Last season wasn’t a great one for New York Islanders and Garth Snow. On October 27 the General Manager swung a deal for Thomas Vanek, trading Matt Moulson, a 2015 first-round pick and a 2015 second-round pick to the Buffalo Sabres for the Austrian sniper. His vision was clear for all to see.
Coming off of a playoff series where the Islanders pushed Eastern Conference powerhouse Pittsburgh Penguins to the brink, Snow saw his team as a blossoming contender. Adding a forward like Vanek to play alongside John Tavares was supposed to put New York over the top. That never happened though, as Tavares was badly inured at the Sochi Olympics and missed the remainder of the season.
The Islanders missed the playoffs by 14 points and finished under .500 on the year. To make matters worse, Snow wasn’t able to convince Vanek to sign an extension to stay on Long Island. With no other options remaining, the GM flipped Vanek to the Montreal Canadiens for Sebastian Collberg and a second-round pick in 2015.
Some wondered if Snow’s job was on the line this summer as he tried to steer the Islanders back towards the playoffs. The Vanek gaffe apparently lit a fire under the longtime executive, as he’s hit nothing but home runs since then.
He first traded a fourth-round pick to acquire goalie Jaroslav Halak, who was set to become a free agent. This time Snow convinced the pending UFA to stay, inking the former St. Louis Blues backstop to a four-year deal.
The Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins were both up against the cap this summer, so Snow was all too happy to take Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk on, respectively. While the latter still needs an extension (and is reportedly seeking north of $6 million), Snow wisely inked Leddy to a seven-year extension earlier today.
Per reports, Leddy re-signs with NYI for 7 years. AAV is $5.5M. Boychuk has to be next, right?
— Mike Miccoli (@MikeMiccoli) February 24, 2015
Second-pairing defensemen are going for $5 million-plus per year at this point, so signing a 23-year-old first liner for a $5.5 million cap hit is a spectacular coup for Snow. Unlike a lot of these longer deals, the hit won’t be nasty through the first two or three seasons. The cap doesn’t need to go up for this to be a solid deal for the Isles, and that’s a positive thing.
Perhaps the GM noted how he was able to acquire Leddy and Boychuk in the first place. Both the B’s and ‘Hawks recently re-signed players to monster deals while expecting the ceiling to bump up a few million over the next few seasons. That might not happen as soon as expected, and that put both Boston and Chicago in a tough spot.
Leddy isn’t a cornerstone player, but he doesn’t need to be with the Islanders. He’s an outstanding No. 2/3 option, and his cap hit will make him a steal within the next three years. You could honestly make the argument that it’s a steal already.
Certainly seems worth of 5.5M in my book. Another nice job by Garth Snow. This is becoming a trend. pic.twitter.com/jgIfoS0VWt
— Ryan Wilson (@GunnerStaal) February 24, 2015
It’s becoming more difficult to acquire defensive help via trade for free agency. That’s what made Snow’s acquisitions so outstanding. It’s no secret that Halak, Leddy and Boychuk have been the keys behind New York’s surge to the top of the NHL. You keep players like that around, and that’s exactly what the GM has done here.
If Leddy had become available (even as a RFA), he could have received a bigger offer than this. New York skipped that painful process and the will they/won’t they dance by getting this contract done now.
The defenseman is on pace for 34 points, and blueliners that can push 40 are all but impossible to come by on the market. If Snow secures Boychuk for the foreseeable future, defense won’t be an issue with the Islanders for a long while. Travis Hamonic and Calvin de Haan have both evolved into top-four guys, and Snow still has Ryan Pulock and Griffin Reinhart playing at the AHL level. Locking Leddy down will give those two prospects time to evolve while still allowing the Islanders to be more than competitive in the NHL.
Snow has always been a guy to swing for the fences, and while the Vanek maneuver didn’t work out, you have to applaud this sequence of moves. Landing and signing Halak and then doing the same with Leddy cemented New York’s new role as contenders. Now all he needs to do is re-sign Boychuk and he’ll have had one of the strongest managing seasons in recent memory.
It’s a good time to be an Islanders fan.