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Derick Brassard brings Coyotes much-needed flexibility for unusual season

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 17: Derick Brassard #10 of the New York Islanders skates with the puck ahead of Nick Leddy #2 during the second period of the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on February 17, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Islanders 2-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday signed center Derick Brassard to a 1-year deal, providing much-needed flexibility and experience in a season that is going to look much different than usual.

Brassard joins the Coyotes after helping the New York Islanders achieve a Conference Finals appearance last season, accumulating 32 points (10 goals, 22 assists) in 66 games.

During that playoff run with the Islanders, ending in a loss to the eventual champion Tampa Bay Lightning, Brassard adapted to a different role after the team acquired center Jean-Gabriel Pageau in February.

That didn’t go noticed by Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong.

“What I really liked in his game last year was he moved from center to the wing and he seemed to find his game, was able to produce for the Islanders in the playoffs,” Armstrong told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo Wednesday.

The move also helps fill the void left by Derek Stepan, who was traded to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.

“After we moved Stepan, he was the guy that could jump in there and provide us some scoring on the second line whether he’s on the wing or on center.”

That flexibility, Armstrong says, will be useful for an upcoming season that is not only shorter but also has a coronavirus pandemic to worry about.

“You throw in a condensed schedule, you throw some COVID on top of that, it’s a different season than most,” Armstrong told reporters in a Zoom call on Wednesday. “He gives us a lot of flexibility when things occur with injuries through the middle of the ice or COVID happens to our team.”

“The versatility you really need, it’s really important. You just don’t know what’s coming at you.”

While Armstrong said he acquired Brassard to complement the group by playing both center or wing on the top two lines, the first-year Coyotes GM has had his eye on Brassard for a while before he was given the keys of the Arizona front office.

Armstrong, a former scout, has been watching Brassard since the 33-year-old’s time in the Quebec League.

“Always liked his feel for the game, always thought he has a great feel with the puck on his stick and he makes players better around him,” Armstrong said.

“He has that vision and feel with the puck on his stick to find the open man, always liked that aspect about his game.”

A sixth overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Brassard has 186 goals and 297 assists for 483 points in 852 games played across 14 seasons in the league.

Brassard in that time has played on eight teams, including three different squads in the 2018-19 season, and has experience on nine playoffs teams.

Four of those teams went to the Conference Finals and one made it to the Stanley Cup.

“It always helps to have somebody around that can guide them whose been through the playoff grind and has had some ups and downs in his career too,” Armstrong said.

Brassard looks to bring that vast playoff experience to a fairly young Coyotes team attempting to make its second straight trip to the playoffs.

“I feel the fit is really good here,” Brassard said in a Zoom call with reporters Wednesday. “I’m going to try to bring my game and experience and we’ll see how it’s going to go.”

Brassard said he watched the Coyotes in the bubble last season and liked what he saw.

“I felt like this team can play four lines, that’s the way we played with Islanders last year,” Brassard said. “I think this team is going in the right direction, a good mix of young guys and veteran guys and they’re really strong with their goalies.”

“It just made sense for me to come here.”

Brassard added the first 10 games of the season – against San Jose, Las Vegas, Anaheim and St. Louis – are very important and the team must be sharp from Day 1 of training camp since there are no preseason games.

The puck drops on a new season for the Coyotes on Jan. 14 at home against the Sharks.


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