Andy Greene expects to continue his NHL career next season. But with this season paused because of the COVID-19 pandemic, whether the former Devils captain and impending unrestricted free agent ever plays for the Islanders again is very much uncertain.
“Oh, yeah, for sure, in my mind, I’m definitely going to play,” Greene told Newsday this past week.
But there are no guarantees that the NHL will be able to resume its season and no guarantees that the Islanders will seek to re-sign Greene, 37, who was acquired from the Devils on Feb. 16 to fill the gaping lineup hole left when defenseman Adam Pelech suffered an Achilles tendon injury on Jan. 2.
Greene is in the final season of a five-year, $25 million deal he signed when current Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello was the Devils’ boss.
Greene said he has had no discussions about his long-term future with Lamoriello, who signed Greene as an undrafted free agent out of Miami (Ohio) in 2006. He went on to play 923 games over 13-plus seasons with the Devils.
“It’s my first time going through a lot of situations the last two months here, not even including what we’re going through right now,” said Greene, who is spending the NHL’s self-quarantine period at his New Jersey home with his wife, Rachel, and their two young sons.
“It’s one of those things in terms of what’s going to happen next year, we’ve got to figure out what’s going to finish this year off and then worry about that when we get there. I’m not going to worry about it. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
Greene said he is open to playing for the Islanders next season. But he also remains open-minded about exploring all of his options.
“I loved my three weeks that I’ve been there,” he said of the Islanders. “It’s been a very unique situation. The familiarity [with Lamoriello] and the guys have been great. It’s a great situation there in terms of everything they do as an organization. I’ll focus and worry about what we’re going through now and we’ll figure everything out later and go from there.”
Greene said he never expected to have any long-term discussions with Lamoriello until the offseason.
“When everything happened, it was just ‘let’s focus on what’s at hand, get situated, fit in with the group and go from there,’ ” Greene said.
There’s a chance that Pelech, who has yet to resume skating, might be available if the season resumes, particularly if play is pushed deep into the summer. He’s certainly expected to be ready for the next training camp.
Lamoriello declined to comment last week when asked by Newsday if he expects to try to re-sign Greene.
The Islanders, who struggled after a franchise-record 17-game point streak (15-0-2) ended on Nov. 25, went 2-5-4 after acquiring Greene. He had three assists in 10 games, missing a 3-2 overtime loss in St. Louis on Feb. 27 with what appeared to be a left shoulder issue.
They were 0-3-4 after acquiring center Jean-Gabriel Pageau from the Senators on Feb. 24.
“No one player or two players will change how the team plays,” said Lamoriello, who described himself as “extremely optimistic” that the NHL season will resume. “We still feel very comfortable and confident that the two players we brought in are going to be an asset to us once we get going, without question.”
Greene said he has moments when he thinks about whether the season will resume and other times when he tries to focus only on the things he can control.
“You can’t sit there right now and go, ‘We’re done. I’m not going to train or do this,’ ” he said. “Then all of a sudden, in three weeks, this is where we’re at and we’re going to try something. All of a sudden, you’re like, ‘Oh, my God, what have I been doing?’
“I’ve been getting up every morning, training, doing pretty good workouts and trying, I think, to mentally stay sharp,” Greene added. “It’s a good release and a good focus to get dialed in there for an hour or two or however long your workout is.”