UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) -Bryan Berard's perseverance paid off.
Invited to training camp without a contract, Berard impressed the New York Islanders enough to earn a one-year, $725,000 deal on Tuesday.
Berard began his NHL career with the Islanders a decade ago and earned rookie of the year honors in the 1996-97 season after being acquired by New York from Ottawa for fellow defenseman Wade Redden.
The Islanders didn't have room for Berard once rosters had to be set last week, but he continued to practice with the team at his own expense while patiently waiting for a spot to open. It did when Freddy Meyer was claimed off waivers by the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday.
``I came to camp determined to prove to the Islanders I belonged in the NHL and I'm very appreciative of (general manager) Garth Snow and (coach) Ted Nolan for giving me the chance,'' the 30-year-old Berard said in a statement. ``The guys have already shown this season what kind of character this team has and how strong a team we are. My goal is to do everything I can to make us better.''
Berard, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 1995, spent parts of three seasons with the Islanders. He played the past two seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets under coach Gerard Gallant, who is now an assistant on Nolan's staff.
``He is a very highly skilled defenseman,'' Snow said. ``He wanted to be an Islander again and we're thrilled that he is.''
In 565 career games with the Islanders, Toronto, New York Rangers, Boston, Chicago and Columbus, Berard has 71 goals and 230 assists.
Berard, a native of Woonsocket, R.I., made it back to the NHL after sustaining a severe eye injury in 2000 while playing with Toronto that was thought to be career-ending.
He also tested positive for steroids in 2005 after he was listed on a U.S. Olympic hockey preliminary roster. Berard was banned from international competition for two years because of the failed test administered by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
He wasn't suspended by the NHL because the failed test wasn't a part of the league's drug program.
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