Bryan Berard, the 1996-97 Calder Trophy winner as NHL rookie of the year as a member of the Islanders, has agreed to re-join the team as a training camp invitee. The 30-year old Berard will battle for a spot on the Islanders’ blue line when camp opens on Sept. 14 in Moncton.
"I loved my time on Long Island and I have great memories of how everyone treated me during my first three years in the NHL," said Berard. "I’m coming off a tough season when I was injured and I know I have a lot to prove. The Islanders offered me this opportunity and I’m going to re-pay them by making the most of it. I’m healthy and I’m determined to show Ted Nolan and the team that I can help the Islanders have a great season."
Said Islanders general manager Garth Snow: "You can never have enough skill in your organization. Bryan Berard still has tremendous upside as a defenseman and a power play point man. We’re happy to give him this opportunity to try and make our club."
Berard played the last two seasons in Columbus, where he was coached by Gerard Gallant, a new member of Nolan’s staff for 2007-08. Besides his Calder Trophy season with the Islanders, Berard’s best year was in 2003-04 when he was 13-34-47 in just 58 games with the Chicago Blackhawks. In 565 career NHL games with the Islanders, Toronto, Rangers, Boston, Chicago and Columbus, Berard has 71 goals and 230 assists for 301 points.
"Bryan is definitely worthy of a long look from us," said Nolan. "You’re always looking for depth on defense, and Bryan is a defenseman with excellent skating ability and someone who can run a power play. Gerard Gallant spoke highly of him, our staff likes his competitiveness and I know our fans understand how talented Bryan is. I’m looking forward to him showing us what he can do."
The native of Woonsocket, Rhode Island was the first selection overall in the 1995 NHL draft by the Ottawa Senators and was traded to the Islanders in January, 1996 for Wade Redden. Behind an 8-goal, 40-assist season with the Islanders, Berard edged out Jarome Iginla for the Calder Trophy in 1996-97.
He was a member of Team USA at the 1998 Winter Olympics. In 2000, his career endured a major setback when he was clipped in the right eye by a Marian Hossa stick during a game between Toronto and Ottawa. Determined to return to the game, Berard underwent seven surgeries to improve his vision to meet NHL standards. Berard received the Masterton Trophy in 2004 for his perseverance and dedication to the game.