Matt Martin and the New York Islanders sure like to go down to the wire.
Three years ago Martin's negotiation of an entry level contract stretched deeper into summer 2009 than you'd expect, as the 2008 overage pick faced the dilemma of signing for what the Isles offered or else playing an overage year in Sarnia. A fair deal was worked out in September 2009, and all lived happily ever after.
Now in summer 2012 Martin was up for renewal, and he faced the dilemma of signing for what the Isles offered or else risk waiting until the creation of a new CBA that likely won't reward checkers.
Just like last time, Martin existed in a strange middle area where his present value is clear but how much better he'll get is not: NHL hits leader (counting stat caveat aside) and one of the team's inspirational physical forces, could he be counted on to be more than a fourth liner? If the Islanders' talent continues to improve, could he be counted on to keep a job three, four seasons down the line?
The answer, or the assessment from both parties, is yes. Martin wasn't the biggest name to get in before the CBA expired and the lockout began last night, but he was one of the latest [previously discussed in this FanShot]. His four-year deal, reported to be worth $4 million total, is a solid compromise bet between team and player.
We said before this would probably come down to a compromise on current rate vs. length, and that's indeed what a four-year commitment looks like here. A $1 million salary is a lot to pay a player if you don't think he'll be one of your best 12 forwards a few years from now. (I'm not saying he won't be in 2015, but you never know, and players of his profile are just as likely to phase out as they are to become essential regulars.) But if he remains a regular, then it's a fine rate for an RFA.
And if Martin's game continues to improve (he potted 7 goals in 80 games in utility minutes last year), he might even be a bargain a few years from now -- in which case, at least under the current rules, he'd be able to cash in as an unrestricted free agent once the deal is up.
Of course, that's according to thinks under the old CBA. That CBA is history now.