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Carkner Makes Isles Tougher to Play Against

The Islanders signed the five-year NHL veteran defenseman to a three-year deal Sunday, adding a sizeable presence to the blue line

Sunday, 07.01.2012 / 6:57 PM / News
By Travis Betts
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Carkner Makes Isles Tougher to Play Against
The Islanders will look for Matt Carkner (left) to add some size and grit to the roster over the next three years (Getty Images).

Shortly after addressing their need at forward by signing Brad Boyes, the Islanders bolstered their blue line, landing hard-hitting defenseman Matt Carkner on a three-year contract.

The 6’4, 237-pound blueliner has played 162 games in the NHL, all but one with Ottawa, racking up 361 penalty minutes in his five-year career. Carkner knows what the Islanders will ask of him once he puts on the blue and orange.

“On the ice, I’m a solid defensive player,” Carkner said. “I make a quick first pass. Obviously, I can make the team a little tougher too. I think on the back end, this team needed a guy who can step in and provide some grit and some physical toughness. I’m there to help protect the players out on the ice as well.”

A second-round (58th overall) pick of the Montreal Canadiens in the 1999 NHL Draft, Carkner played eight seasons in the American Hockey League with the Cleveland Barons, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Binghamton Senators before landing a full-time NHL gig with Ottawa in 2009-10. Carkner believes that the long road he took to make it in the NHL defines him as a player.

“I’ve always taken pride in my work ethic,” Carkner said. “That’s obviously what’s gotten me to the point I’m at now. I’ve been working hard ever since I’ve been in the league to try and improve and do what I’m capable of.”

During the 2009-10 season, the Winchester, ON native played 81 games for Ottawa, scoring two goals and nine assists, and adding 190 penalty minutes. The last two seasons, however, Carkner played 50 and 29 games, respectively, watching his playing time diminish toward the end of last season. As a free agent, Carkner looked at the vacancies on the Islanders blue line and saw an opportunity to make a big impact again.

“That’s a big factor,” Carkner said. “I was seeing my ice time kind of diminish in Ottawa, with a different coach coming in and a different style of play. I was coming off an injury as well. It just took me a while to get back to where I was, and that’s just kind of how it fell into place. I was happy to see what my options were and I think that I will fit in real well in New York with the Islanders. I am pretty excited to get a spot here.”

Islanders Senior Advisor to the General Manager and Assistant Coach Doug Weight believes that Carkner’s signing addresses a need for the organization to add some size and toughness to the blue line.

“Obviously, the first thing you think of is his toughness,” Weight said. “It’s certainly something we had to address as a team. We think there’s a big upside for Matt and not just in the toughness category. He’s hard to play against, has a solid defensive game and can win battles in the corner. He’s a good quality person and I think he can bring a lot to our defensive corps and a lot to our team. He can play the game, be a good PK guy and make us harder to play against.”

ISLANDERS EXTRAS
  Islanders Agree to Terms with Carkner
  NHL.com: Carkner: Family Decision
  WATCH: TSN analysis of Carkner
  LISTEN: Boyes on NHL Home Ice
  Boyes Excited to Join Islanders

Fans following the signings around the league on TV or on Twitter on Sunday may have been surprised to hear about Carkner signing the deal with the Islanders because of a peculiar mistake. Less than two hours earlier, the Colorado Avalanche announced via Twitter that they had signed the 31-year-old defenseman and media ran with the story.

“I had a few people working with my agent,” Carkner said. “We had quite a few phone calls. I don’t know if somebody made the assumption that we were doing a deal with Colorado, but as soon as we saw it on the ticker, we got a hold of them and said we’re still negotiating. I got a ton of text messages from friends saying congratulations, and I had to text them all back, telling them that nothing had been done.”

Carkner thought the Avalanche situation was merely a misunderstanding.

“I just hope that the people in Colorado aren’t too upset with what happened,” Carkner said. “It was obviously some kind of mistake. It was pretty weird, but I’m happy it all worked out.”

Through the chaos that was day one of the free agent signing period, Carkner is thrilled to join the Islanders.

“Today was a pretty crazy day and I’m really happy with where I ended up,” Carkner said. “This is a good group of young guys with a lot of skill and we’re looking forward to some success down the road here.”

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 TBL 50 31 15 4 163 132 66
2 MTL 47 31 13 3 127 108 65
3 NYI 48 32 15 1 157 135 65
4 DET 49 28 12 9 145 128 65
5 PIT 48 27 13 8 143 124 62
6 WSH 48 25 14 9 144 124 59
7 BOS 49 26 16 7 131 123 59
8 NYR 46 27 15 4 135 111 58
9 FLA 46 21 15 10 114 129 52
10 PHI 50 21 22 7 139 151 49
11 TOR 50 22 24 4 144 155 48
12 OTT 47 19 19 9 129 134 47
13 CBJ 47 21 23 3 119 148 45
14 NJD 48 18 22 8 109 135 44
15 CAR 47 17 25 5 102 122 39
16 BUF 49 14 32 3 92 174 31

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 48 23 25 -1 48
K. Okposo 46 14 30 -2 44
R. Strome 48 9 25 16 34
B. Nelson 48 15 15 5 30
F. Nielsen 48 9 17 4 26
J. Boychuk 38 4 21 16 25
J. Bailey 36 8 14 7 22
N. Leddy 48 7 14 14 21
N. Kulemin 48 11 9 0 20
A. Lee 42 13 5 6 18
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 26 10 0 .912 2.42
C. Johnson 6 5 0 .870 3.38

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