The New York Islanders haven’t announced it yet, but word has come out that the extension for fourth-liner Matt Martin is quite a bit bigger than expected. Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reported today that it would be a “bit of a surprise” and that it would reflect the Islanders’ loyalty to the big forward. Arthur Staple of The Athletic tweets that it is expected to be a four-year contract with an average annual value of $1.5MM. New York GM Lou Lamoriello recently confirmed the team had re-signed Martin, but the contract has yet to be officially filed with the league.
Sure, a four-year deal for a fourth-line player is usually a surprise, but perhaps it shouldn’t be one in this specific instance. Martin is actually coming off two previous four-year contracts, one signed with the Islanders in 2012 and one signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2016 (notably with Lamoriello, who was GM of the Maple Leafs at the time). This one will come in somewhere between the $4MM he earned on that first deal and $10MM he earned on his last, but still means that Martin will be more than twice as expensive as the league minimum.
For a player that scored just eight points last season and has a career-high of 19, this kind of commitment is exceedingly rare. But Martin is beloved in the Islanders locker room and does often impact the game positively, even if it’s not by putting the puck in the net. His defensive ability is actually a bit underrated, with opponents generating fewer shots when he’s on the ice, while he is also always among the league leaders in hits, something still valued by the tough-as-nails Barry Trotz system. The fact that Martin actually rarely takes minor penalties is also a rarity for a player of his ilk; in 2019-20 he took only five of the two-minute variety.
At one point in the past, the trio of Martin, Cal Clutterbuck, and Casey Cizikas was known as the most effective fourth line in the league. The Islanders obviously believe that the 31-year-old Martin can still be an asset in that role.