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Golden Girls: Seidenberg and the Islanders tradition of old late-summer signings

With Seidenberg getting games, a look back at other recent aging defensemen added during camp

“Thank you for being a friend.”

Out with the old and in with the...old. The Isles have a history of signing aged defensemen in the summer months. In light of Dennis Seidenberg’s signing, we here at LHH felt it necessary to remind you of our Isles oldies of yesteryear. Here’s a quick rundown of the golden girls:

Mottau, 2010

Mike Mottau: Mike and guys like Jack Eichel and Johnny Gaudreau share something in common: They won the Hobey Baker award. (It’s true!)

In fact, as captain of Boston College Mottau was one of six defensemen to receive the award since 1981. Pretty impressive, unlike his NHL career.

The Isles signed Mottau under duress, after Mark Streit was injured during camp. By that time Mottau only had three full NHL seasons under his belt and the Devils had cut him loose at the ripe age of 32. He skated a mere 20 games with the team that season in which he added 0 goals to his 7 career total NHL goals.

He played in 29 the next before being mercifully dumped on the Bruins in the Great ex-Devils Castoff at that season’s deadline. A regular target of fans for all the things wrong with the Isles, his stint with the Isles was essentially the end of his career; he finished out with a handful of games for the Bruins and Panthers.

Staios, 2011

Steve Staios: Onward to a player with a career three times as long as Mottau’s, but who overlapped with him at the end. Staios, long time Oilers defenseman, signed with the Isles for the 2011-12 season as an unrestricted free agent at the age of 38. Staios played 65 games with Isles that season, one of which was the milestone of his 1,000th NHL game.

He subsequently retired after the season and was eventually hired by the Maple Leafs to do something. Yet another oldie to sign with the Isles for “veteran presence” and all that, get sick of hockey, and retire the year after.

The 2nd Coming of Martinek, 2012

Radek Martinek: This guy’s a classic. A beloved longtime Islander, injuries very often cut his seasons short and caused the Isles to let him go at age 35 after nine seasons.

But then, “Martinek was working out at IceWorks” became as familiar and haunting an annual tradition as “Yashin seen skating at IceWorks.”

After a year in Columbus — which started with an injury, of course — the Isles brought him back in the Staios mode. I remember back in the Summer of 2013, when I interned with the Isles, we had a Russian guy (I forgot what he did for the organization, apologies) who would poke his head into the office and spew nonsense about how Martinek was the second coming. Good times, good times.

Anyway, call it sending him to time-out for a year. Martinek played 13 games with the team in 2012-13 season (being the lockout year) and 13 the next season. He ended his career in the NHL after the 2013-14 season at the age of 37.

Zidlicky Time, 2015

Marek Zidlicky: The most recent Golden Girl on the list, and one of the more productive. Zid is most known for his time spent in Nashville and New Jersey. He signed with the Isles for the 2015-16 to replace Isles favorite Lubomir Visnovsky (who retired the season prior), because, ya know, we have to have a defenseman over the age of 35 on the team...OR ELSE.

Zid was 38 when he signed with the Isles and played 53 games with the team last season, adding some offensive punch and rarely used in back-to-back games. He subsequently ended his NHL career after helping them end the 23-year playoff series victory drought.

Trending Old but Up?

Noticing a trend? Yeah, me too. Management seems to be obsessed with having an aging defenseman on the roster upon beginning the season. So much so that they seem to actively seek out oldies over the summer to sign on as the 7th d-man. They do come cheap, and with low expectations, so they’re cap- and roster-friendly.

What do I say to this? As long as they keep the trend of signing on useful 7th d-men like Zid and Seidenberg, I think it’s a good thing. It gives guys like Pulock some wiggle room in case they’re having a rough stretch, or in the case of injury to the top 6, you know you’re getting a seasoned and responsible d-man replacement. As long as those last two descriptions fit.

P.S. If you’d all like some more Isles intern stories, I’d be happy to share. From watching a legend chain smoke outside the Coliseum on lunch break to babysitting a much-maligned defenseman at an autograph signing at a children’s daycare camp in the armpit of Smithtown, I’ve seen my share.