In an article about possible trade targets for the Islanders during the offseason, Arthur Staple of Newsday revealed a little insight into the negotiations between general manager Garth Snow and the team's three key unrestricted free agents.
The passage in question:
Garth Snow's team will look different next season for sure, even if the Isles general manager doesn't add a single player from outside. Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin are headed for free agency on July 1 and contracts elsewhere. Sources indicate that there have been no talks between either player's agent and the Isles since the season ended.
Preliminary talks on a new deal have begun with Frans Nielsen, but those are in the early stages and he too could be out the door on July 1.
A ton of digital ink has already been spilled about Okposo's future with the team, stretching back to the end of last season. He's going to be looking for a lot of money, and it's probably more than the number Snow has in his mind. By this point, any blog that hasn't written a "Should [Team X] sign Kyle Okposo?" article is either more preoccupied with their team's available cap space or just not worth reading at all.
Nielsen's getting his articles now, but always seemed fairly likely to return to the Islanders. He likes them, they like him and he probably (probably) wouldn't look to break the bank (even though he totally could and would deserve it). "Preliminary talks" might not mean much more than a left voicemail, but it's not unexpected.
But Martin is the UFA who hasn't really been talked about that much because it just didn't seem like he'd ever really leave.
And again, he might not. But Martin is such a huge part of the Islanders - in his longevity with the club, in his position on the team's vaunted fourth line with Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck, and in his relentless charity work and community relations - that the idea of him wearing a different jersey seems really, really weird. Maybe more weird than any of the UFAs.
Martin's always seemed like a direct link between today's Islanders and the blue collar guys of the past that threw punches as well as they scored goals. Martin's obviously way better at the former than the latter, but in fairness, he's improved over the years and become a more reliable presence on the ice. (stats via Corsica.hockey)
He also might have a skeleton coated in adamantium because for a dude that hits everything that moves, he almost never misses any time. And yes, we're going to include hits because the talking about Matt Martin and not mentioning hits is like talking about Arnold Schwarzenegger* and not doing a phony Austrian accent. You just have to.
Having said all that, Martin is a replaceable part and the Islanders might feel it's time to upgrade his spot, either with a younger, similar player or with one who's more likely to score than hit. Nikolay Kulemin could fill that role, or the team could bring in an outside free agent that might be cheaper than resigning Martin. Or they could use that spot to ease a rookie scorer into the NHL.
Ironically, Martin's final turn as an Islander might be at this year's NHL Awards Show, where he's a finalist for the NHL Foundation Player of the Year Award for his work in the community and raising money for charity. Among initiatives he's worked with are the NYPD Widows and Children's Fund, the Boomer Esiason Foundation for Cystic Fibrosis, the Islanders Children's Foundation and his own Matt Martin Hit Foundation, which also raises money for Cystic Fibrosis.
Did we mention that Martin's girlfriend is Sydney Esiason of SI.com and Golf.com, who also happens to be Boomer Esiason's daughter? Because she is. Like we said, his ties to the team and Long Island run very deep.
Martin's a good dude and has represented the Islanders organization well over the last seven years. If it's time to move on, it's probably best for the team and could allow for them to infuse the line-up with a different skill set. And he deserves to get his big pay day as much as any other UFA.
But man it would be weird seeing him in a different jersey. Just... weird.
(* - please note that "Schwarzenegger" exists in my spellchecker dictionary but "defenseman" does not.)