Nick Leddy has been everything the New York Islanders have hoped he would be this season.
One of the two blue liners dealt to the Islanders prior to the start of the 2014-2015 regular season, Leddy came from a cap-crunched Chicago Blackhawks team where he was getting lost in the depths of their defensive roster. He was brought on the same day as veteran Johnny Boychuk, brought on from a financially struggling Boston Bruins who had no other moveable pieces — and together, they’ve played a huge part in the success the Islanders have seen during the year.
As the trade deadline looms closer, though, both Leddy and Boychuk have become pieces in the rumor mill; with Boychuk set to expire this season and Leddy set to expire the next, the Metropolitan Division needed to lock them down or get a decent return for them.
In Leddy’s case, it looks like they went with the former.
According to Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada, the New York Islanders have inked a seven-year contract extension for Leddy worth an annual average cap hit of $5.5 million. There’s no word on whether the deal includes trade limitations for the 23-year old defenseman.
With Leddy locked in through the end of the 2022-2023 season, the public’s attention will now likely turn to see what the Islanders do with Boychuk. The 31-year-old Edmonton native was unhappy about being dealt from the Bruins, but seems to be fitting in well with the New York franchise in the final year of his current contract. He’s aging, but his production hasn’t seen much decline in that time frame; although he may want more years on a contract than New York plans to offer, he seems like a piece they’d want to lock back in.
It’s important to note, of course, that Leddy would have been a restricted free agent at the end of next season; although another team could have easily started a bidding war for his attention with sky-high offer sheets (something a number of teams have been murmuring about doing leading up to the off-season), his contract negotiation rights would have still belonged exclusively to New York following his current deal’s expiry.
In Boychuk’s case, though, he’ll be free to entertain offers around the league once free agency hits as an unrestricted free agent. Considering the size of the free agent market this year, the veteran blue liner could very easily see his salary come close to doubling with some of the offers made; if he hasn’t signed an extension by now (and certainly if it didn’t come before Leddy’s own extension), it seems unlikely he’ll re-sign in New York before the season ends.
If Boychuk is on the market this summer, the willingness for rebuilding teams to be sellers leading up to the deadline will likely go up; the more saturated the free agent market is, the better their chances will be of replenishing a stripped lineup dealt away this spring. This is especially important to note when looking at how the Oilers handle the Jeff Petry situation going forward.