Andy Greene faced a similar scenario two years ago as the Devils' captain, going into the final season of a contract on a team not likely playoff-bound.
Then, Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello traded for Greene, who waived a no-trade clause on Feb. 16, 2020 to be reunited with the executive who signed him into the Devils’ organization in 2006 as an undrafted free agent.
Now, Greene, on a one-year, $750,000 deal without any trade protection, faces the possibility that Lamoriello could move him in advance of the NHL trade deadline on March 21 to a team needing defense depth for its playoff push. Lamoriello would almost certainly approach Greene, 39, in advance if he was contemplating such a deal.
"We haven’t talked at all about it," Greene said Thursday before the Islanders continued a six-game homestand against the Blue Jackets, the start of a back-to-back with the Jets also at UBS Arena on Friday night. "But, at the same time, being an older guy and having gone through it on both sides of it where there could be times where guys are going to get traded, it could be you. It could be anyone.
"Maybe early on in your career, where you don’t really know how to handle it yet, you focus on it maybe a little bit too much. But now, in all reality, it’s out of my hands. I can’t sit there and I don’t waste energy on it or focus on it. I’m not looking to move or go anywhere. It’s just, whatever happens, happens and then we’ll deal with it when whatever does happen."
The Islanders entered Thursday 22 points behind the Capitals for the Eastern Conference’s final wild-card spot.
Greene entered Thursday — his 1,032nd regular-season game — with two goals and seven assists in 43 games.
"There’s a calmness that Andy has," coach Barry Trotz said. "When all is getting a little bit chaotic, when the games get a little bit uncomfortable, he has that calming influence on the group, especially on the back end. And he plays that way and that’s from 1,000-plus games of experience."
But Greene was a healthy scratch for six games from Feb. 15-Feb. 26, before Zdeno Chara suffered an upper-body injury in a 5-2 loss in Los Angeles.
Chara could return on Friday night against the Jets, meaning Greene could again find himself out of the Islanders’ lineup.
That’s not something Greene has been used to in his career. Then again, this season has been an odd one in many ways for the whole team, between lengthy road trips and homestands, long stretches without games because of COVID-19 postponements and, now, a tightly packed schedule.
"It’s for everyone, right?" Greene said. "It’s just been so kind of an unorthodox season. At the same time, there’s no excuses. We had to be better. We have to be better. We’ve got to continue to focus day to day here and just try to get our game where it needs to be and go from there."
In other words, Greene is not focused on the upcoming trade deadline, nor is now the time to ponder his offseason options and long-term playing future.
"Even being 39 years old, it’s always a great time to come to the rink, always fun to compete, whether it’s in practice or games," Greene said. "I’ve never once taken it for granted. Never will. I’m not much for reflection during the season. It’s more after the season when you can take a deep breath and go over stuff and realize what’s going on. Not at this point, I don’t focus too much on it."