The best Islanders team of players who left and came back

New York Rangers v New York Islanders
New York Rangers v New York Islanders / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages
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On Wednesday, The Athletic strived to answer a question, "Which NHL team can build the best lineup of players who left and came back?" It's not the New York Islanders.

There was not an expansive list of choices. The defense is solid and decorated with awards, while the forward group features an All-Star but lacks a steady offensive punch. The biggest problem is that the Islanders' net is empty. We'll explain.

At least the team will be led by legendary coach Al Arbour. Arbour briefly retired for two years after the 1986-86 season before returning to replace Terry Simpson during the 1988-89 campaign.

Here's our picks for the best Islanders team made up of players that left and came back to the Island.

D - Zdeno Chara (1997-01, 2021-22)

Big Z's return to Long Island didn't work out as anticipated when he signed on to play for the organization that drafted him in the third round of the 1996 NHL Entry Draft.

The 6'9" Slovak debuted for the Islanders at age 20 during the 1997-98 season. After four seasons, he was traded to the Ottawa Senators on June 23, 2001, along with Bill Muckalt and the No. 2 pick overall in a blockbuster draft day deal that sent holdout Alexei Yashin to the Islanders. In Ottawa, Chara became an All-Star and one of the league's most durable defensemen, routinely playing 24-25 minutes a night. In 2006, he signed as a free agent with the Boston Bruins where Chara would be named captain and win a Norris Trophy in 2009 and a Stanley Cup in 2011.

Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Islanders
Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

After 14 seasons with Boston, Chara signed on with the Washington Capitals for the 2021 season. Then, with a hunger to play and a desire to chase down a record, he signed with the Islanders on September 18 for his 24th NHL season. On February 24, 2022, Chara broke Chris Chelios' record for most games played by an NHL defenseman when he skated in the 1,652nd game. He played in 72 games with the Islanders, providing mentorship to Noah Dobson and leading by his unmatched work ethic. He scored twice last season, including a memorable goal in the season's final game vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning.

D - Bryan Berard (1996-99, 2007-08)

The Ottawa Senators selected Berard with the first overall pick in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft, but when he didn't go straight to the NHL, he requested a trade. The offensive defenseman was sent to the Islanders in a three-team deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs that included D Wade Redden, the Islanders first-round pick in the same draft (2nd overall). The deal also sent Martin Straka to New York and the disgruntled Kirk Mueller to Toronto.

New York Islanders v Pittsburgh Penguins
New York Islanders v Pittsburgh Penguins / Christian Petersen/GettyImages

Berard started his NHL career at 19, putting up 48 points (8 goals, 40 assists) in his first season, and was awarded the Calder Trophy in 1997 as the league's top rookie. After four seasons on Long Island, Berard was traded to the Maple Leafs for G Felix Potvin. He suffered a career-threatening eye injury on March 11, 2000, when the Senators' Marion Hossa's stick clipped his right eye and detached his retina. After missing a season, he underwent eye surgery and made a comeback with New York Rangers. After playing a season in Boston, Berard had a great season with the Chicago Blackhawks, scoring 13 goals and adding 34 assists which earned him the Bill Masterton Trophy.

After playing 55 games over two seasons in Columbus, he attended training camp with the Islanders ahead of the 2007-08 season and earned a one year contract. He played in 55 games with his best moment coming in the season opener, scoring the GWG in a 2-1 win against the Rangers.

F - Mariusz Czerkawski (1997-02, 2003-04)

Originally drafted by the Boston Bruins in the 5th round of the 1991 draft, the "Polish Prince" was acquired in one of Mike Milbury's best moves from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for prospect Dan LaCouture on August 25, 1997. "I think he is an immediate player for the team, Milbury said of Czerkawski, who scored 26 goals the prior season in Edmonton. "He can step right into our first two lines.''

After scoring just 12 goals in 1997-98, Czerkawski netted 21 in 98-99 before putting together back-to-back 30-goal seasons with 35 in 99-00 and 30 in 2000-01. In 2000, he represented the Islanders at the All-Star Game, finishing that season with a career-high 70 points. Following the 2001-02 season, he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens for F Aaron Asham and a 5th-round pick.

New York Islanders v Washington Capitals
New York Islanders v Washington Capitals / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

After scoring just five goals in 43 games in Montreal, Czerkawski was signed by the Islanders during the off-season and delivered a 25 goal, 24 assist season. After the playing the cancelled 2004 season, he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs and then finished his career with the team that drafted him, when he was selected off waivers by the Boston Bruins.

F - Matt Martin (2009-16, 2018-Present)

It sometimes feels like Matt Martin never left, but after seven seasons, the 2008 5th-round pick signed a four-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent in 2016. After two years in Toronto, new Islanders and previous Maple Leafs G.M. Lou Lamoriello traded for Martin in exchange for goaltending prospect Eamon McAdam.

New York Islanders v Montreal Canadiens
New York Islanders v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

Martin has arguably had the most successful second stint with the Islanders. The "Identity Line" with Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck picked up where they left off and were key contributors to the Islanders' deep playoff runs in 2020 and 2021. Martin signed a four-year extension with the team in 2021 and is expected to end his career on Long Island.

C - Randy Robitaille (2003, 2006-07)

Randy Robitaille played in just 60 total games for the Islanders (10 in 2002-03 and 50 in 2006-07), but both times the team made the playoffs, and both times he was a contributor in the post-season.

Ottawa Senators v New York Islanders
Ottawa Senators v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

The Islanders traded for Robitaille twice. In 2003 he was acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 9th for a 5th-round draft pick. “Randy is a gifted offensive player that we believe is a good fit for us,” Islander G.M. Mike Milbury said after the trade. In 10 games with the Isles to finish the season, he had 1 goal and two assists, playing 12:28 TOI a night. In the five-game series with the top-seeded Ottawa Senators, Robitaille had a goal and an assist.

Following stops in Atlanta, Minnesota and Philadelphia, Robitaille was reacquired by the Islanders on December 20, 2006 for Mike York. In the deal, the Islanders also acquired a 2008 5th round pick which was used to draft Matt Martin. Robitaille had six goals and 17 assists in 2006-07 and two assists in the team's opening round loss to the Buffalo Sabres.

Goalie - Empty Net

There have been 54 goaltenders in Islanders history.

None of them have returned once leaving Long Island.

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Islanders
Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

As such, if the Islanders are playing with an extra attacker, the options would be the lovable Radek Martinek and Kip Miller.