Playing 900 NHL games is an impressive feat. It's that much more impressive when you've done it as a grinder or enforcer and have dropped the gloves over 100 times in your NHL career. Such are the circumstances for New York Islanders winger Matt Martin, who is set to reach the milestone later tonight against the Arizona Coyotes at UBS Arena.
Skating in his 15th season, Martin is set to play his 768th career game for the Islanders, and is closing in on becoming only the eighth player in franchise history to play 800 games with the franchise. The 34-year-old has has 77 goals, 91 assists and 1,115 PIM in 899 career games and is second on the all-time list in hits, registering 3,708, trailing only teammate Cal Clutterbuck.
It's hard to imagine that playing this long and 13 of 15 seasons with the same organization was expected when Martin was selected in the fifth round of the 2008 NHL Draft. He got an opportunity to play early on a struggling Isles team, adding a physical presence to the lineup on a nightly basis. That earned him ice time, while his eventual pairing with Casey Cizikas and Clutterbuck cemented his role on the team for years to come.
“Longevity is something I’m proud of,” said Martin after Monday’s practice. “10 years, about 800 of these games have been with the same two guys [Clutterbuck and Cizikas]. The type of game we play, and as you get older, they’re trying to replace you if they can because you’re more expensive and always trying to get younger guys into the lineup, so I’m proud of how I’ve held up over the years.”
In the final season of a four-year contract extension, he signed with the team after the 2019-20 season, playing in a 1,000th career game with the Islanders or anywhere else is not guaranteed. It's something Martin says he isn't thinking about, at least not yet.
“I’ve never really thought about these things,” Martin told Newsday. “Just play the games, recover and get ready for the next one. You try to live in the moment as much as possible. Nine hundred is a big number and an achievement but, a couple of days later, hopefully I’ll play 901.”