The long-rumoured Matt Martin to New York Islanders trade has been executed today, with the 29-year-old left winger heading back to Long Island in exchange for goaltender Eamon McAdam.
Sources told MLHS that Martin was on the verge of being traded to the Islanders at the trade deadline but the Leafs opted to hold out until the summer. The two teams — now managed by former colleagues Kyle Dubas and Lou Lamoriello, respectively — struck up talks again this offseason, ultimately pulling the trigger after Martin’s salary bonus payout on July 1 reduced the real salary owed on the balance of his contract to $2.5 million over the final two seasons of the deal ($750,000 per in base salary plus $1 million in signing bonus).
The Leafs essentially built in a bit of an escape clause into the contract after two years, with the idea that Martin’s veteran presence on the ice and in the dressing room would be of particular value to a very young team during the first couple of seasons of Martin’s Leaf career. As the depth of the organization improved, the young core gained experience in the league, and more youth pushed through from within the system (Andreas Johnsson, Kasperi Kapanen), Martin found himself in the press box frequently and didn’t feature much down the stretch of the regular season or at all in the playoffs.
While more of a hard-working, physical fourth-line presence than a true heavyweight fighter, Babcock faced criticism during Martin’s tenure for his willingness to defend Martin’s place in the lineup. The Leafs head coach never incorporated fighters into his lineup in all of his years in Detroit — his Red Wings teams were last in fighting majors almost the entire time he was there — and it seemed to more be a function of a desire to insulate the youth on the hockey club with a tough, hard-working veteran who had a great reputation in the room.
Martin played his best hockey as a Leaf, arguably, with centerman Brian Boyle on his line down the stretch of the 2016-17 season and into the playoffs; the two played the game at a similar pace and could grind down low and cycle the puck. But with the fourth line potentially featuring the likes of Par Lindholm and Kasperi Kapanen as opposed to heavier bodies who play the game more at Martin’s pace, the fit just didn’t make sense anymore as far as the club’s speed and skill identity and its four-line approach.
The fourth-line left wing spot is currently open to an internal competition at camp among Josh Leivo and some Marlies vying for spots (which may be GM’s Kyle Dubas’ preference), but we could also see an addition made here as well before the FA season is through. Reports have suggested that the team is exploring the trade market for Leivo — who has been limited to press box and practice duty for all but a handful of games the past few seasons — knowing a top-nine spot is unlikely to be there for him this season as well as Babcock’s aversion to using him in a fourth-line role.
In moving Martin, the Leafs have now freed up $2.5 million in cap space this season and next, with next season being particularly important knowing the situation will tighten up with the second deals of Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews kicking in. Additionally, if the Leafs can leave themselves some wiggle room for the final year of Matthews and Marner’s entry-level deals in 2018-19 and avoid utilizing LTIR relief — which this move helps to accomplish — they can dodge the cap recapture penalties from bonus overages that would add further complications next year.
In Eamon McAdam, the Leafs have acquired a 23-year-old depth goaltender who plied his trade in the ECHL this past season but has made 30-odd appearances in the AHL for Bridgeport over the past couple of seasons.
Eamon McAdam Scouting Report
via McKeen’s 2017 Yearbook
Although McAdam had an up- and-down rookie pro season split between the AHL and ECHL, he still flashed some of the potential that convinced Islanders’ scouts to select him in the third round in 2013. He has quick reflexes and a strong glove hand. Fairly steady in the crease, his movements are controlled and he has the ability to read the shooter and the puck mover. The future Islanders crease is crowded, but McAdam should not be counted out.
via Hockey Prospectus, 2016
We have already mentioned that the Islanders dip into the NCAA feeder ranks for players looking at top ten prospects Kieffer Bellows and Jake Bischoff. Deeper down the depth charts, the Islanders have been pleased with the collegiate level development of both Devon Toews (# 17) and Eamon McAdam (#14), signing both to entry level contracts at the end of the past NCAA season. Toews is a bit of a late bloomer has decent hands and he can be an excellent playmaker on the PP. He is not overly physical but does not shy away from the puck battles. He is a high IQ puck mover who seems to recognize his own limitations and plays within them. While he will take risks, they are of the calculated variety. He could be a viable NHL blueliner if used judiciously. McAdam is a butterfly goaltender with impressive lateral movements and can quick reactions. He trusts his athleticism to make up for at times poor reads. Nevertheless, he showed improvement in each of his three seasons at Penn State, and will now be challenged by the pros. Colin Adams (#16) is a small winger who was drafted this year out of Muskegon in the USHL. He is a capable puck handler that can draw penalties with his quick movement. He has above average hockey IQ and will benefit from an extra season in the USHL before heading off the North Dakota.