Players with the size and toughness of power forward prospect Matt Martin are in short supply in the Islanders' organization. But Martin's desire to play in Bridgeport next season and the Isles' need for his talents might not matter if a dispute over his entry-level contract isn't resolved by the end of training camp in September.
Agent Pat Morris and Islanders general manager Garth Snow don't want to negotiate publicly, but the stalemate boils down to a disagreement over Martin's value. He was drafted in the fifth round of his second draft with the 148th pick in 2008. Possibly because he played on a line with Steve Stamkos, the No. 1 overall pick that year, Martin's numbers were devalued, but he proved himself last season as Sarnia's captain by totaling 35 goals, 65 points and 155 penalty minutes.
Having outperformed his draft position, the Martin camp is believed to be seeking a contract equivalent to a late first-round choice or a second-rounder. The Islanders made what they regard as a generous offer, but not first-round money. It's uncertain whether their offer still is on the table, and if Martin isn't signed when camp ends, he must return to juniors and go back into the draft.
"I don't want to get in the middle of it," Martin said at the Isles' rookie minicamp, which ends Wednesday. "The Islanders have been great with keeping it between my agent and them and telling me to stay positive and not worry about it."
If he returns to Sarnia, where he began as a walk-on, Martin might make an all-star team for the first time or go deeper in the playoffs. But really, there's little to be gained for the 6-2, 192-pound player who had 12 fights last season that demonstrated his aggressiveness. Neither is there much precedent for players significantly improving their draft position the second time around.
"Personally, I would like to move on," Martin said. "I had a pretty good season last year. I feel I'm physically dominant in [the OHL] now. I like new challenges. I don't want to sit back. Sarnia has been great, but in the grand scheme of things, I would like to get into the Islanders' organization and start up my career."
Isles coach Scott Gordon said Martin "is going to be an impact player once he turns pro. Hopefully, that will be sooner rather than later."
Some have compared Martin to the Devils' David Clarkson as a physical winger. "I like to set my goals pretty high," Martin said. "I'm not going to come in and wow everyone with my skill. But I'm going to play physical and put up a few fights for my teammates and hope the rest of my game will follow along."