Game 4 could be the final time we see Martin and Clutterbuck in NY Islanders sweaters

New York Islanders v Columbus Blue Jackets
New York Islanders v Columbus Blue Jackets / Jason Mowry/GettyImages

Trailing 3-2 entering the third period of Thursday night's Game 3, New York Islanders head coach Patrick Roy needed a goal. That meant double-shifting Mathew Barzal and Bo Horvat and even reuniting them with Brock Nelson as time ticked away. It also meant that fourth-liners Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck only received one shift in the last 20 minutes.

Martin had needed a maintenance day on Wednesday, leading to flashy forward Ruslan Iskhakov, who made his NHL debut in the regular season finale, skating in his place at practice. Martin was a game-time decision and ultimately skated in his usual spot, playing 8:16 with one shot and two hits. Meanwhile, Clutterbuck had only 7:43 of ice time, managing four hits.

With the Islanders trailing the series three games to none, there's the chance that Roy could make a lineup change, but that would be potentially scratching Martin in what could be his final game with the Islanders. Clutterbuck, who played in all 82 regular season games for the first time in his career at age 36, is likely to stay in the lineup, because he kills penalties, and is fully healthy.

Cal Clutterbuck
Winnipeg Jets v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

Both are unrestricted free agents, and their future with the Islanders or anywhere else in the NHL is very much uncertain. There is broad acknowledgment that the team needs to get younger and faster, and that too often leads to looking at both Martin and Clutterbuck as expendable pieces headed into next season to start to do just that.

They weren't at the peak of their powers when hockey analyst Don Cherry branded them, along with center Casey Cizkas, as the "best fourth line ever" or when Barry Trotz gave them the nickname "The Identity Line," but they have still contributed to a playoff team this season. Clutterbuck was an ironman and reached 1,000 career games and over 4,000 career hits this season. Martin, meanwhile had four goals and four assists in 57 games, similar stats that he put up during the 2019-20 Covid-shortened season when he scored five goals and three assists in 55 games.

Cal Clutterbuck, Casey Cizikas, Matt Martin
Philadelphia Flyers v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

We know GM Lou Lamoriello is loyal, but it would register as a surprise if both players were back next season. Martin, who turns 35 in May, is 45 games short of 1,000 in his career (823 with the Islanders), and that may serve as motivation for him to play another NHL season. Clutterbuck showed his durability at age 36 but hasn't led on one way or the other what his intentions are after this season.

Could they back again on one-year deals? Anything is possible. If that that happens, there will be those that will be annoyed if that's the outcome, but there are no fans who can discredit or downplay the impact that both players have made on this franchise for over a decade.