Islanders bring back Matt Martin, sign Lehner


The Islanders are moving on from the devastation of John Tavares leaving for the Maple Leafs. They’re doing it in odd fashion, by loading up on third and fourth liners.

After agreeing to a four-year deal with former Leaf Leo Komarov ($3 million per season) the other day, they’ve reacquired popular forward Matt Martin from Toronto for Eamon McAdam. The 29-year old energizer, who was a fan favorite, returns to the Islanders after spending the past two seasons with the Leafs. He left following ’15-16 cashing in on a career high 10 goals and 19 points with 119 penalty minutes, by signing a four-year contract worth an average cap hit of $2.5 million. Now, the Isles will be on the hook for the remaining two years.

It’ll be interesting to see what role Martin has. It probably won’t be full time considering all the secondary depth they have. He played all 82 games his first year in Toronto scoring five goals with four assists and 123 penalty minutes, helping them reach the playoffs. In six playoff games in a first round loss, he had two assists. This past season, he only played 50 games, but tallied three goals and nine assists with 50 PIM. He only played in three of the Leafs’ final 33 games, including none in the postseason.

They previously also added fourth liner Tom Kuhnackl. A former Pen, who plays tough and will drop the gloves. I’m just wondering how many of these guys they need when they already had Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck.

I don’t get the move for Valtteri Filppula either. A player whose best years are behind him. He became an afterthought in Philadelphia. What role will he play? It shouldn’t be more than third line at this point in his career.

The other move today was the Islanders announcing the much rumored signing of former Buffalo goalie Robin Lehner.

While he is a decent goalie based on his career save percentage (.915), Lehner isn’t always consistent. Consider that the Sabres banked on him to become their starter. Instead, he was injury prone and up and down after coming over from Ottawa for David Legwand and a first round pick that turned into American prospect Colin White.

Lehner was good in ’16-17 winning 23 games in 59 games with a 2.68 goals-against-average and .920 save percentage. He wasn’t good in ’17-18 going 14-26-9 with a 3.01 GAA and .908 save percentage. Granted, his defense wasn’t good in front of him. It took time for Buffalo to improve under first-year coach Phil Housley. They were more competitive the final couple of months.

Lehner will turn 27 later this month. The interesting thing is he won’t have to carry the burden with Thomas Greiss still having a year left on his contract. Unless they dump him and take a further look at Christopher Gibson. I don’t know what the new Isles brain trust is thinking.

The Islanders are said to be involved in discussions for Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson. They’re one of three of four teams depending on who you believe. I don’t buy for a second that the Rangers would ever consider it. It doesn’t fit with their commitment to a rebuild. Plus the cost would be too much in terms of prospects and picks.

Whoever acquires Karlsson assumes the risk of signing him long-term. He can become unrestricted next summer. Good luck with that.

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About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.
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