New York Islanders Make Significant Defensive Upgrades

USATSI_7924960_154158418_lowresThe New York Islanders spent Saturday making some serious upgrades on their defensive group, acquiring defenceman Nick Leddy from the Chicago Blackhawks and landing Johnny Boychuk from the Boston Bruins.

The Islanders sent two second-round draft picks to the Bruins for Boychuk, who had been part of trade talks ever since it turned out that his former club was up against it in terms of the salary cap. Long Island tossed in a conditional third round pick for 2015 if Boychuk winds up being traded to another Eastern Conference team before the 2014-2015 season ends. Ah, conditions.

Boychuk is set to become an unrestricted free agent in July. The 30-year-old had 23 points in 75 games for the Bruins last season. He is a size player, clocking in at 225 pounds. He had 45 penalty minutes on the year and finished a +31 with five goals to show for himself.

“This is a tough trade. We all like Johnny,” Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said. “He was upset, I was upset, I’m still upset.”

Chicago landed defenceman TJ Brennan, prospect Ville Pokka and the rights to goalie Anders Nilsson in exchange for Leddy. Nilsson is a restricted free agent playing in Russia.

The 23-year-old Leddy had 31 points in his fourth season with the Blackhawks. He was initially drafted by the Minnesota Wild at 16th overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He joined Chicago in 2010 and was a part of their 2013 Stanley Cup-winning roster.

As with the Bruins, the Blackhawks needed to deal with some cap concerns and so Leddy came up. They passed off the last year of his contract, which will also make him a free agent – the restricted kind – in July.

Leddy should see some serious time on the power play for the Islanders and that’s where he’ll clock some points. He’ll join a man-advantage core that already boasts John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Mikhail Grabovski, and Frans Nielsen. And he won’t have as much of an uphill climb to prove his worth with ice time, with the Islanders looking a touch on the thin side defensively.

Back in Chicago, Leddy had to earn his way onto the man-advantage against the likes of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. But on Long Island, it’s a new ballgame and a new opportunity. He’ll see more ice time overall and that, along with the acquisition of the big Boychuk, should in turn help Jaroslav Halak handle his business in goal.

In other words, Saturday was a good day for the Islanders and a good day for Islanders fans.


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