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Right after the lockout ended, New York Islanders' General Manager Garth Snow signed defenseman Radek Martinek to a one year contract. This signing purely was a depth move. Martinek spent nine seasons with the Islanders before signing with the Columbus Blue Jackets for the 2011-2012 season. Martinek worked out with Islander players during the lockout, and his familiarity with the organization led Snow to bring Martinek back for a second stint on the Island.
After Snow added Joe Finley, Thomas Hickey, and Brian Strait to the roster as waiver wire pickups, Martinek became the 8th defenseman on the roster. Martinek would only play in 13 games this season, and spent the first month of the season on injured reserve and a healthy scratch until he finally made his season debut February 24 against the Hurricanes. Had Strait and Matt Carkner not suffered lengthy injuries, Martinek likely would have been waived at some point last season.
In his limited amount of games played, Martinek did prove to be a useful depth pickup, as he chipped in three goals in his 13 games and a minus two rating. Being a healthy scratch for many games in a row and not playing regularly can affect a player, but Martinek was able to step right in and not show much, if any rust. Martinek spent most of his time this season as a third pair defenseman and played mostly with Mark Streit while Brian Strait and Matt Carkner went down with injuries. Joe Finely had opportunities to play during the first month, and was mostly ineffective, so Martinek jumped over him on the depth chart as Strait and Carkner went down.
Martinek brought a steadying, veteran presence to the blue line in the games he played. At the age of 36, Martinek was no longer the defenseman he once was, but he did play some quality minutes for the Isles when needed. Martinek also proved valuable in the playoffs, as he appeared in games five and six after Andrew MacDonald suffered a broken hand in game four.
It's possible, but very unlikely that Martinek returns to the Islanders next season. He will be 37 when training camp opens, and the Isles already have MacDonald, Strait, Carkner, and Lubomir Visnovsky signed for next season. Travis Hamonic and Thomas Hickey are both restricted free agents and will be back as well. That is six defenseman already, and Matt Donovan will have every opportunity to make the team out of training camp. That makes seven defenseman, and add and eighth in Joe Finley, who likely will be in Bridgeport for depth as well. There just does not seem to be any room for a 37-year-old defenseman who is very injury prone, and on the downside of his career.
Radek Martinek always has been one of my favorite Islanders, and I always felt he was an underrated defenseman among the Isles' faithful. I'd be glad to see him back next year for depth, but do not expect it. I wish Martinek the best, and hope that a team signs him at some point to give him an opportunity to continue playing if he is not ready to retire.
What do you guys think about Martinek? Do you want to see him back next year? Feel free to discuss in comments.
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