Chuck Fletcher continued to funnel in experience this offseason by signing Derick Brassard on Wednesday to a one-year, $825,000 contract.
Brassard, a forward who turns 34 years old in September, has played 905 career games and 117 in the playoffs.
With the Coyotes last season, Brassard scored 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 53 games. In the 2020 playoffs, you can bet Brassard caught Fletcher's eye. He had five points (two goals, three assists), 10 shots and 10 hits through five games of the Islanders' second-round series victory over the Flyers.
Brassard also has experience with head coach Alain Vigneault. He scored a career-high 27 goals in 2015-16 under Vigneault when they were with the Rangers. That was Brassard's final season in New York. The season prior, he put up a career-high 60 points for Vigneault, a season in which the Rangers fell one win short of a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
A clear emphasis to the Flyers' busy offseason was bringing in players with vast experience to mold the team's new identity, guys that can supplement the club's core and youth in this important 2021-22 season.
Following the Flyers' letdown, playoff-less 2020-21 season, Fletcher has acquired Brassard, Ryan Ellis, Cam Atkinson, Rasmus Ristolainen, Keith Yandle, Martin Jones and Nate Thompson in a span of 40 days. Simultaneously, the Flyers have parted ways with Jakub Voracek, Shayne Gostisbehere, Brian Elliott, Philippe Myers, Nolan Patrick and Robert Hagg.
The Flyers have acquired five players who were alternate captains last season on their respective former teams: Brassard, Ellis, Atkinson, Yandle and Ristolainen.
For the first time in their careers, Ellis, Atkinson and Ristolainen are playing for a different team. Ellis was an all-situation defenseman for Nashville and spent the last 10 seasons with the Predators. Atkinson is one of the most accomplished players in the history of the Blue Jackets but didn't get a chance to win much in Columbus. The 26-year-old Ristolainen played big minutes for a Sabres team that went through all kinds of turnover and never went to the playoffs during his eight seasons.
Yandle has 1,032 regular-season games of experience and Thompson has 86 playoff games on his résumé. Jones, a 31-year-old veteran goalie, is looking to prove himself in a backup role after two down years as the No. 1 for a Sharks team that missed the playoffs in each of those seasons.
Flyers' top five in playoff experience
- 1. Derick Brassard — 117 games
- 2. Justin Braun — 100 games
- 3. Nate Thompson — 86 games
- 4. Claude Giroux — 85 games
- 5. Ryan Ellis — 74 games
Brassard should give the Flyers more flexibility in their group of bottom-six forwards. He's had his best years with the head coach, can win some faceoffs and knows how to play in lesser minutes. He's not the same player from his Rangers days, when he had 69 goals, 105 assists and a plus-26 mark in 17 minutes per game through parts of four seasons. Over the past three seasons, Brassard recorded 32 goals, 43 assists and a minus-31 rating in 14:29 minutes per game. He played 189 games between five clubs: the Penguins, Panthers, Avalanche, Islanders and Coyotes.
The Flyers had a major goal-prevention problem last season. They allowed an NHL-worst 3.52 goals per game and sported the 30th-ranked penalty kill at 73.1 percent. Brassard doesn't kill penalties but he'll give the Flyers depth at center, a premium position in which they looked a tad thin after the one-two punch of Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes.
"We had to make changes this year," Fletcher said on July 24 following the trade acquisitions of Ellis, Atkinson and Ristolainen before free agency. "The players that we've added are all what I would call high energy, competitive people. How often have we talked about our slow starts over the past two, three years since I’ve been here and allegedly a lot longer than that? We need some juice, we need some energy, we need to change the mood in the room and the energy in the room.
"It’s nothing against the players that we had here before, it's about trying to create a new group, a new leadership group, new chemistry. All these guys we have acquired, besides being good hockey players, bring a lot of those qualities, bring a lot of experience, bring a lot of professionalism to our roster."
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