Radek Martinek must have known when we travelled to Buffalo yesterday that he was on the verge of signing a new deal that would guarantee NHL dough and his place on the Island for the next four years. But you would never have known it. Same thing when I saw him in the lobby on my way out to dinner last night. "Everything good, Marti"? "Yes, Chris. Thanks. Enjoy your night." Believe me, folks, if this happened to me, you wouldn't be able to wipe the dopey grin off my face.
I walk up to Radek after today's morning skate to offer my congratulations. As always, he's putting in extra time with the strength coach. Make no mistake, he was happy, perhaps even moreso relieved. "It's nice to get it done and know I'll be here for a while. I love this team and I love the Island."
Garth didn't tell me what the contract was for - we don't release that, though it's never hard for media and fans to find - so just to make conversation, I said something like, "I'm really happy you got taken care of, Marti. You deserve it." Martinek - his English a bit better each season - says, "Well, to be honest with you, I was already okay"!
Radek Martinek is the NHL's all-time most low-maintenance player. He's a terrific dman, the Island's own little secret, and he just shows up and plays his heart out. Not just games, mind you, but every day at practice, too. Ted Nolan had no idea a year ago who Martinek was. Now Radek is one of his favorites, for good reason.
I was thinking of suggesting to Garth late last night that we hold off on announcing Radek's new deal until the last week of June, 2008. If we kept it quiet until the week before unrestricted free agency next summer, everyone would have been calling for the Islanders to not even think of losing arguably their most reliable defenseman. Then we could have announced his signing at the 11th hour and it would be a time to rejoice. Logan could have gotten 600 words out of it in Newsday. Maybe this underrated defenseman would have finally received the kind of attention he is worthy of.
But when you think about it, a stunt like that would have been so un-Radek-like. When you think about it, today's announcement is perfect: happy but quiet, under the radar, not taking much attention from the team on a big night.
Nicely done, GM. Bravo, Radek.