New York Islanders fan can widely assume, Matt Martin, of the best fourth line in hockey, will be hitting free agency come this Friday, July 1st. Martin, who set career highs in goals and points, as well as leading the NHL in hits every year since the 2011-12 campaign, is well deserving of a payday when the market opens.
Talks between Martin’s agent and General Manager Garth Snow have been limited as the two sides are likely both looking for term, but have different ideas in terms of salary. Martin is coming off of a four year contract that carried a one million dollar cap hit, and will likely be looking for a contract similar to that of his linemate, Cal Clutterbuck.
It has been rumored that Martin is seeking a four year commitment at three million AAV, which Garth Snow is not likely to offer.
“I’ve played with these guys a long time, and the uncertainty is hard, but it’s the nature of the business. We’ll see how it plays out.” -Matt Martin
Garth has many options both in house, through trade, as well as free agency. In house, there are many roster players who can be shifted around to balance four even lines. Recently unproductive forwards such as Josh Bailey and Nikolay Kulemin could benefit from playing alongside the forechecking, heart and soul tandem of Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck.
New York Islanders
Nikolay Kulemin could benefit from a change of scenery.
It would be a tough decision to put a four million dollar cap hit on a fourth line, but New York Islanders head coach Jack Capuano seems to favor this energy inducing line, and Nikolay Kulemin’s offensive abilities could elevate the already increasing production of Cizikas and Clutterbuck.
The Islanders could also look to add more energy in young forwards Alan Quine and Shane Prince. We have only seen these two in a very small sample as New York Islanders, but they were impressive in the playoffs, and could learn the ropes with more sheltered minutes.
Shane Prince, acquired with a seventh round pick from the Ottawa Senators, in a deadline trade exchanged for a third round pick, had four points in eleven playoff games, and could receive the NHL contract he is looking for to fill out Capuano’s fourth line with a young capable forward looking to establish himself in the league.
Alan Quine scored a double overtime winner that some Islanders fans will be obsessing over for decades to come.
Alan Quine had five points in ten playoff games, in addition to a goal in the only two regular season games he played.
Quine, assigned to the Sound Tigers until his call up, had 48 points in 56 games for the AHL club, which went along with a +1 rating, and an AHL All-Star selection. Traditionally a center in his career, he’s a left handed shot with a scoring touch that could add offensive upside to both the fourth line and second power play unit.
On the trade and free agency market, Garth has less appealing options than what his current roster offers. Veteran forwards Max Talbot and Dominic Moore could provide leadership and grit at a reasonable cap hit, and Columbus is rumored to be looking to move Scott Hartnell.
While these additions could add leadership and experience, the Islanders already have a strong group of leaders between Tavares, Hamonic, Boychuk and Clutterbuck. If the Islanders can retain Frans Nielsen, veteran leadership should not be a high priority filling the open spot on the fourth line. Younger names to add a tough winger are recently unqualified and now UFA Michael Latta, as well as Joe Colborne.
The ultimate solution to replace Matt Martin is for Garth Snow and Martin’s agent to find a compromise to keep the career Islander in blue and orange long term. Though that seems to be an unlikely daydream for Islanders fans who have watched him become the annual NHL hits leader.
The NHL Entry Draft is over, a flurry of marquee trades have already blown our minds, and we still have the beginning of what should be an interesting free agency. With the salary cap increase, potential trades, and general managers beginning to prepare for the now confirmed expansion draft, Garth Snow has a challenge to make his team better after an impressive first round series win, coupled with a disappointing second round exit.