In a sense, Matt Martin never left Long Island, not even after signing a four-year, $10-million deal with the Maple Leafs in 2016.
Martin purchased a home on eastern Long Island the same year he signed with the Maple Leafs and has continued to run his youth hockey camp at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow. It’s in its fourth year.
And now Martin is back. The Islanders reacquired him on Tuesday for goalie prospect Eamon McAdam, 23.
“Coming back to the Islanders is exciting for me,” he told Newsday. “In my heart, I was hoping for this.”
The gritty left wing is returning to a different Islanders squad, though. Franchise player John Tavares signed a seven-year, $77-million deal with the Maple Leafs on Sunday.
Martin’s return to the Islanders gives him an opportunity to reunite with center Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck, who formed one of the NHL’s top fourth lines under former coach Jack Capuano.
“I do think I can contribute in a similar way that I contributed before,” Martin said. “I’m as hungry as I’ve ever been. Last year wasn’t a lot of fun for me in a lot of ways. To get another opportunity with this team is unbelievable for me. I bleed orange, white and blue.”
Martin, 29, played only 50 games and had three goals and nine assists for the playoff-bound Maple Leafs last season. He sat out all but three of their final 33 games and was a healthy scratch through their first-round playoff loss to the Bruins.
The 6-3, 220-pound Martin, a fifth-round pick of the Islanders in 2008 whose first tenure lasted from 2010-16, has 50 goals, 59 assists and 853 penalty minutes in 570 career regular-season games.
“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised that I was being moved,” Martin said. “It’s no secret how the second half of the season played out for me last year. I had a pretty good idea when I was not moved at the deadline, I’d get moved in the summer.”
New Islanders president Lou Lamoriello, who was Toronto’s general manager when Martin signed his deal, signed unrestricted free agent Robin Lehner on Tuesday to possibly address the Islanders’ glaring need for a No. 1 goalie.
Lehner, 26, reportedly agreed to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million after the Sabres made him an unrestricted free agent by not extending him a qualifying offer as he completed a one-year, $4-million deal. He went 14-26-9 with a 3.01 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage last season, his third in Buffalo.
Those aren’t ideal statistics for a No. 1 goalie, but like the Islanders, who gave up an NHL-worst 293 goals, the Sabres were atrocious defensively last season. They finished with a league-low 62 points and had an NHL-worst goal differential of minus-81.
Despite the presence of Lehner and Thomas Greiss, who has two seasons remaining on his three-year, $10-million deal, Lamoriello might not be done looking to improve his goaltending. The Senators are shopping their No. 1, Craig Anderson, 37, who is starting a two-year, $9.5-million extension this season. Lehner was Anderson’s backup in Ottawa from 2012-15.
Also on Tuesday, the Islanders lost unrestricted free- agent defenseman Calvin de Haan, 27, when he agreed to a four-year, $18.2-million deal with the Hurricanes. De Haan, selected 12th overall in 2009, was a solid top-four performer in his five seasons with the Islanders but was limited to 33 games last season after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery.
New coach Barry Trotz has yet to complete his staff, but when he was hired June 21, he indicated that he wanted to consider goaltender coach Mitch Korn. The two worked together with the Capitals and Predators. Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said Tuesday that he’s had discussions with him and that Korn wants to take some time to consider his options.
Martin is only the latest bottom-six forward acquired by Lamoriello.
As the NHL free-agent market opened Sunday, he signed unrestricted free agents Leo Komarov, who left the Maple Leafs for a four-year, $12-million deal, and Valtteri Filppula, who left the Flyers for a one-year, $2.75-million deal, both to bolster the penalty kill. On Monday, former Penguins fourth-liner Tom Kuhnhackl agreed to a one-year deal worth $650,000.
“One thing I know about Lou is you’re not going to get a whole lot out of him,” Martin said. “If you think you’ve got his whole plan figured out and you think you know what he’s doing, you don’t.”