games.
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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. It was never more evident than in the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins last year when New York’s fourth line matched up against Sidney Crosby and held him to one point and a minus-4.
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 has increased, and is a key player on the Islanders.
His role with the team this season will dictate whether or not the Islanders can make a run at a Stanley Cup. He will see much of his ice-time against Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau in the play-in games this summer.
In the end, the Islanders benefited from making a move for a player that impacts the lineup every day. Martin is playing in the final year of a four-year contract that Toronto awarded him and will be a free agent at the end of this season.
McAdam will continue to have to fight for a chance in the NHL. It happened to not be in New York as they have potential star Ilya Sorokin coming over from the KHL. 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.