You’d be hardpressed to go anywhere else in the NHL and find a fourth-line center that is as beloved as Casey Cizikas is by the New York Islanders and their fan base.
On Wednesday, his long-term future with the organization was sealed after signing a six-year deal worth $15 million ($2.5 million AAV), ending any speculation that the unrestricted free agent would play anywhere else in the immediate future.
“There was no doubt,” Cizikas, who was one of four that had new deals announced on Wednesday, said of the idea of re-signing with the Islanders. “Long Island is my home and will always be my home. There was nowhere else I wanted to be. I want to retire an Islander. That’s my goal and something I’ll be real proud of when that day comes.”
The 30-year-old will be suiting up for his 11th season with the organization, having already eclipsed the top-20 in franchise history with 590 games played for the team. Much of those games have been spent on the Islanders’ “identity line,” alongside Matt Martina and Cal Clutterbuck — which is the bottom trio of forwards that brings a physical, two-way style of hockey that encapsulates the franchise’s new-found calling card as a force in the Eastern Conference.
Cizikas admitted that Martin and Clutterbuck — who have been together as a line for the last eight years — were the first two people he called outside his family to alert them that he would be staying with the Islanders.
“That just shows just how close of a group we are,” Cizikas said. “A lot of us have played together for a long time. We’ve had some low points as a group and we started rebuilding and believing in one another.
“When Lou [Lamoriello] and [Barry] Trotz and everyone came in, we took that next step… you can see where the success has taken us. We want to continue seeing that through and eventually win a Stanley Cup together.”
The Islanders came tantalizingly close the last two seasons, pushing the Tampa Bay Lightning to six and seven games respectively over two Stanley Cup semifinals. Getting over that hump would only guarantee Cizikas’ standing as a franchise legend, as he could very well become one of a very few Islanders to spend at least 15 years with the organization.
“These guys are my family. I’ve created friendships that will last a lifetime,” Cizikas said. “I’m going to die an Islander. That’s the way to put it.”