The New York Islanders bolstered their blue line and power play Friday, signing defenseman Marek Zidlicky to a one-year deal.
Zidlicky, 38, is a well-regarded, puck-moving defenseman with 401 points in 783 games, including 34 (seven goals, 27 assists) last season for the New Jersey Devils and Detroit Red Wings. His power-play credentials speak for themselves, as 59 of his 85 career goals have come with the man advantage.
“We’ve lost some guys on the back end that really helped our power play,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said Saturday at Islanders Iceworks. “Having a guy like Zidlicky, a right shot, that’s a strength of his. He’s an offensive-minded guy, a smart guy, an intelligent hockey player. I see him being a big, integral part of our power play.”
Zidlicky, a small (5'11, 190 lbs.), but heady veteran, has drawn comparisons to Lubomir Visnovsky, who quarterbacked the Islanders power play during his three years with the team. Zidlicky has the tools to fill the voids left by Visnovsky’s departure.
“He’ll be a guy that’s really similar to what Lubo would bring to our team,” Thomas Hickey said. “He’s a very dangerous defenseman, obviously really good on the power play, really good point shot and a creative guy that breaks the puck.”
He’s durable too, playing a league-high 84 games last year due to the midseason trade, but said the 2015-16 could be his last and he wanted one last shot at the Stanley Cup.
“I get a chance, probably my last year to battle for a Cup,” Zidlicky said. “I know this is a good team, talented and they have a good chance to win the Cup.”
After playing the last four seasons for a division rival, Zidlicky said he knows what kind of style the Islanders play and is excited to join the fold.
“This is a group of great, talented guys,” he said. “They like to play offensively, that’s what I like, so I’m excited.”
Zidlicky becomes the seventh Islanders defenseman to sign a one-way contract for the upcoming season. His presence should only fuel the internal competition for the six nightly spots.
“There’s a lot of competition and that’s what makes it good for our hockey team,” Hickey said. “You get into this situation you don’t look at what you did last year, you’re out to prove yourself and everyone is in that situation.”
Zidlicky’s signing does complicate Ryan Pulock and Scott Mayfield’s path to the NHL. The highly-touted prospects were thought to be in competition with each other for the final NHL spot on defense before the wily and capable vet was brought to town. It’s another NHLer to beat out, but they should both continue to push the incumbent defensemen at camp and throughout the season.
“It makes it difficult [for them], but at the same time there’s a lot that can happen from now until then,” Capuano said. “We’ve all been in that situation before. You come to the rink every day, do the best you can and let the cards fall where they fall.”
“For me, healthy competition is a good thing.”