There won't be just one, but two familiar faces behind the visitor's bench when the New York Islanders battle their crosstown rivals next season. According to a report from SportsNet's Jeff Marek, ex-Isles captain Michael Peca will join head coach Peter Laviolette with the New York Rangers next season.
Earlier in the week, Jonny Lazarus of The Hockey News reported the rumor, pointing out that Peca had worked as a players development coach with the Washington Capitals during the 2021 season while Laviolette coached the Caps and served as an Assistant Coach for the Rochester Americans, the AHL affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres the last two seasons.
Regarded as one of the game's best leaders and defensive forwards, Peca couldn't agree to a contract extension with the Sabres and was acquired by Isles GM Mike Milbury on June 24, 2001, for former Islanders first-round picks Tim Connolly and Taylor Pyatt. Peca, who captained Buffalo to the 1999 Stanley Cup Final, assumed that title with the Islanders ahead of the start of the 2001-02 season under Laviolette, a first-year NHL head coach.
Peca scored 25 goals and 35 assists for the Islanders in 2001-02 as the team returned to the playoffs for the first time since 1994. For his contributions, he won the Selke Award, awarded to the league's best defensive forward, for the second time in his career (1996-97).
During their hard-fought seven-game series loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, Peca was checked at the knee by Darcy Tucker in GM 5, tearing both his MCL and ACL. The injury prevented him from starting the following season on time, and he had difficulty returning to the level of play he displayed in his first season on Long Island.
In August 2005, he was was traded to the Edmonton Oilers for Mike York and a fourth round pick and was part of a cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Final for the Oilers. He signed the following year as a free agent with the Leafs before finishing his career with the Columbus Blue Jackets.