Jordan Eberle walked out the door and headed in the direction of his offseason last May as an unrestricted free-agent-to-be after the second round of the playoffs was done. But he wasn’t thinking it was the end of his Islanders run.
“As soon as the year ended, we had year-end meetings,” Eberle said after practice Thursday. “It was communicate with Lou [Lamoriello] and let him know I wanted to be here. He felt the same way. Just trying to get a deal with him at that point.”
Eberle got one in June — five years, $27.5 million. The 29-year-old right wing is on the top line with Anders Lee and Mathew Barzal, and Lee thinks Eberle is primed to have a big season after watching him score four goals across his four preseason games.
“I think he’s extremely primed,” the captain said. “I think just in the preseason you’ve seen how comfortable he is and already in his game form, regular-season form.”
After scoring at least 20 in the previous five seasons, Eberle just made it to 19 last season. He closed with five in his final seven games, then delivered four more and five assists over eight postseason games.
He said that Barzal “and I found some confidence together.” But he also had to adjust in his second season here after coming over from Edmonton — his first with defensive-minded Barry Trotz as the coach.
“I don’t want to say he didn’t trust me,” Eberle said, “but he just didn’t see me in the way I saw myself.”
Eberle felt he finally earned some. Combine that with the Barzal chemistry and it added up to a fast finish.
“That was a big reason I wanted to sign here,” Eberle said. “I think I was playing some of the best hockey of my career near the end of the year and into the playoffs. I think part of that’s Barry and just finding good ways to play defensively, trying to find his trust.”
Listening to Trotz now, it sounds like it’s still there.
“I think he’s taken the next step,” Trotz said. “I think with him the offense and the skill and all that is there. But I think his game in wanting a little more weight as a player, that he knows if he’s going, we’re going — I think he’s taken a little bit bigger piece of the pie on both sides of the puck.”
The new contract hasn’t led to any complacency.
“For me, personally, I just wanted to pick up where I left off in the playoffs last year and continue to play that way,” Eberle said. “So far, I have.”