Published July 05, 2011
Marty Reasoner was confident he'd find a new home when the free agency period began at noon Eastern time last Friday. He just didn't think he'd only be a free agent for about 10 minutes.
But soon after the market opened for business, Islanders GM Garth Snow pounced on the opportunity to sign the gritty veteran who will likely center the team's fourth line when New York opens the 2011-12 season on Oct. 8 against Reasoner's former team, the Florida Panthers.
"It was definitely something that when it presented itself, I was pretty excited about it," Reasoner told NHL.com. "I think the team is obviously going in the right direction. There's obviously some great young players there. It's a good place to jump into and lend some experience. Hopefully I can help in any way possible."
Reasoner, who signed a two-year deal worth a reported $2.7 million, is coming off a strong season with the Panthers. The 34-year-old appeared in all 82 games and tallied 14 goals, 18 assists and a plus-2 rating. Four of his 14 goals were game-winners.
But when last Friday rolled around, Reasoner wasn't sure what to expect.
"You never really know … there's always rumors here and there about different guys and different things," Reasoner said. "But until you actually hear, you never really know what's going to happen. I had thought I was going to go back to Florida for sure, but it was just one of those things. It was such a crazy day and the way things worked out, the Islanders came to me right away. I think it was like 10 (minutes) after 12 when they made the call. It definitely presented itself to be a good situation. I just felt like it was something we couldn't pass up."
Not only is Reasoner coming off a strong season, but he also managed to bounce back offensively in a big way. He arrived in Florida after going only 4-13-17 in 80 games for the Atlanta Thrashers in 2009-10.
So, what changed?
"I think there was a lot of things," Reasoner said. "I think it was a little bit of a different role. I was playing with some experienced guys the first half of the year -- Radek Dvorak and Cory Stillman. I think my last year in Atlanta, it was kind of limited as far as how much I was playing and what the role was. I was just killing penalties and I wasn't playing a lot 5-on-5 minutes. I think I just got a little bit more of an opportunity. I always kind of felt I could contribute that way and maybe expand on it moving forward."
The Islanders certainly hope that Reasoner can provide some offense on their fourth line, but it was Reasoner's leadership qualities that enticed Snow. Reasoner, who was the 14th overall selection by the St. Louis Blues at the 1996 Entry Draft, is looking forward to helping the likes of John Tavares, Nino Niederreiter and the rest of New York's very young, talented core.
"I don't consider myself old," Reasoner joked. "You never want to, but I do have a few years now. I think that as you kind of evolve into that role, you want to mentor young guys and help them learn from the different aspects of the game. I think being a pro is not an easy thing and playing this game isn't easy. It can humble you really quick. If I can pass on some of those experiences and shorten that learning curve, it always can help. I think that's something I've tried to do everywhere I've been. I just want to go in and have a good attitude and play hard every night and lead in those types of ways."
Reasoner is also excited to be reunited with a close friend. Once he signed on the dotted line last Friday, Reasoner became teammates again with defenseman Mike Mottau, as the duo skated together for Boston College from 1996-98. Mottau reassured Reasoner last Friday that the latter was putting himself in a good situation.
"He's a good friend and we've always kept in touch," Reasoner said of Mottau. "It makes things easier when you have someone like that there that is not only a good friend, but speaks really highly of it. I didn't really know too much about whether I'd be someone that the Islanders would want, but talking to him, he really enjoyed his experience there and felt like it was a great place to live and it's a good group of guys. It's a team that's definitely on the verge of making a big step. That plays a big factor in your decision. It'll definitely be fun teaming up with him again."
As for joining forces with Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro -- who played for Boston University in 1999-2000, Reasoner is confident they'll get along just fine.
"I've played with some B.U. guys and things have gone smooth," Reasoner joked. "I played with Mike Grier for a while and we didn't kill each other, so that worked out alright. I think it's been long enough now where we can let that go."
What Reasoner refuses to let go of is his dream of winning the Stanley Cup. Should the Islanders qualify for the postseason in 2012, Reasoner will play in his first playoff game in nine years. He had a goal in six postseason contests for Edmonton in 2003.
"That's everyone's ultimate goal," Reasoner said. "It hasn't been there for me in a while, and it's something everyone strives for. I think it will be that much better of an experience to get there with such a good, young team on the rise. I think it'll be fun to go in and help in that way and get the Islanders back to where they should be.
"This team has such great tradition and history. I think it's something that hopefully you can build off of and feel proud to be an Islander. I think this is something that starting to go in the right direction and hopefully we can keep pushing that forward."
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL