Eberle eager to make presence felt with Islanders
Isles’ Biggest Offseason Acquisition Embracing New Environment
Leaving a city of 932,000 in Edmonton, Alberta for a borough with more than twice that population in Brooklyn, N.Y., is just one of the many adjustments Jordan Eberle will have to make as he prepares to kick off his first season with the New York Islanders.
The 27-year-old winger, who was general manager Garth Snow’s biggest offseason acquisition earlier this summer, spent his first seven seasons with the Edmonton Oilers before finding his way to Brooklyn in June.
Eberle, a four-time 20-goal scorer, made the rounds on his first official media tour through Manhattan as a member of the Islanders on Wednesday, and intimated that he’s ready to embrace New York and all that comes with it.
“It does feel a little bit weird, but it’s exciting,” Eberle said of getting traded from the only NHL franchise he has ever known in exchange for forward Ryan Strome on June 22.
“When you first get traded, it’s a little bit of a shock,” he admitted. “But as I was thinking about it, I was just getting more and more excited. It’s a great organization, a great team I know a lot of the guys there and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
Along with the shift in scenery, Eberle will also have to adapt to a crowded NHL market here in the tri-state area, leaving behind a hockey hotbed for a city that oftentimes is strictly Ranger-centric, unless the New Jersey Devils or Islanders go on a deep playoff run.
The Saskatchewan native and his wife have already found a home on Long Island, and are beginning to adjust to the faster-paced lifestyle here in the five boroughs.
But for Eberle, the most important aspect of this major move will be his ability to play alongside Islanders center and team captain John Tavares, whose pending free agency following this coming season likely played a big role in Snow going after a player of Eberle’s talent.
The tandem has worked together on the ice before as members of Team Canada in a pair of World Championship tournaments, and neither has anything but kind words for the other.
“[Tavares is] a tremendous player, he moves the puck well, sees the ice well and he’s an easy guy to play with,” said Eberle, who piled up 20 goals and 31 assists while playing all 82 games for the Oilers last season.
“I’m going to a team that wants me and a team that I’ll have a really good opportunity with.”
He is also joining a team that is in a state of flux, with Tavares’ free agency and a potential arena move hanging over the upcoming campaign.
For now, Eberle remains focused on what he can do to make Tavares’ life easier as the ultra-talented playmaker has often found himself bereft of goal-scoring talent along his left and right side.
“He’s a very proven player, very consistent with a tremendous skillset,” Tavares said of Eberle this week on NHL.com.
“I think he’ll really help us on the power play, which really struggled last year, and that’s something that we’ve always kind of been able to hang our hat on a little bit, even in some of those disappointing seasons.”
The Islanders’ second-half push under new head coach Doug Weight left them a point shy of an Eastern Conference playoff berth last spring.
Eberle hopes to help them back to the playoffs for the third time in four years and nudge Tavares toward remaining in Orange and Blue for the foreseeable future.
During his first-ever visit to the postseason last year, Eberle struggled in 13 games for the Oilers, managing just two points in a pair of assists before the Oilers lost a seventh and deciding game to Anaheim in the Western Conference semifinals.
“I don’t think I’ve been this excited in an offseason in a long time,” he revealed.
“Basically, just the change and the excitement level around that. I think change is good. I think it puts you out of your comfort zone a bit and makes you train a bit harder. I’m excited and getting ready for camp.”
Isle Have Another: Tavares said this week that though he remains loyal to the Islanders, the team that selected him first overall in 2009, he still has not made a decision regarding whether he will remain with the franchise beyond the 2017-18 season. With little to no hope that they can get their most important player signed prior to the Oct. 6 season opener at Columbus, the Isles will likely have to wait until next offseason to have an opportunity to keep their long-time captain. Tavares is likely to make upwards of $80 million over eight years if he does re-sign, but insisted he is solely focused on matters on the ice as the team’s Sept. 14 training camp approaches. “I think everyone’s situation is different, everyone’s circumstances are different, but you look at some of the situations with guys in similar situations that I’m in, it doesn’t always happen the first day or that first month. It takes time,” Tavares said. “It’s a big decision in your life and you want to make sure you’re thorough and you understand everything going forward, so I think anybody making any decision like this in life would approach it the same way. There are a lot of things that are of importance as well, like the start of the season. For management, obviously they’re doing what they need to do to, whether it’s the draft or free agency and then heading into training camp, making sure we’re ready to start from Day One. To me, that’s the most important thing.”
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