The New York Islanders have been busy filling out back-end depth at the opening of free agency: In the first hour it was announced they had signed defenseman T.J. Brennan to a one-year, one-way deal -- this after news broke that Chad Johnson had been signed as backup goalie.
Brennan is an intriguing case, as he was considered Toronto's top defenseman for their AHL affiliate, yet the Leafs never recalled him despite his 72 points in 76 games. His strength is the power play, which is likely what the Islanders have in mind with this signing.
At age 25, he's been around but not seen much of the NHL. Originally a Buffalo Sabres draft pick, he saw brief NHL action with Buffalo and later with the Florida Panthers. Nashville too briefly owned his rights.
A left-handed shot listed at 6'0 and over 200 lbs., he now has his first one-way contract and instantly increases competition on the Islanders blueline.
Brennan was one of the players who benefited immensely from the 2012 lockout, giving him another half season to prove himself, as he scored at just under a point per game pace over 36 games. But again, he struggled in Buffalo, with a single goal in ten games. Brennan was moved to Florida for a 5th round draft pick, where he earned himself 9 points in 19 games.
There's a variety of factors that are preventing him from making the jump right now, but two are particularly important.
The first is a reputation as an offense-first defenceman. This isn't particularly a bad thing, unless you have the "liability" tag attached, which Brennan has at the moment. Watching him play against the Marlies for Rochester in the past, and watching him play this season, he does appear to have improved. He's quicker to get back after pinching, is a bit smarter from a positional standpoint than he has been before, and appears to be using his body more as well.
After failing to convince Dan Boyle to sign before free agency (and Boyle has reportedly signed with the cross-town rival Rangers now), the Isles chose a classic Garth Snow Plan B move: Grab a guy who has some promise, but has yet to get a full chance. It's a minor risk, and it's arguably one they didn't need considering Matt Donovan is also in the fold.
But he's here now. And he'll get his chance.