ST. PAUL, Minn. — If ever a player needed a fresh start, it was Bruno Gervais.
The odd man out most of last season with the Islanders, the defenseman knew New York was not bringing him back. He also is coming off his worst pro season, in which he had six assists in 53 games, was minus 14 and was slowed by a broken cheekbone and a loss of confidence.
So Gervais was in a happy place Saturday when he found out he was acquired by the Lightning for future considerations.
"I'm really excited," Gervais said by phone. "Sometimes a fresh start is the best thing you can have, and there's nothing better than starting fresh with a solid organization like Tampa Bay. From the top to the bottom, everything there seems to be heading in the right direction."
It was the second straight day in which Tampa Bay diverted attention from the draft at Xcel Energy Center, though getting two more Russian-born players to make it three of the eight taken in the draft was noteworthy.
Friday it signed defenseman Eric Brewer to a four-year contract. Gervais, 25, doesn't have nearly the star power, but he provides depth and from 2008 to 2010 with the Islanders had six goals and 36 points.
"He's a player who can do it all," coach Guy Boucher said. "I'm not saying he can do it all at the top level, but he's got quite a few tools. Wherever he's going to fit in our lineup, I can't tell you. … One thing's for sure: If we say at worst he's a seventh defenseman, we have a very good seventh defenseman."
Gervais also should be relatively cheap to sign. The potential restricted free agent made $740,833 last season.
As an aside, what is it with the Lightning and Islanders reclamation projects? Tampa Bay already rescued goaltender Dwayne Roloson and resuscitated forwards Sean Bergenheim and Nate Thompson.
"There seems to be some kind of connection there," said Thompson, who is good friends with Gervais and roomed with him his first year in New York. "Hopefully when he comes down, he will play well for us."
The familiarity with Thompson should help Gervais, as should assistant coach Dan Lacroix, who had the same job with New York while Gervais was there.
"He's a good all-around (defenseman)," Lacroix said. "He's smart, and he makes a good pass and has a high compete level."
So what happened to him?
It was a combination of things, Gervais said. He wasn't in the retooling Islanders' plans from the start of last season, and when he did get to play, and was playing well, he broke a cheekbone in a November fight with New Jersey's Colin White.
The lack of playing time snowballed into a lack of confidence, and Gervais, who said he prides himself on being a two-way player who battles defensively and also joins the rush, "stopped playing the way I can do it."
"Last year was very frustrating," he said. "But I learned a lot more from that about staying focused and keeping yourself above water. I'm looking forward to turning things around. It's going to be fun to join a team that wants to win."