- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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With the trade deadline less than a month away and the playoff picture beginning to form in the Eastern Conference, Islanders defenseman Mark Streit has been a name that has surfaced repeatedly as an enticing option for teams looking to bolster their blue line.
But it appears unlikely that the Islanders will part ways with their captain as multiple sources confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com that the team and Streit’s agent have been engaged in talks to reach a new deal for the 35-year-old veteran.
Both sources indicated that the discussions are still in the preliminary stages but that the dialogue remains open between the two sides.
Streit, who inked a five-year, $20.5 million deal back in 2008, is set to become an unrestricted free agent in July.
And while he would likely have a significant number of suitors -- particularly with the dearth of puck-moving defensemen available at the trade deadline -- Streit is interested in staying on Long Island and helping the team back to the playoffs.
“Everyone knows I like it here,” Streit told ESPNNewYork.com before last week’s Islanders-Rangers game at Nassau Coliseum. “The locker room is great, the living on Long Island, so we’ll see.”
“For me what’s important is where I live, the environment I’m in, the people I work with -- that’s important to me. The time I’ve spent here, it’s just flown by,” Streit continued. “The organization treats the players well and the locker room is great. We have good chemistry with the guys, so you know the best thing to be successful for this team is to make the playoffs. It’s been a long ride -- sometimes tough because we didn’t make the playoffs -- but there is progress and we’re moving in the right direction.”
The Islanders have not secured a postseason berth the past five seasons although they are fighting hard to climb back into the mix during this lockout-shortened season. Following Thursday’s 2-0 shutout win against the Lightning, the Isles are in 10th place, only three points behind the 8th-place Winnipeg Jets.
If they are able to squeak in, they’ll likely need Streit to do it. Anchoring their back end, Streit leads the team’s defensemen in scoring (four goals, 10 assists) and ice time (25:01 per game).
It is still possible that Streit could be moved if the Islanders tank in the weeks leading up to the deadline. But, with the lack of separation in the bottom half of the standings, it appears unlikely they could fall completely out of reach or encounter a scenario in which general manager Garth Snow identifies himself as a clear seller.
But Streit isn’t wasting time contemplating the many scenarios that could unfold.
With a playoff spot still up for grabs and his team still in the mix, he wants to minimize distractions as much as possible and focus on the task at hand.
“For me, the focus right now is on hockey and helping the team,” Streit said. “Especially for me as captain, I don’t want to have any distractions. I just want to play, win hockey games, and play as good as possible.”
98dPierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald