New York Islanders fans may wonder what Tyler Kennedy has been up to since he was last seen scoring on a breakaway for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Islanders' eventful 2013 playoff series.
The forward, acquired by the Isles from the San Jose Sharks at the NHL trade deadline, has been out West the last two seasons, scoring four goals in each. That comes after scoring 10 goals or more in all five full seasons with the Penguins -- plus six goals in 46 games of the lockout-shortened 2012-13.
So at age 28 has he fallen off a cliff? Did the Penguins get rid of him at the right time? Not quite.
The one concern is the injuries that limited him to 25 games with the Sharks thus far this season. That concern aside (more on that later), the Isles have added a solid player who is versatile enough to help on either the third or fourth line.
The Neutral at Fear the Fin explains his strengths, and what likely left him on the outside as San Jose awkwardly retools:
Kennedy was fifth on the team in Corsi For% and fourth in 5-on-5 points per minute this season, enjoying an encouraging if injury-riddled bounceback season after an inconsistent debut year in teal.
Kennedy will be the best player the Sharks move today and in a sense it's a shame they didn't just re-sign the 28-year-old rather than trade him for a fairly insubstantial return. Rebuilding teams need real NHL players too, as one look at the Edmonton Oilers can tell you, and Kennedy is one of the better bottom-six forwards in the league and should continue to be for some time. He's excellent in the neutral zone, isn't afraid to put the puck on net and can drive play with any combination of linemates. He can't finish if his life depended on it and that fact combined with some of his defensive-zone turnovers likely soured Todd McLellan on the player, whom McLellan scratched for all seven games of the Sharks' first-round series against Los Angeles last spring.
About that penalty kill
The tendency with a bottom-six player with speed is to think, "oh, good for the penalty kill too," and this sentiment was out there on Twitter, and from some credentialed reporters, in the aftermath of the trade.
A quick check of Kennedy's usage history, however, reveals precious little work while his team is shorthanded -- most of it with San Jose, but even there, very minimal.
In a word: Frans Nielsen spends more time on the PK in a given month or two than Kennedy has in his whole career.
About those Injuries
Kennedy arrives at a time when the Islanders have faced multiple, simultaneous injuries to key players for the first time this season. Though good players have been on IR most of the season, the last month has been the first time several regulars have been out at the same time.
With right wing Kyle Okposo still out for several weeks, and center/winger Mikhail Grabovski out an undetermined time with a concussion, this provides more coverage for the Isles, who have been using AHL recall Colin McDonald on wing and Kael Mouillierat at center. Even with traditional fourth-line center Casey Cizikas out, the Isles have several players who are used as wingers but can play center, and Kennedy's addition can help fill the void in those instances. That's particularly useful since the stretch run and postseason tend to accelerate the effort players put into drilling their opponents on to IR.
Kennedy returned to the lineup for six games this month, but his usage under McLellan did not reflect confidence, and his injury situation is nothing to disregard. Still, he was behind the eight ball all season, having started the season on the shelf with an upper body injury that cost him the first month. Outside of a "serious" case of the flu around the New Year, it's been a mix of abdominal, shoulder and "other."
From Curtis Pashelka in the Mercury News:
In late January, Kennedy, 28, was injured for the fourth time this season as he missed two games. He missed training camp and the first 13 games of the season with an upper body injury, two more games with a lower body injury and 15 more from Dec. 7 to Jan. 10 with a shoulder problem.
Also in the Merc, Kennedy's now-former boss says no hard feelings:
"Maybe he's a better fit playing in the east, maybe he has some familiarity playing back there," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said of Kennedy. "We wish him nothing but the best. He came and gave us a great effort."
For the cost of a seventh-round pick -- a third if the Islanders win the Cup and Kennedy appears in half the games -- this was an easy, no-risk addition for the Isles. With the possibility of another playoff collision with the Penguins pending, it also doesn't hurt to have a guy who will want to make his old team regret their decision, too.