Once again, the height of free agency has come and gone and veteran journeyman Derick Brassard finds himself without an NHL contract heading into next season. Though not an ideal situation, Brassard may not be too uncomfortable, having been in this situation each of the past few years, the team at PHR profiling the forward in this series each of the previous three offseasons as well (2019, 2020, 2021). Brassard may find himself looking for a contract late in the game for a fourth straight offseason, but given the value he brings and his ability to secure a spot each year, there is reason for optimism.
Once an important top-six piece for some talent-rich New York Rangers teams competing for Stanley Cups, Brassard’s role, and team, has changed plenty since. After being a top draft choice of the Columbus Blue Jackets, he found early success and was eventually dealt to the Rangers as the main piece for Marian Gaborik. The center thrived during his time in Manhattan, hitting a career-high 60 points in 2014-15 and a career-high 27 goals the following season. While there, he also joined the Rangers on four straight playoff runs, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2014. As the Rangers’ run of success wound-down, they chose to move Brassard to the Ottawa Senators, ultimately bringing in Mika Zibanejad in the process.
With the end of his Rangers run, Brassard began his journey down the path of a journeyman, spending a season-and-a-half with Ottawa, followed by stops with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, New York Islanders, Arizona Coyotes, Philadelphia Flyers, and Edmonton Oilers. Turning back to the first of those Free Agent Profiles, Brassard wound up signing a one-year, $1.2MM deal with the Islanders at the conclusion of a five-year, $25MM pact. The move paid dividends for both sides, Brassard recording 32 points in 66 regular season games for the Islanders, adding another eight points in 18 playoff games in the bubble.
At the conclusion of the season, the Islanders let Brassard go and after another slow offseason and Brassard signed with the Arizona Coyotes for one-year at $1MM, giving the rebuilding Coyotes a veteran presence in their lineup on top of 20 points in 53 games. The veteran once again had a slow offseason in the summer of 2021, but found work, this time on a one-year, $825K deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, who moved him to the Edmonton Oilers at the trade deadline. Between both teams, Brassard managed 19 points in 46 regular season games, though 16 of those points came in just 31 games as a member of the Flyers, somewhat of an impressive return to form for the 34-year-old.
2021-22: 46 GP, 8 G, 11 A, 19 pts, +4 rating, 16 PIMs, 62 shots, 52.0 CF%, 12:55 ATOI
Career: 951 GP, 202 G, 320 A, 522 pts, -31 rating, 435 PIMs, 1,843 shots, 55.9 CF%, 15:56 ATOI
Given Brassard’s presumably low price-tag, most NHL teams would be able to fit the veteran in, however who would be interested is another question. With his production dropping off rather steeply over the previous five years, finding any sort of significant role on a contender might be tough. After his time with the Islanders, making a run to the Conference Finals, Brassard played with Arizona in 2020-21 and the Flyers in 2021-22, both teams that struggled, but was ultimately traded to the Edmonton Oilers. Brassard played in 15 games with Edmonton down the stretch, but averaged just 9:53 of time on ice, down significantly from the 14:22 he averaged in Philadelphia and played just one playoff game during Edmonton’s run to the Western Conference Finals.
Rough as that may sound for Brassard, it doesn’t mean there isn’t an important role for him to play somewhere. In fact, he did impress during his time with the Flyers, averaging more than half a point per game with them. When he is given the opportunity to produce via ice-time, he generally does; however, it may only be a rebuilder that can give him that opportunity. What’s more is Brassard has proven to be a responsible forward who can make the right play anywhere on the ice and shift around a lineup, a player who might be a terrific fit to work alongside a team’s young players, creating and finishing opportunities with them and cleaning up mistakes they may make. That said, a return to Arizona or Philadelphia, or somewhere new like the Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal Canadiens, or Seattle Kraken may make sense.
Unfortunately for Brassard, he has seen his salary dip each of the past three seasons, coming from $3.5MM in 2018-19 (the final year of a five-year, $25MM front-loaded deal with a $5MM AAV), to $1.2MM to $1MM and finally to $825K this year. Most likely, Brassard won’t sign for more than the $825K he had last season and it could be as low as the $750K minimum salary. With his career track record and his performance this year, especially with the Flyers, it’s hard to imagine Brassard is headed for a two-way contract, but that reality is certainly possible. More likely, and perhaps most likely, is that Brassard will accept a PTO from a team and attempt to either make that team, or hope to impress enough to be released from the PTO and sign an NHL deal with a club in need of a versatile veteran forward.
Moving from city to city year in and year out, sometimes with multiple stops in a season can be incredibly stressful on a player and their family, and Brassard is likely no exception. However, this system may be the way of the future for the soon-to-be 35-year-old if he wants to stay in the NHL. On the bright side, his ability to adapt to environments and maintain his solid, responsible play is another attractive feature to his game for a front office and coaching staff.