Thomas Hickey didn’t dream of reaching milestone games in the NHL during his four long AHL seasons in the Kings’ organization. He had a much simpler goal in mind.
“There was a time when I’d go to bed at night and say I just want one game, just to say that I played, just to prove that I can do something,” Hickey said on Tuesday as he reached his 400th NHL game, all with the Islanders.
The 29-year-old defenseman was selected fourth overall in 2007 by Los Angeles, but a succession of injuries plagued him with Manchester (AHL) before the Islanders claimed him off waivers on Jan. 15, 2013.
“It was difficult,” Hickey said of the expectations that come with being such a high draft choice and his inability to crack the Kings’ lineup. “But I think everybody has a different path. It was very frustrating at times but once I got over that, I just tried to re-invent myself and start from scratch.”
Since then, he’s been a steadying presence in the Islanders’ defense corps
But Hickey is coming to the end of a three-year, $6.6 million deal and the Islanders may not look to re-sign him as an unrestricted free agent.
Future milestone games will likely come for a different organization.
“I think anyone would be grateful for the opportunities, especially here,” Hickey said. “I’m thankful for that. I’m proud of myself. It wasn’t easy. It was a lot of hard work. At the same time, it’s only 400 games. There’s a lot of guys in here that have played many more than that. It’s an accomplishment but, hopefully, there’s many more to come.”
Veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg will wait until the offseason to consider whether it’s time to retire after completing a one-year, $1.25 million deal.
Until then, he’s not saying. But he is hinting.
“I mean, if I wasn’t ticked off or annoyed when I wasn’t playing, I would say, ‘OK, it’s time to get out,’” Seidenberg said. “But I still get annoyed. I’m passionate about my game so we’ll see what happens.”
The 36-year-old German, who has also played for the Flyers, Coyotes, Hurricanes, Panthers and Bruins, has played just 24 games this season and snapped a stretch of 13 straight healthy scratches when he re-entered the lineup for Tuesday night’s 4-1 win over the visiting Penguins.
Seidenberg faced a similar career crossroads after the Bruins bought out the final two seasons of his four-year, $16 million deal on Jan. 30, 2016.
“Before I signed here last year, I didn’t have anything,” Seidenberg said. “I played the Olympic qualifier and I played the World Cup and said we’ll see what happens. I’ve kind of went through it before. Either way, it’s all good.”
Potent power play
The Islanders’ power play, which came into Saturday’s game ranked fifth in the NHL, has been one of the brighter spots in a very disappointing season.
And it’s been particularly good of late.
The Islanders were 9 for 18 over a four-game stretch ending with Thursday’s 7-6 loss to the visiting Lightning as they went 3 for 5 with the man advantage.
“What we are getting now is some higher danger opportunities,” Islanders coach Doug Weight said. “I think our puck recoveries is one thing we’ve changed. Having guys in certain positions and staying in those positions a little more rather than going a little bit more rogue like some power plays do. Tampa was a prime example. If you can get in the zone and get three or four shots or get three or four rebounds and keep it, it’s real hard to kill.”
Friend of the Devils?
The Islanders are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. But how they play in the season’s final two weeks may determine whether the Devils reach the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
The Islanders host the Panthers, chasing the Devils for the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, on Monday night, then play at New Jersey on Saturday night. Plus, on April 3 the Islanders host the Flyers, whose playoff positioning could affect the Devils.
Free agent list
Here are the Islanders’ NHL roster players who are impending free agents and their current salary cap number.
Unrestricted free agents:
F John Tavares ($5.5 million)
G Jaroslav Halak ($4.5 million)
F Nikolay Kumelin ($4.19 million)
D Calvin de Haan ($3.3 million)
D Thomas Hickey ($2.2 million)
D Dennis Seidenberg ($1.25 million)
F Chris Wagner ($637,500)
G Christopher Gibson ($650,000)
Restricted free agents
F Brock Nelson ($2.5 million)
D Brandon Davidson ($1.43 million)
D Ryan Pulock ($863,333)
F Shane Prince ($850,000)
F Ross Johnston ($666,667)
F Alan Quine ($612,500)