Derick Brassard #18 of the Colorado Avalanche looks on during the third period against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center

Katharine Lotze/Getty Images

Graziano: Islanders Would Be Wise To Look At Boyle, Brassard

Andy Graziano
July 31, 2019 - 10:15 am
Categories: 

Another swing and a miss by Islanders team president and general manager Lou Lamoriello, as Nikita Gusev was traded to the New Jersey Devils for a minuscule return of a 2020 third-round draft pick and a 2021 second-rounder.

Listen to your team news NOW.

New Jersey, who have plenty of money under the salary cap, proceeded to give the diminutive, but electric winger, a very manageable two-year commitment at a $4.5 million AAV and, just like that, another skilled player was added to the Metropolitan Division. All while New York sits idle with, arguably, a tad worse roster than they finished last season with.

With Mathew Barzal and Brock Nelson leading the first two lines from the pivot position, are you really entrusting that Casey Cizikas will score 20 goals again?

Prior to last year, he never scored more than nine goals in a season.

Are you thinking that Tanner Fritz is going to come in and suddenly become a 15-goal man?

He has three NHL goals in 42 games.

Related:

For a team that had real trouble scoring in half their games in 2018-19, Lamoriello continues to search for what Barry Trotz says he needs to compete. The Islanders received amazing, but likely unrepeatable, goaltending and team defense last season, not seen in 100 years.

What can Lou do at this point? Patrick Maroon doesn’t fit the bill. Neither does Jason Pominville. But two forwards who are still unrestricted free agents should be investigated as to their usefulness on the Islanders' bottom two lines, especially with the injury uncertainty surrounding Cal Clutterbuck and Andrew Ladd.

Brian Boyle, 34 years old – The former first-round pick has not lived up to the hype offensively, scoring only 124 goals and posting 216 points in 766 NHL games. However, he knows New York after spending five years with the Rangers and more importantly, having played in 114 playoff games.

Where he helps the most might be in the faceoff circle and inside the locker room. Boyle is a high character asset, recently being awarded the Masterton Trophy in 2018. We saw the positive effect Matt Martin’s return had on the Islanders’ psyche last year and it will be even more important to add to that this year.

Brian Boyle
USA TODAY images

In the faceoff circle, Boyle is a career 50.2%, better than any Islanders player currently on the 2019-20 projected roster. He has not posted a season of below 50% since 2014-15 (49%). With Barzal (42.2%), Nelson (46%) and Josh Bailey (43.6%) it never can hurt to add another successful faceoff guy to the mix with the possession game becoming more important year over year.

Derick Brassard, 31 years old - Brassard is a veteran of almost 800 NHL games and has experience playing in New York, again with the Rangers, for four seasons. A career 48.2% faceoff success puts him also in the mix for another experienced center, a position the Islanders are woefully thin at.

Sure, he has fallen on hard times offensively in recent years, but he has talent, both as a passer (275 assists in 786 games) and a decent shooter (11% career shooting percentage, an average of 18 goals per season). 

Brassard’s career-high of 27-31-58 came in 2015-16, just three seasons ago and he can certainly help on the power play, posting 83 of his 275 assists with the man advantage. Postseason experience, you want? Brassard has played 99 games in the extra season and put up a very respectable 60 points.

Given the run around he has faced lately, with trips to Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Florida and Colorado over two years, Brassard might welcome a return to the New York area he’s said to be fond of and could be had on a cheap one-year, “prove-it” deal.

The above comes with the caveat that the Islanders should be careful not to invest term in any of the players listed above. Yes, the free-agent market is weak. Yes, the Islanders could use help down the middle and in the faceoff circles. However, with contracts due next summer for Mathew Barzal, Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews plus the additions over the next couple of seasons of Oliver Wahlstrom and Keiffer Bellows, it would be wise to try to level out your roster for 2019-20 and re-evaluate after.

The trade market could be where Lamoriello is trying to improve his roster. However, it seems to be frozen at the moment as the league awaits the final verdict on Toronto’s Mitch Marner and all of the talented restricted free agents still on the market.  

Six weeks until camp.

Follow Andy on Twitter: @AndyGraz_WFAN