Casey Cizikas is not yet ready to think about his hockey future, or continuing it with another team other than the Islanders as an impending unrestricted free agent.
"I haven’t thought about too much, personally," the identity-setting fourth-line center said on Sunday, which was breakup day for the Islanders after their season ended with Friday night’s 1-0 loss to the Lightning in Game 7 of the NHL semifinals. "That’s a conversation for another day. Right now, I’m just focused on being with the guys, spending these last few days before everyone heads on their own way."
Cizikas, 30, has played 590 regular-season games for the Islanders since being a fourth-round pick in 2009. He is completing a five-year, $16.75 million deal with no guarantees president and general manager Lou Lamoriello will be able to fit him under the flat $81.5 million salary cap.
Cizikas is sure to draw interest from other teams seeking grit and energy for their bottom six.
The question is, can he ever be as valuable to another team as he has been centering Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck?
"I almost feel like he’s just a part of me as a hockey player," said Clutterbuck, acquired from the Wild in 2013. "Not only that, he’s one of my best friends. He’s Casey. He can light up a room. Especially when I can be grumpy sometimes, he’s always there to be a puppy dog.
"Those things will work itself out," Clutterbuck added. "I’m not going to give it too much thought."
The two seasons the trio weren’t together came after Martin signed with the Maple Leafs – whose GM was Lamoriello – as a free agent in 2016. Lamoriello’s first trade as the Islanders’ boss was to re-acquire Martin in 2018 and reunite the identity line.
Martin said he would not pry into Cizikas’ off-ice business but his friend knows his phone number in case he needs advice.
"I think I know where his heart is," Martin said. "I think the team would love to have him back as well. These things get tricky. At the end of the day, we hope we have another opportunity with this group of guys. We wish we could have finished the job this year."
"He brings a great element to our team," coach Barry Trotz said. "He’s an Islander. You know it. I know it. He feels it. No matter what happens, he’s had a big piece in what we’ve done the last three years. And hopefully going forward."
Cizikas said he has appreciated growing up as an Islander.
"These are friendships that are going to last a lifetime," Cizikas said. "We’ve had some really good highs and some lows. But this team is special."