We continue our look at "the best of what's left" in free-agency with forward Evan Rodrigues.
Rodrigues had a career year in 2021-22, setting new career highs in goals (19) and assists (24) for the Pittsburgh Penguins. The 28-year-old proved to be a valuable and versatile player for head coach Mike Sullivan as the team battled injuries to their forward group throughout the season.
The former Buffalo Sabre outplayed his cap number of $1M last season by a wide margin and is due a healthy raise from a new team in free agency. He skated in all 82 games and for a brief period was the Penguins' top center after Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jeff Carter were all out of the lineup.
Despite the strong numbers, teams could be leery about committing more than two years to Rodrigues and view last season as an outlier. After averaging nearly a point-per-game over the first 30 games, Rodrigues cooled off considerably, scoring only five goals over the final 50 games when his role diminished following the return of the team's stars.
However, he once again stepped up when the Penguins needed him most and had a strong playoff series against the New York Rangers, scoring three goals and adding two assists. His short-handed goal in the second period of Game 7 gave the Penguins a 3-2 lead. He also had an assist that game.
That type of production Rodrigues provides fits the prototype of what the Islanders already have a lot of on their depth chart. A third-liner that can play up and down the lineup and has the potential to score 20 goals. For that reason, he is an unlikely free-agent target unless the Islanders were to move multiple NHL forward pieces in a trade that would make Rodrigues' attributes something the Islanders need to solidify their depth across all four lines.