When the Islanders traded for him, the idea was that Andy Greene’s time with the club would be a short-term thing. The veteran defenseman was on an expiring contract, after all, and the Isles just needed some temporary help because of what was thought to be a season-ending injury to Adam Pelech.
But Greene’s stay with the Islanders was extended thanks to the coronavirus pause, and it has been further extended by the Isles’ run in the playoffs, which had gotten as far as Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night in Edmonton.
And now, according to Islanders coach Barry Trotz, Greene looks perfectly at home with the Islanders.
"If you've been around our group the last three months, you would swear that he's been an Islander for years,’’ Trotz said in his pregame remarks on Thursday, before the Isles took on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of their series at Rogers Place. "Personality-wise, he’s fit in so well that … if you knew nothing about his background and you came and watched us for last three months, you would swear he was with the Islanders his whole career.’’
He hasn’t been, of course. The 37-year-old played the first 13-and-a-half seasons of his career with the Devils, until Lou Lamoriello, who had originally signed him for the Devils as a college free agent back in 2006, traded for him on Feb. 16. He played 10 games with the Isles before the NHL paused play on March 12 (three assists, two penalty minutes), but he’s really shown his worth during the postseason, in which he’d played 20 games (two goals, two assists, eight penalty minutes) entering Thursday.
It’s highly unlikely Greene will be back with the Isles after this season, though. Pelech, Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Scott Mayfield, Thomas Hickey and 20-year-old Noah Dobson are under contract for next season, while first-pair righthander Ryan Pulock (25) and second-pair lefty Devon Toews (26) are restricted free agents with arbitration rights who certainly will be re-signed. So, at the moment, there isn’t room for Greene on the roster next season, and Thursday’s game potentially was his last as an Islander.
He started as a replacement for Pelech, who suffered an Achilles tendon injury in January. When Pelech was ready to play by the time the NHL resumed, he became a fill-in for Boychuk, who was injured in the opening game of the qualifying series against Florida. He played so well that he stayed in the lineup after Boychuk was healthy enough to play. And when Trotz finally put Boychuk back in the lineup in Game 5 Tuesday, it was as a seventh defenseman. Greene played 20:52 in the Isles’ 2-1, double-OT win.
Greene said the seven-defenseman alignment wasn’t a problem for him. He’d done it a few times before over the years. The key, he said, was the need for communication on the bench.
"Obviously, there's not a kind of normal rotation, where you're always going with your partner, or with the same guy,’’ he said. "You're just pulling for everybody out there, and you work as a group. And whoever's going out there, you have a job to do, and you do it.’’
Even if you’re a temp.