UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) _ Five days after the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, the New York Islanders signed the top pick in last year's draft.

Defenseman Bryan Berard, the overall No. 1 pick for 1995, signed a three-year deal on Thursday with the Islanders. Berard originally was drafted by Ottawa and traded to the Islanders on Jan. 23 in a three-team deal that sent Kirk Muller to Toronto and Wade Redden, the second pick in the 1995 draft, to the Senators.

``We're very pleased to get this signing done at this juncture,'' Islanders general manager Mike Milbury said. ``He will be a tremendous asset to our club. He brings speed, offensive capabilities and some nastiness.''

Berard, who was the first player chosen under the rookie salary cap agreed to by the Players' Association, will make the maximum ceiling base salary of $2.55 million, plus the maximum amount for the league-capped bonuses. But he will also make money on team bonuses, including a payment of over $500,000 if he wins the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.

``In years two and three (of the contract), he could realistically make $1.5 million,'' Milbury said. ``We wanted to make sure he was the highest paid player of that draft. After all, he was drafted first. But for him to make all that money, in the end, he still has to produce.''

Berard was happy that the contract was resolved.

``It's a load off my mind,'' he said. ``The deal happened a little earlier than I expected, and I'm looking forward to going home and working out and to be in shape for training camp.''

Berard, a native of Woonsocket, R.I., is an offensive defenseman whose style reminds scouts of Chris Chelios and Ray Bourque. ``I just want to be my own type of player,'' Berard said. ``I'm just going to go out and do what I can to help the team.''

``When you have an offensively gifted player like Bryan, it's crazy to try and harness him,'' Milbury said. ``But from the red line back, he's accountable to me. From the red line forward, he's on his own if it doesn't put the team at a disadvantage.''