When word was relayed to unrestricted free agent Milan Jurcina that the Islanders were interested in signing him, he immediately thought of one name.
So on July 2 the hulking defenseman inked a one-year, $1-million deal to once again join forces with Gordon, who played a pivotal role in Jurcina's development while he played for the AHL’s Providence Bruins.
“I know what he expects and he is straight with guys. He tells it like it is,” Jurcina said when reached by telephone Thursday. “I played under him for three years so I know what he likes, what he wants and that made me feel comfortable signing here.”
Gordon was also enthused about the impending reunion, especially given the boost Jurcina’s size (6-4, 233) will provide to the team’s back end.
After losing [Andy Sutton] last year, we didn't have that size,” Gordon told Newsday earlier this month. “For a big guy, he skates well, covers a lot of ice, has a big shot and can help out on the penalty kill."
The 27-year-old blueliner has embraced his new locale—visiting with his new teammates and scouting places to live this past week—and approached this season as a fresh start from last year when he encountered several detours along the way.
Beyond being limited to 44 games because of a sports hernia injury that required surgery after he played for Slovakia in the Olympics back in February, Jurcina also was traded two times in a little more than a month last season. After being dealt to Columbus from Washington in February he returned to the Capitals at the trade deadline in March.
Jurcina said he kept in perspective that in the NHL, it’s “all about the business." Now healthy, he's ready to make an impact as part of the Islanders defense.
“I’m just trying to use my body and go out there and show I’m a stay-at-home defensemen who is responsible in his own zone,” Jurcina said.
“I’ve seen that there are a lot of young guys on the team and a couple of veterans who have gone far in the playoffs. The big thing for me is to get into the playoffs this year. That’s the main goal.”