Isles sign well-traveled center Brassard
Veteran looks to rebound from nomadic campaign here in Brooklyn
Derick Brassard is going from Broadway to Downtown Brooklyn, with stops in Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Florida and Colorado in-between.
The 31-year-old center and former Ranger signed a one-year deal with the New York Islanders on Wednesday, hoping to revitalize a career that has seen him get traded four times over the last three-plus years.
Brassard, fresh off a five-year, $25 million deal he signed with the rival Blueshirts after helping the Rangers reach the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals, had to wait out nearly the entire summer while seeeking an apt suitor.
But the Quebec native, who entered the NHL in 2006 as a first-round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets, feels confident that the Isles’ infrastructure and bright future provide the perfect platform for him to flash his skills.
“It was a long process, obviously, and I just had to be patient with everything. I had a rough season last year, bouncing around teams,” Brassard said of a campaign that saw him play for the Penguins, Panthers and Avalanche.
“I met with [general manager Lou Lamoriello] and [coach Barry Trotz] a few weeks back in New York, and when I look back on everything, I thought it was the best opportunity for me to be successful and help the team to win some games and get back to my old self.”
Brassard has amassed 176 goals and 274 assists over his 12 NHL seasons, including a career-best 60-point campaign with the Rangers back in 2014-15. But he hasn’t had anything resembling a strong season since registering 58 points in 80 games for the Blueshirts back in 2015-16.
After a season and a half in Ottawa following a trade to the Senators, Brassard was dealt three times over the course of the past two seasons, including twice last year when he started with the Penguins and was swapped to Florida and Colorado thereafter.
The nomadic existence didn’t benefit Brassard on the ice, where he managed only 23 points across the three stops, his lowest total in a decade.
“I’m looking to bounce back this year,” Brassard readily admitted during a conference call with local reporters on Wednesday.
“I had a bad eight or nine months, but I’ve played some good hockey for the past couple of years. People are going to think about what just happened. For me, I’m just going to try to move on from that season and for me, I’m going to use it as motivation to come back even stronger.”
Aside from meeting with Lamoriello and Trotz, who is fresh off winning the Jack Adams Trophy as the league’s coach of the year, Brassard got some info on the Isles from his fellow Quebecois Anthony Beauvillier, who remains in restricted free-agent status with the Isles thus far this summer.
“The first thing [Beau] told me was how dialed in the team was to play together, play on the same page and play as a team,” revealed Brassard, who also skates with Beauvillier in a Montreal-based three-on-three league during the offseason.
“For me that fits really well. I played for three teams last year, so it was hard to get going. That’s what I was looking for this summer.”
Lamoriello failed to bring in coveted free-agent forward Antemi Panarin earlier this summer, instead watching him sign with the Rangers.
He did ink team captain Anders Lee and fellow veteran forwards Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle, but lost Vezina Trophy finalist Robin Lehner in goal, replacing him with veteran netminder Sergei Varlamov.
A Hall of Fame executive with a knack for finding players to fit a particular system, Lamoriello is doubtlessly expecting plenty from Brassard, who is out to prove he shouldn’t have been a left-over on the free-agent market.
“I think it was pretty much the first summer in a little while that I had no surgeries, no injuries, nothing, so I could focus training, skating and everything,” noted Brassard, who has also starred for Team Canada in various international tournaments.
As for his circuitous trip back to New York, Brassard believes he will thrive under the big city lights, be it here at Downtown’s Barclays Center or in Uniondale, N.Y., at the renovated Nassau Coliseum.
“I know the fans in the state of New York are really passionate about their teams. And I’m pretty familiar with playing in Long Island and playing against the Islanders when I was with the Rangers,” Brassard said.
“I think I’ve played well in New York under pressure. And now I’m really excited to be in Long Island and play in front of those fans. Just watching in the playoffs this year, when they beat Pittsburgh (in the Eastern Conference First Round), it was pretty interesting to see the atmosphere and how loud [Islanders fans] can be.”
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