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Martin Ecstatic to Return to Islanders

Physical forward and fan favorite played with Islanders from 2009-16

by Cory Wright WrightsWay / New York Islanders

EAST MEADOW - Matt Martin returned to the New York Islanders via trade on Tuesday, but in some ways, he never really left Long Island. 

Martin, who played seven seasons with the Islanders from 2009-16, kept a Long Island address as his offseason home after he left for Toronto via free agency two years ago. He continued to operate his charity, the Matt Martin Foundation, on Long Island to benefit local causes and just wrapped up his fourth youth hockey camp at Northwell Health Ice Center, the Islanders' practice facility, last week. 

After proposing to longtime girlfriend Sydney Esiason, a Long Island native, Martin appeared destined to be back on the Island at some point in his life.

"I really am just ecstatic to be back," Martin told NewYorkIslanders.com after being acquired from Toronto in exchange for goaltender Eamon McAdam. "Not everyone gets that opportunity to come back to a team they love, so to be able to have this opportunity, I feel very blessed."

In Martin, the Islanders are returning a fan favorite, a winner of five straight Bob Nystrom Awards, given annually to the Islander who best exemplifies leadership, hustle and dedication. As lauded as he is for his community presence and involvement, his blue collar style of play is what endeared him to Islanders fans. 

Martin's physicality has been his calling card and he's been the NHL's most prolific hitter since entering the league in 2009, racking up 2475 hits over that span (Cal Clutterbuck comes in at second with 2446). Martin is first, second and third on the NHL's list of single-season hits, setting the record with 382 in 2014-15. 

Between Martin (1194 hits), Clutterbuck (1079) and free agent Leo Komarov (984), the Islanders now have three of the top four hitters in the NHL since the start of the 2014-15 season. With Casey Cizikas and newcomer Tom Kuhnhackl in the fold, the Islanders should play with an edge next season as the team amps up its physical identity. 

"I think both [President & GM Lou Lamoriello and Head Coach Barry Trotz] like big physical teams," Martin said. "If you look at their teams, they've had aggressive forechecking and that's something Clutter, Casey and I always love to do. That's the most important thing, finding that identity and sticking to it."

 

Martin said if Trotz reunites him with Cizikas and Clutterbuck - which CBC's Don Cherry called the best fourth line in hockey back in 2015 - he'll welcome getting to play with stable and familiar linemates, which wasn't always the case in Toronto. 

"We had a lot of success together and I enjoyed playing with those two," Martin said. "We have good rapport and good chemistry and want to play the game the same way. They are two guys that I've certainly missed."

"We work hard for one another and I think that's important. If that's the case, I'll be really excited," Martin added. 

Cizikas and Clutterbuck were both quick to welcome Martin back on Tuesday, along with Nick Leddy, Anders Lee, Josh Bailey and Mathew Barzal also sending texts. Martin said he's excited to be coming back to a familiar group and a familiar setting. 

"It really is a place I've grown to love," Martin added. "It's just such a fun place to live and I've always had that part of me that's cared so much about this organization even when I was in Toronto."

The winger comes in with a little something to prove as well after bouncing in and out of the lineup in the latter half of his last season in Toronto. 

"Obviously last season didn't go the way I wanted it to and I'm motivated and hungry to get it back on track and help this team win," Martin said. "To have the opportunity to come back here is unbelievable and I'm so excited to be here." 

Martin said he's also enticed by the opportunity to play more games at Nassau Coliseum, as the Islanders are slated to play 20 of their 41 home games at the renovated barn next season. 

"Islander fans love to roar when that place is sold out," Martin said. "There's no louder building and I'm definitely excited to play some games there again." 

It'll almost be like he never left. 

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