Despite being traded to playoff-bound Ottawa last month before the deadline, Andy Sutton said he wouldn’t rule out a return to Long Island next season.
“Absolutely not. I love the direction the team is going, I love the guys and it’s a great organization, so I definitely wouldn’t rule that out,” Sutton said before the Islanders' 4-1 win over Ottawa at Nassau Coliseum yesterday.
Facing his former team for the first time since being shipped to the Senators in exchange for a second-round pick, Sutton said he was encouraged by the improvement of the team from last season and the strong chemistry forged while he was with the Islanders.
The 6-6, 245-pound defenseman becomes an unrestricted free agent in July and could serve the team’s undeniable need to bolster their blue line with size and physicality. Although his age, history of injuries and price tag may be prohibitive to a Uniondale reunion, he has at least considered the possibility.
And even with the Islanders all but eliminated from the playoffs, re-joining his old team still holds some appeal.
“The Islanders are totally going in the right direction,” the 35-year-old veteran said. “They’re people that care about each other and they have a lot of young, talented guys. I’ve never played on a team where there are so many guys that really care about each other. I think it’s a tribute to the type of people they bring to this organization.”
Sutton didn't show as much love to his former teammates during the third period, however, when he took several jabs at the head of Jon Sim and wrapped Frans Nielsen in a bear hug before leaving the game at 7:11 with two minor penalties and a 10-minute misconduct.
"That's what [Sim] does. He was doing his thing, and I didn't like it," Sutton said.
But, before the Islanders rolled to their fourth win in five games and snapped the Senator's six-game winning streak, Sutton said the Islanders were right on the threshold of becoming a playoff team.
“Not very far. I think they’re really close,” Sutton said. “If you truly care about each other you can have a great team. You want to buy in and do well for the guy sitting next to you. That’s step one in my opinion.”
Helping the team make the playoffs was something Sutton said he wished he could have helped happen.
“It’s been a little disappointing,” Sutton said. “You’d like to be able to help the team get to the playoffs and win and we had some less-than-great seasons, I guess, where we didn’t make the playoffs. But, I had a wonderful time here, met some amazing people, and hopefully I led by example and left a positive mark on the team and the organization.”
Regardless of whether he gets a second chance to make an impact with the Islanders organization, Sutton now has the opportunity to play in the post-season with his new team. Before landing with Ottawa, Sutton played in only four playoff games throughout his 11-season career.
“It’s nice to know we’re going to have the chance to win the Stanley Cup,’ Sutton said. “That’s pretty exciting.”
*** Bruno Gervais (groin) did not play yesterday; head coach Scott Gordon said he expects Gervais to return before the season ends…. Rookie John Tavares scored his 22nd goal of the season in the first period of yesterday’s game.
***Not for nothing, Martin Biron is 6-0-2 in his last 8 starts