Leading up to 2019-20 the New York Islanders attempted to ice Derick Brassard as their third-line center. It didn’t work and Lou stopped messing around.
There’s no question that signing free agent Valtteri Filppula in 2018 was a good move for the New York Islanders. Through 72 games, Filppula put up 31 points and anchored a good third line as the Islanders defied belief to earn 103 points and make the playoffs in 2018-19.
The Islanders had hoped that Filppula would come back for the 2019-20 season and anchor that third-line again. Unfortunately, the call from Detroit in the form of a two-year $6 million deal proved to be too compelling and so Filppula left for his former club.
To fill the gap, Lou picked up free agent and former New York Ranger Derick Brassard in late-August to a single year $1.2 million deal.
Risk Didn’t Pay Off
Through 66 games in 2019-20, Derick Brassard has 32 points. On the surface, that looks better than Valtteri Filppula but we all know that much of that production came in a very short period of time. And it certainly didn’t come as the team’s third-line center.
From October 24 to November 21, Brassard put up 15 of his 32 points. That’s just under half of his total production over less than 20 percent of the season. And all of that production was as a winger on the Islanders second line with Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier.
When Brassard played on the third line he and the third line, were completely invisible. Save for the first few games of Kieffer Bellows‘s NHL career. With an invisible third line, and with the Islanders identity line healthy for just 19 games in 2019-20, the Isles struggled greatly.
Derick Brassard’s failure to be an effective veteran free agent signing showed Lou Lamoriello that finding a Valtteri Filppula in the free agency market isn’t going to be something he can achieve year over year.
So at the 2019 trade deadline, Lou went all in for one of the better two-way third line centers in the game. He sent a top-3 protected first-round pick in 2020, a 2020 second-round pick, and a conditional 2022 third-round pick to the Ottawa Senators for Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
Lou immediately signed Pageau to a six-year $30 million deal. The deal also carries a full no-trade clause for the first two years and a modified no-trade clause with a 16-team no-trade list for the final four years of the deal.
Lou found his third-line center for the foreseeable future.
Not only is Pageau younger at 27 years old, but he’s a great penalty killer, he’s fantastic at both ends of the ice (a pre-requisite in Barry Trotz’s system), and we know he can score goals.
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With Pageau, Lou wouldn’t have to go rummaging through the free-agent bargain bin to find a center that may or may not work out. So I guess, in backhanded kind of way, thanks, Derick?