After fans wondered what was going on in the Islanders’ silent headquarters all summer, the team finally has reliable center depth again.
On Wednesday, August 21, the Islanders announced a 1-year, $1.2 million contract with Derick Brassard.
A natural center, Brassard has made a small circuit of the NHL in the last few years. He spent six years in Columbus, where he was drafted 6th overall, then four years with the Rangers. Since 2016, he’s played for Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Florida, and Colorado. Though his numbers have dipped in recent years, Brassard has always been known for his strong, reliable two-way game — which is exactly what the Islanders need right now on the third line.
Throughout his career, Brassard has accumulated 451 points in 786 games. In 2015-16, one of his best season with the New York Rangers, he scored 58 points (27 goals, 31assists). He’s also received the nickname “Big Game Brass” for his especially high performances in playoff games and on power plays.
“I’m just looking forward to bouncing back this year,’’ Brassard said on a conference call after the news broke. “I think that’s a really good fit for me, playing there with the Islanders. They play four lines, in your face, and use every one. I’m just looking forward to having a big role on the team to help them go back in the Stanley Cup playoffs.’’
However, Brassard is not exactly young anymore. Turning 32 this September, he only put up 23 points last season. As a big fan of chemistry myself, it’s arguable that he only had short stints on all three teams he played for, that the constant trades kept him off his game. Still, these recent numbers are a discouraging drop. He’s also seemed injury-prone in recent years, requiring surgery on his wrist and shoulder. In his interview, he admitted this summer was the first in a long time that he didn’t have surgery or need to rehab an injury.
“I just had to be patient with everything. I had a rough season last year, bouncing around teams,” he said. “I met with Lou (Lamoriello) and Barry (Trotz) a few weeks back in New York, and when I looked back at everything, I thought it was the best opportunity for me to be successful to win some games and to come back to my old self.”
Regardless of all the pros and cons, an extra veteran in the locker room should be good for this Isles team that will hopefully keep getting younger. Perhaps it’s naive to hope to continue thinking about now, but Lamoriello was keen just a few months ago on bringing up prospects to fill the roster holes. Prior to the Brassard signing, Michael Dal Colle and Josh Ho-Sang also signed new contracts. As well, training camp is right around the corner.
Depending on which prospects shine this year, Brassard might not even make the team. Last year, Lamoriello signed Luca Sbisa to a similar short, low-budget contract, but the defenseman only saw 9 games. Denis Seidenberg is another example of a signing that never went anywhere. On a PTO for most of last season, he was officially signed in late February but never played a single game.
We won’t know until October whether Brassard is here to fill the hole Valtteri Filppula left or just to be a steady voice in the locker room. Either way, it should be a good thing for the Isles.
Though he’s reached the crux of his career and probably won’t play great again, Brassard will fit nicely on a team full of good players like the Islanders currently are—individually not the best, but as a team better than most.
Featured Image: David Zalubowski/AP