Lou Lamoriello hinted last week he was still looking to add to the Islanders’ stable of candidates for the third-line center role left empty when Valtteri Filppula signed with the Red Wings.
Derick Brassard just shot to the top of the list.
The Islanders on Wednesday announced the ex-Ranger center had agreed to a one-year deal after playing last season for the Penguins, Panthers and Avalanche as he completed a five-year, $25 million deal. Brassard's deal with the Islanders is worth a reported $1.2 million.
“It was a long process, obviously,’’ Brassard, 31, said on a conference call a little more than an hour after the team announced his signing. “I just had to be patient with everything. I had a rough season last year, bouncing around teams. I met with Lou and Barry (Trotz) a few weeks back in New York, and when I looked back at everything, I thought it was the best opportunity for me to be successful to win some games and to come back to my old self.”
Lamoriello had listed restricted free agent wing Anthony Beauvillier (still to be signed), who played center in junior hockey, Tanner Fritz, prospect Otto Koivula and college signings Mason Jobst and Bobo Carpenter as candidates to compete for Filppula’s spot.
Brassard gives the Islanders a more accomplished option, though one whose production has dipped since the Rangers traded him and a seventh-round pick to the Senators on July 18, 2016, for Mika Zibanejad and a second-round pick.
Brassard, who has 176 goals and 275 assists in 786 NHL regular-season games after being selected sixth overall by the Blue Jackets in 2006, combined for 14 goals and nine assists in 70 games for Pittsburgh, Florida and Colorado last season. He had one assist in nine playoff games for the Avalanche. He was a combined minus-19.
While acknowledging he had “a bad year’’ last season, Brassard pointed out that he’s played a lot of extra hockey with the 99 playoff games he’s played, and he’s had surgeries on his wrist and shoulder. The wear and tear, he suggested, has something to do with his decreased production.
This summer, he said was the first in a long time where he hasn’t had a surgery or been rehabbing some sort of injury. He’s been able to train and work on his game the whole time, he said.
“I’m just looking forward to bouncing back this year,’’ he said. “I think that’s a really good fit for me, playing there with the Islanders. They play four lines, in your face, and use every one. I’m just looking forward to having a big role on the team to help them go back in the Stanley Cup playoffs.’’
While he may no longer be a top-six forward, Brassard should be able to help the Islanders’ power play, which ranked 28th in the NHL last season at 14.5 percent (33-for-227). And his playoff experience should help, too. Brassard earned his “Big Game Brass” nickname for his playoff performances, specifically with the Rangers.
Brassard has 60 points in his 99 career postseason games and compiled 44 points (18 goals, 26 assists) in 49 playoff games with the Rangers.
That included six goals and six assists in 23 games in 2014 as the Rangers reached the Stanley Cup Final, and nine goals and seven assists in 19 games as the Rangers reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final the following year.
With Colin Stephenson