The New York Islanders have found their third-line center, inking veteran Derick Brassard to a one-year, $1.2 million deal on Wednesday.
In 70 games split between the Florida Panthers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Colorado Avalanche last season, the 31-year-old finished with 14 goals and 23 points before recording just one assist in nine playoff games with the Avs.
Following the departure of third-line center Valtteri Filppula (signed in Detroit), New York had been hunting for his replacement. The search wasn’t easy, considering how much of an impact Filppula had down the middle; he racked up 17 goals and 31 points for the Isles, was a strong two-way player and brought a veteran presence to the table. He played a key role, and netted four points, that in New York’s sweep of the Penguins in the first round.
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The original thought was that Casey Cizikas would be the one to move up to the third line if New York failed to sign someone by September. However, his fourth line unit, consisting of linemates Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin, proved to work wonders; Cizikas put up a career-high 20 goals and 33 points. He also took good care of the puck and had a breakthrough, finishing 12th in Selke voting. And when his line was dubbed one of the best fourth-line combos in the NHL, there’s no reason to fix what isn’t broken.
Leo Komarov, who was brought in to make an impact down the middle, could have been another option but he failed to impress with just six goals and 20 assists last season. Therefore, Tanner Fritz would likely have been the next man up but the 28-year-old has barely seen NHL ice over the last two years and could not find his footing.
Brassard is easily the right man for the job. His ability and veteran presence make him a spot-on replacement for Filppula. Consistency shouldn’t be an issue for the Hull, Que., native, who prior to this season, managed at least 14 goals and 39 points in five straight seasons. Two of those campaigns were 20-plus goal years to boot, and four out of five were 45-plus point campaigns.
The 6-1, 202-pound center has good size and is strong when it comes to puck control; he rarely coughs up the puck or makes mistakes while forcing turnovers and winning puck battles. His skating ability and vision, as well as a strong, accurate shot, makes him dangerous in the offensive zone and an asset on the power play.
His name is also a familiar one to not only the Metropolitan Division – as he played for the Penguins and Blue Jackets – but the New York area. Brassard spent three-plus seasons with the Rangers and was an integral part of their Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2014. His playoff experience coupled with his on-ice abilities makes he’s the kind of player the Isles need as they look to make a deeper run this time around.
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