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Martin prepared to leave Islanders as free agent

Forward scored 10 goals, led League with 365 hits in 2015-16

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. -- If left wing Matt Martin leaves the New York Islanders, he'll take with him only positive memories of the only professional organization he has known.

"It's different. It's never happened to me before," Martin said Wednesday, two days before he can become an unrestricted free agent. "It's a process that you go through. It's something you try to enjoy as much as possible. Obviously it's nice to be wanted, it's nice to hear what other teams view you as and want you on their team. It's something you try to take the positives and learn and enjoy the process. Hopefully it will all work out for the best."

Martin was selected by the Islanders in the fifth round (No. 148) of the 2008 NHL Draft. He has played 438 games for them. This season, he scored an NHL career-best 10 goals playing on the fourth line with Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck, and led the League with 365 hits.

The Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings and Calgary Flames have reached out to Martin over the past week, Newsday reported Tuesday. Martin is bound to cash in when free agency starts, but he said he's more concerned with putting himself in the right situation.

And he's listening to the Islanders, should they be willing to negotiate.

"The money's the money," Martin said. "Obviously you want to secure yourself financially. It's important obviously in life. But for me it's just the opportunity. I started my career here, I've grown a lot as a player. I appreciate everything this organization has done for me. But I think every player wants to expand a little bit. Obviously I'd like to penalty kill and be a little more involved in the games. Sometimes it can be hard just playing 5-on-5. You don't get into the game all the time, especially in a special-teams league. But those are opportunities you've got to create for yourself. We'll see what other teams want to offer. I'm not ready to say my time's up in Long Island yet, but obviously that time's approaching pretty quickly."

Martin is spending this week at Northwell Health Ice Center, which will be the Islanders practice facility next season. He has been on the ice with roughly 200 children for his camp, the Matt Martin Hockey Academy, and has received help from Islanders teammates Casey Cizikas and Frans Nielsen. Like Martin, Nielsen has spent his NHL career with New York and will become an unrestricted free agent Friday.

Nielsen declined to comment on his free agency Wednesday.

"I just approach it the same way I did last year," Martin said of the camp. "They're Islanders fans, but they're fans of myself as well. Obviously you get the questions that are pretty hard to answer; you don't really have answers for them. But other than that, they're all here to learn, they're all here to have fun. We've had a couple of pretty special guests this week in Casey and Frans, so they're enjoying themselves. They also help me keep my mind off everything that's in store this week."

Martin also has gotten help from his girlfriend, Sydney Esiason, who Martin said has been supportive.

"Obviously, it's hard not only for her but for the rest of my family," Martin said. "The bottom line is you get offers from teams, you've got to weigh all your options. You've got to weigh not only the salary, but you've got to weigh the living and how good the team is. There's a lot of things that go into this.

"Everyone thinks pro athletes just chase the money. That's not necessarily the case. It's about opportunity, it's about what's best for your family. You weigh all those options, you weigh everything involved, and you try to make the decision that's best. I'm not saying you always make the right one, but the decision is a hard one to make and you've got to really think about the best choice for you."

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