In 1999 the Islanders had four first round picks, these players were going to be the new foundation for the next decade of the team. The Islanders used two of their first rounders on defenseman Branislav Mezei and Kristian Kudroc. With their next 10 picks in the draft, they added 4 more defenseman including 8th Rounder Radek Martinek. Who would have ever guessed that out of that group, Martinek would have ended up the longest termed Islander? He's 21st in games played for his draft year and only 6 defenseman have more games played then him.
One of only 2 Milbury draft picks to make the NHL out of the 8th round (Evgeny Korolev being the other) it's not surprising that Martinek has taken a blue collar approach to the job. He goes in, does his duty and goes back to the bench. No complaints, no apologies, the man shows up and does his job. The oldest player remaining on the roster after Doug Weight's injury and Dwayne Roloson's trade, he was a great example to all the up and coming youngsters in the Islanders system. I'm sure in a few years guys like Andrew MacDonald, Travis Hamonic, Milan Jurcina, Ty Wishart, Dylan Reese, etc... will have nothing but positives to say about the guy.
I think that was one of the reasons, along with his mystery injury, that Snow kept both Martinek and Zenon Konopka around following the trade deadline.
We've seen it before when a young Islanders team was asked to do too much without any older players to help lead the way. Martinek wasn't flashy, and he isn't going to make highlight reels. But the value of everything he brings to the table can't be underestimated. Above all else, he understood what it meant to be a part of the team and led by example. When Marian Gaborik hit Frans Nielsen with a questionable check, it was Martinek who was just about to end his shift who came flying over to get Gaborik.
This is a quality pickup by the Blue Jackets at 2.2 Million for one year. If he stays healthy for the year, I'm almost certain that Blue Jackets fans would have wished they signed Martinek long term and James Wisniewski for just this season. For a team looking to make an immediate turn around next season, the addition of Martinek at an economic price helps. With a number of ridiculously overpriced signings this free agent period, hindsight next year might look back at the Martinek signing as one of the better deals.
That was always the one caveat about Martinek; If Healthy. Heading into last season most of us marked down Martienk for 20-30 games at most. His 64 games played was his highest total since 07-08 when he played 69 games. He's only once played over 70 games in a season back in 05-06, and even now is coming off a major injury he suffered at the world championships. Let's hope he's recovered and ready in time for the upcoming NHL season.
It's sort of an odd coincidence that Martinek was signed so close to Dany Heatley being traded. While Heatley by all signs and stories is the sort of superstar you love to hate, demanding trades away from highly talented cup contenders, Martinek went out and did his job without a peep. During his time on Long Island there was a lot he could have complained about. He outlasted Chris Campoli who demanded a trade off the Island and whose career goal appears to be pricing himself out of a job. He didn't go running to the press to complain about Gordon when the rest of the veterans did. Slow but steady wins the race, and Martinek won over his fair share of fans during his Islanders career with hard work day in and day out.
It's also drawing closer to the real end of an era for the Islanders. With Bruno Gervais, Jack Hillen and Radek Martienk all gone from the Islanders, only Rick DiPietro, Frans Nielsen, Blake Comeau and Trent Hunter were acquired before Snow took over the team. This offseason looks like another big step forward in Snow's stamp being all over the team, for better or for worse.