The Islanders are hoping they just got a jolt to their offense with the signing of Derick Brassard, a left-shot center who’s played for three other teams over a 10-year NHL career.
The Isles announced the widely reported one-year, $1.2 million deal yesterday.
Brassard, who has been in the league for a decade, comes to Long Island after bouncing around to three different teams last season – Pittsburgh, Florida and Colorado.
Last season, the 31-year-old recorded his least amount of points in a season since his rookie year in 2008-09. The year prior, Brassard notched 46 points in 72 games with the Penguins and Ottawa Senators.
At his age and due to recent struggles, Brassard could be considered as a downgrade for an Islander squad that’s trying to get younger. But there are several benefits that come with his arrival.
For instance, the contract g.m. Lou Lamoriello awarded Brassard is a total bargain.
Brassard is coming off a contract that saw him paid $5 million a year. The Islanders are paying him a quarter of that. Lamoriello being able Brassard for pennies on the dollar shows his savvy nature.
The deal also provides extra motivation for Brassard to prove he still has something left in the tank; Lamoriello went the same route with Valtteri Filppula last summer. Filppula, now back with the Red Wings after playing this past season with the Isles, scored 17 goals and totaled 31 points last year and was a stabilizing force as the club’s third-line center and on the penalty kill.
“I just want to be my old self, make plays, be confident, skating, and just try to bring some offense and be good everywhere on the ice,” Brassard told reporters yesterday. “I know I can help this team. I had a bad eight or nine months. I felt like I played some good hockey the last couple of years, but for sure, people are going to think about what just happened. But for me, I’m just going to try to move on from that season and use it as motivation and come back even stronger.”
Brassard also adds more championship pedigree.
Since they took over last summer, Lamoriello and head coach Barry Trotz have been adamant about continuing to build a winning culture and identity. Brassard is a winner and brings those intangibles. It’s what earned him the nickname “Big Game Brass”. During his career, Brassard played a nice part on the second-end of the Penguins back-to-back Cup-winning squads. He was a pivotal piece of a rival Rangers team that made two Eastern Conference Finals appearances and a Stanley Cup Finals appearance. And he was a fixture of the 2016-17 Ottawa Senators squad that came within one game of reaching the Cup Final.
Some other key factors that will come from Brassard’s signing: He solidifies the third-line center role, can help the power play and gives the younger players another veteran to learn from.
The Islanders had their top two centers – Mathew Barzal and Brock Nelson — set in stone once they re-signed Nelson for six years back in late May, yet the number-three center slot was still a question mark. Grabbing Brassard now provides Trotz and his staff some breathing room to keep players Anthony Beauvillier and Leo Komarov on the wing. It also allows the fourth line – Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas – to stay intact. In addition, Brassard is a power play specialist from his time with the Blueshirts and Sens and gives the Isles an extra weapon on what the team hopes is a revamped man-advantage.
Brassard can be that guiding influence to youngsters Oliver Wahlstrom, Tanner Fritz, Otto Koivula and college free-agent signee Mason Jobst if they make the team or were called up at some point. He coming in also takes some of the pressure of those guys.
First day on the job has been a good one for Derick Brassard. pic.twitter.com/aRSR4ZZzTK
— NHL (@NHL) February 26, 2019
On the flip side, if Brassard struggles, the Islanders don’t lose in the long run. He can be replaced by one of the younger centers on the team’s depth chart or be used as a trade chip for a younger player or prospect.
Training camp doesn’t start for a few more weeks, but the Isles still have time to make another move to upgrade the offense, preferably a top-six winger. Taking a chance on Brassard though is a low-key good addition and it shows that he likes what the team is building and the direction they’re heading.
“I thought it was the best opportunity for me to be successful, win some games and to come back to my old self,” he said.
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