Will Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck Return to the NY Islanders Next Season?

The two long-term fourth line mainstays will be unrestricted free agents in July. Will either be back in 2024-25?
Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck have both had terrific careers with the NY Islanders. Will either get a chance to continue those careers next season?
Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck have both had terrific careers with the NY Islanders. Will either get a chance to continue those careers next season? / Jason Mowry/GettyImages
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While the 2023-24 season is not over yet, the NY Islanders are already facing some fan pressure to make some legitimate changes to the roster for next season. While the roster contains many players on multi-year contracts, two of the longest-tenured members of the teams are on expiring contracts. It would be strange to see either Matt Martin or Cal Clutterbuck in another NHL jersey at this point, but it might also be the appropriate time to ask whether time has run out for these Islander legends.

Martin is currently in his 15th NHL season and has shown signs of breaking down throughout this year. He only has 8 points in 52 games this season, and his average ice time has dropped two minutes from last season to this season. It is relatively common for physical players like Martin to hit the proverbial wall, and with Martin turning 35 years old next month, it's fair to question how much is left in the tank.

Clutterbuck has been more effective than Martin but will turn 37 in November, While he has played 77 games this season, he has had multiple injuries over the past few years, and it is unwise to depend on Clutterbuck for anything more than spot fourth-line duty moving forward. Clutterbuck has also been a reliable penalty killer for the Islanders for years, but with the PK being so bad this season, changing personnel on the penalty kill isn't exactly a deterrent.

Cal Clutterbuck
Cal Clutterbuck, who turns 37 years old next season, is nearing the end of an impressive career with the NY Islanders. / Jason Mowry/GettyImages

With newcomers like Kyle MacLean breaking into the league, there are bound to be younger and better options for the fourth line than two aging veterans who are increasingly breaking down. Even with the salary cap going up next season, the Islanders are likely to be close to the cap ceiling, so finding cheap options for the fourth line will be of paramount importance over the next few seasons.

All that being said, the Islanders during the Lou Lamoriello Era have maintained a very loyal disposition toward their core players, and it would not be shocking to see either or both Martin and Clutterbuck return. Of course, it stands to reason that any deal would be for the league minimum salary and would theoretically not block any younger options for these roles, but there comes a time when teams have to walk away from players, and this offseason seems as good a time as any for Clutterbuck and Martin.

Martin, in particular, would seem in line for a job with the organization, whether that be in coaching or in the front office in some capacity. It would be fitting for Martin and Clutterbuck to find long-term homes with the Islanders in retirement, helping develop the next generation of Islanders.

Change is never easy, particularly for a core of hockey players who have grown together and played together for many years. Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck's contracts expiring after this season is a necessary first step to moving this roster into the next generation with younger talent throughout the roster.