Alec Martinez has made obvious strides as an NHL defenseman, transforming last season from a player who struggled through a series of healthy scratches to scoring the Stanley Cup-winning goal at season’s end.
In his first comments Thursday since his new six-year, $24-million contract with the Kings was announced, the 27-year-old’s response was notable for how he’s taken such massive success in stride.
";I don’t think it’s any time to sit back,” Martinez said. “I want to continue to win championships here. If anything, [the contract] makes it a better time to make those steps in my game and continue to become a better player.
";We’ve got something special in here and it’s something I wanted to continue.”
Martinez returned from a seven-game absence due to an injured finger Tuesday against Boston and has two goals and seven points in 18 games this season while being plus-nine with a three-assist game.
";There’s been some ups and downs, but it’s made me a better player, I’ve learned from those experiences,” he said in reference to last season’s early run of healthy scratches.
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter’s demanding style has tested Martinez, who said, “At the end of the day, that’s the kind of guy you want to play for. You want a guy who’s going to be honest with you, a straight shooter.
";I don’t think anything changes [with the contract] … keeping a good dialogue. He’ll give you a kick in the rear when you need it and let you know when you’re doing something well. There’s a lot of people who took a chance on me. [I] give credit to a lot of people.”
";Marty' could've waited until the summer. He didn’t,” Sutter said. “The most important part is playing on a good team.”
The coach downplayed the notion that the past scratches of Martinez were a knock on his play, given it is a championship roster.
“You don’t win with six defensemen, you need eight,” Sutter said. “There were times it wasn’t performance-related.
“Obviously -- he just signed a six-year contract -- he’s made significant strides. Young players on parts of two championships – doesn’t matter if they’ve played eight or 18 minutes – they’ve made significant strides. ‘Marty,’ in that 20-minute area, that effects the caliber of player he’s against. We have higher expectations now than at any point.”
UP NEXT?: Forward Tyler Toffoli, with 10 goals and 20 assists through 25 games, might be next on the Kings’ list for contract talks since he’ll be a restricted free agent at season’s end.
“I’m happy to be here, just want to win, not too worried about those things,” Toffoli said. “You see guys signing and I know I don’t have a contract next year, but I’m not too worried about it.
“I feel comfortable here, they like the way I play and I’m confident something’s going to get done, now or later.”