Robert Bortuzzo grateful for his time and opportunity with the NY Islanders

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

Robert Bortuzzo started the season in St. Louis, the only franchise he had known for a decade and one that he helped win a Stanley Cup in 2019. However, the Blues were going in a different direction on their blueline, which made the veteran expendable after 424 games with the team.

The Islanders were in desperate need of defensive depth after Ryan Pulock went down after both Adam Pelech and Sebastian Aho sustained injuries at Ottawa on Nov. 24. Bortuzzo was looking for an opportunity to play after being a healthy scratch most of the season and the Blues were hopeful to find him one. Ultimately, he was dealt to the New York Islanders for a 2024 seventh round pick.

"I knew I was coming to an organization with a lot of history," said Bortuzzo on Friday. "A group of guys that have a ton of character. We weren't able to get the job done this year, but it was fun to play with this group, and the end of this season was a fun run."

With the Islanders battling injuries, Bortuzzo slid into the top six and provided a strong and physical stay-at-home presence until he himself was injured on Jan. 2 in Colorado. The lower-body injury appeared serious enough that it was uncertain whether the 34-year-old could work his way back to be an option for the team down the stretch.

He eventually did, returning to the lineup on Mar. 21st at Detroit. With Scott Mayfield electing to have season-ending surgery, Bortuzzo dressed for the final 12 games of the regular season as the Islanders made a push for the playoffs, going 8-3-1 after his return to the lineup.

"I'm an older player; sometimes you don't bounce back as quickly. There was some uncertainty coming into the season with St. Louis not playing much. Obviously, getting an opportunity here, I can't thank the organization enough for that shot at playing games and then playing playoff games."

In the playoff series versus the Carolina Hurricanes, head coach Patrick Roy played the veteran Bortuzzo over Sebastian Aho, and that decision paid off in Game 4. Bortuzzo had the unique stat line of having 0 goals and 0 assists in 27 games during the regular season but received the primary assist on Mathew Barzal's 2OT tip-in to extend the Islander's season. It was the first time the defenseman had been on the ice for an overtime game-winner in his career.

"It was everything I thought of when I came to this team, what it was going to be like, and the standard that management sets is a high bar here," he added. It's unlikely Bortuzzo will be back next season, but his short stint with the Islanders was mutually beneficial for the player and the organization.