Shortly after the Islanders landed Jean-Gabriel Pageau at the trade deadline, Barry Trotz was asked about the haul that it took to get him.
The Senators had sent Pageau to Long Island for a first- and second-round pick, plus a conditional third-rounder if the Islanders won the 2020 Stanley Cup.
“Trust me, if we have to [give up] that third pick because we win the Stanley Cup, me and [general manager Lou Lamoriello] will drive up together and hand all three picks to them,” Trotz said back in March.
The Islanders still have plenty of work to do before Trotz and Lamoriello can think about road-tripping to Ottawa, but Pageau has gone a long way in making the hefty price tag seem justified through his first seven playoff games. The two-way center has stabilized the third line, bringing some offense and some grit that has helped give the Islanders a chance to sweep their first-round series with the Capitals on Tuesday night.
“We identified Pager early on in the process and had many discussions with Lou and he did with our scouting staff,” Trotz said Monday from Toronto. “When it came down to the trade deadline, Lou said this is the type of player we want in our organization, we got an opportunity to get him and he went and got him, which has been a really good fit for us. It gives us that strength down the middle for the next few years, for sure.”
The 27-year-old Pageau signed a six-year, $30 million extension after the trade to make sure he would be a part of the Islanders’ core for the future, but he’s also making sure he’s providing immediate dividends.
After scoring three goals in the qualifying round against the Panthers, Pageau added a pair of assists in Game 2. More importantly, his line with Derick Brassard and Leo Komarov was on the ice late in that game during a key sequence in which the Islanders pinned the Capitals in their own zone for an extended period to give them no shot of a comeback.
“We’re just trying to play the way we want,” Pageau said. “Playing against the Islanders was always a hard game. They’re a tough team to play against. I was fortunate to join the team and I love to play that style of game. We have a solid group of guys that go to war every game and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
During last year’s playoff run, the Islanders had Valtteri Filppula as their third-line center. He signed with the Red Wings in the offseason and the Islanders spent much of this season trying different stopgaps at the position until finally landing Pageau, which allowed them to settle their lineup elsewhere.
Pageau and Brassard, who were previously teammates in Ottawa and grew up in the same town, have meshed well with Komarov on a veteran line that plays the style that Trotz is looking for.
“They got an element of sandpaper, element of skill and element of speed in there,” Trotz said. “They just seem to work. They’re a veteran group, the three of them. So they are very useful.”
Pageau had to wait more than five months to pick up his first win as an Islander — they went 0-7 with him before the pandemic shut down the NHL — but now he’s providing what they hoped for when they paid the price in draft picks.
“We knew what we were getting,” Trotz said. “You saw the year that he had and the way he plays, it was an easy decision to identify the player. It was probably a harder decision to go out and get that player.”
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