New NY Islanders defenseman Robert Bortuzzo brings intensity and competitive fire

St Louis Blues v Calgary Flames
St Louis Blues v Calgary Flames / Derek Leung/GettyImages
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Newly acquired New York Islanders defenseman Robert Bortuzzo knows what he offers a hockey team, and GM Lou Lamoriello knew what he was getting when he dealt a 2024 seventh-round pick to the St. Louis Blues for the veteran following Ryan Pulock being placed on IR with a lower-body injury.

The 34-year-old has been a bottom-pair defenseman throughout his career and has been known for bringing tenacity and grit to the blue line, first with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team that drafted him 78th overall in 2007, parts of the last ten seasons with the Blues.

"I like to play with an intensity and competitive fire," said Bortuzzo in the St. Louis Dispatch in 2022. "Frankly, if I'm not playing with it, then my game isn't where it can be."

"Yeah, at times there's an edge, or a snap or a wire crossed, but we try to keep it on the straight and arrow, kinda walking that line," Bortuzzo added.

One of those times was against the Islanders when he retaliated against new teammate Brock Nelson after the Isles center collided with one of his teammates. After knocking him down the ice, Bortuzzo unloaded cross-checks to Nelson's upper-back area, receiving a double-minor.

Almost incredibly, Bortuzzo has signed seven contracts in his career and has never made it to free agency. St. Louis signed him to a two-year extension in February 2022 with a cap hit of $950K AAV. He was one of only 16 players in Blues history to spend 10 seasons with the franchise, winning a Stanley Cup in 2019. He blocked 531 shots and collected 781 hits in 424 career games.

While it can't be easy to leave an organization you've been part of for a decade, the decision to trade Bortuzzo was made easier for GM Doug Armstrong because of open communication between him and the player. "This one wasn't too difficult. Robert and I have talked over the last month or so and he wants to get back on the ice. He wants to play again next year and knew he had to get to a team to get on the ice, said Armonstrong to Bally Sports Midwest last night.

"Robert is a high-character person, one of the people over my thirty years that I've been most impressed to work with, a true gentleman off the ice," Armstrong said. "I think it's something I know he wanted and gives him a great opportunity."

Although Sebastian Aho appears to be nearing a return, Adam Pelech is on LTIR, and Pulock's timetable is unknown after blocking a shot with his right foot on Thursday. It's not certain how long Bortuzzo will have a regular opportunity to play in the lineup, but given his track record, the Isles know that he'll be leaving everything on the ice every chance he gets.