Derick Brassard's free agency lasted longer than he'd expected, as the veteran center weighed his options for 2019-20.
Ultimately, a meeting with Barry Trotz and Lou Lamoriello tipped the scales, as Brassard inked a one-year contract with the Islanders on Wednesday.
"I met with Lou and Barry a few weeks back in New York and when I looked back on everything, I thought it was the best opportunity for me to be successful, win some games and to come back to my old self," Brassard said via conference call on Wednesday.
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Last season was admittedly a tough one for Brassard, who started the year in Pittsburgh, was traded to Florida and traded again to Colorado, where he finished the season. The constant movement - he played only 10 games with the Panthers - made it hard to find a rhythm or a set role, part of the reason he finished with his fewest points (23) since 2008-09.
That kind of year could burn some players out, but it's lit a fire for Brassard.
"I'm looking to bounce back this year," Brassard said. "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."
After searching for a role last season, Brassard sees an opportunity to have an increased one with the Islanders, who needed to address their center depth after Valtteri Filppula departed for Detroit in free agency. Brassard, who has 52 career power-play goals, said he thinks he can contribute on the Isles' power play as well, which finished 29th in the league last season.
"I think it's a really good fit for me with the Islanders," Brassard said. "They play four lines, in your face and they use everyone. I'm just looking forward to having a big role on the team to help them go back to the Stanley Cup playoffs."
Between playing parts of four seasons for the Rangers and two more for the Penguins, Brassard is more than familiar with the Islanders, but took notice of the team's new direction under Trotz and Lamoriello last season. He conferred with Anthony Beauvillier, who plays in the same three-on-three league in Montreal, and liked what he heard about the Isles new culture.
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"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," Brassard said. "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."
Brassard has been training hard this offseason, which he cited as his first healthy summer in the past few years. He had wrist surgeries in 2015 and 2017, and dealt with a groin injury at the end of the 2018 regular season. Factor in a productive, but long 2016 season, where he led Team Canada in scoring at the IIHF Worlds, and this is Brassard's first true summer feeling refreshed in some time.
"This was the first summer in a while I had no surgeries, no injuries, nothing, so I could focus on training, skating and everything," Brassard said. "I felt like I had a really good three months of training, skating and trying to improve the little things in my game."
Brassard's best seasons came in New York, recording at least 45 points in three straight seasons, including career-highs with 60 points (2014-15) and 27 goals (2015-16). Long Island is obviously a different setting from Manhattan, but he's looking recapture some of that old mojo with the Isles.
"That's what I'm hoping for," Brassard said. "I've played well in New York under the pressure and now I'm really excited to play on Long Island in front of those fans."