Senators team owner Eugene Melnyk attends an NHL news conference...

Senators team owner Eugene Melnyk attends an NHL news conference Dec. 4, 2014, in Ottawa. Credit: AP/Adrian Wyld

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jean-Gabriel Pageau spent nearly seven seasons with his hometown Ottawa Senators to begin his NHL career and once could not imagine playing elsewhere, just as now he finds it hard to picture playing for a team other than the Islanders.

So Pageau took a moment before the Islanders opened a home-and-home series against the Blue Jackets on Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena to acknowledge the passing of Senators’ owner Eugene Melnyk.

“It’s never fun news,” Pageau said of Melnyk, who passed away with an illness on Monday at age 62. “Growing up in Ottawa, you know how much Eugene and his family have done for the city, for the team, for the community. They were involved in so many foundations and charity events. They saved the team, when he started, to keep the team in Ottawa. It’s definitely sad news for the organization and my thoughts and prayers go to all of his family.”

Pageau has adapted to a slightly different role, albeit one just as crucial, with the Islanders than when he was a top-line center for the Senators. Coach Barry Trotz has mainly used him to center the third line but also deploys Pageau on both the power play and the penalty kill. Pageau also draws many of the toughest faceoff assignments at crucial moments.

That “Swiss Army knife” role, as Trotz calls it, is exactly what the Islanders envisioned when they sent a first- and second-round pick to the Senators on Feb. 24, 2020 for Pageau and promptly signed him to a six-year, $30 million extension. Pageau was available as an impending unrestricted free agent as it became apparent no deal would be reached with the Senators.

“Ottawa gave me my first chance,” Pageau said. “Eugene and the GMs gave me my first contract, my first chance to play in the NHL. Things change and it’s a new chapter for me. I’m an Islander and I’m proud to be. It’s definitely in the past but I had some great memories there, for sure.”

Pageau entered Tuesday’s match with 10 goals and 18 assists in 62 games and had gone 10 games without a goal dating to the Islanders’ 6-0 win over the Blue Jackets at UBS Arena on March 10. This season could see his lowest goal output since notching 10 in 50 games in 2014-15, a season he split between the NHL and AHL, other than the four goals he scored in 2018-19 when an Achilles’ injury limited him to 39 games.

But Trotz has never evaluated Pageau’s worth to the Islanders on offensive production alone.

“You value what he does and you don’t necessarily look totally at production,” Trotz said. “What Pager does is he touches so many areas of the game that whatever you get offensively — you want something offensively — he checks so many boxes for you that his evaluation is a lot lengthier in terms of his resume and what you’re evaluating versus someone who’s maybe limited in certain areas.

“He fills so many of those intangible areas that are necessary for you to win.”

Trotz first placed Pageau in between Josh Bailey and Kyle Palmieri on what would be considered the second line in the win over the Blue Jackets at UBS Arena. Both Palmieri and Bailey had four goals and four assists in that span.

“I don’t think the expectations go higher or lower,” Trotz said of moving Pageau up in the lineup. “It’s just how much impact. That’s how I evaluate him. Did he have impact in a game? He’s a little more broader in terms of impact or no impact.”

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