Johnny Boychuk’s retirement provides certain situation the Islanders have dealt with before

New York Islanders, Islanders, Sebastian Aho

As the Islanders await word of when the upcoming season will begin, a big opportunity has arisen inside the organization.

With the news of Johnny Boychuk’s retirement a week ago, a prime spot is now up for grabs on defense.

This is not the first time the Isles have dealt with trying to replace a key absence on the back end. You have to go back three years for when the Islanders were faced with a similar type of situation.

Back then, the organization was pained with the decision of whom was going to replace d-man Travis Hamonic. Hamonic, who had spent five years with the franchise, was shipped to the Calgary Flames on draft weekend after former g.m. Garth Snow granted his request to be traded to be closer to home for personal reasons.

In training camp that September, it was three youngsters — Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield and Adam Pelech — who competed with each other for the one open slot.

Mayfield ended up winning the battle out of the trio, but all three became regulars as the season progressed after several key guys on defense got banged up.

Fast forward to now, Pulock is the club’s No. 1 d-man and just re-signed for two more years. Mayfield has evolved into a steady defender with good upside. And Pelech? Well, he has transformed into arguably the most underrated defenseman in the NHL.

So now the Islanders are back in that same spot, only this time they have close to almost five names who could be Boychuk’s replacement — Sebastian Aho, Grant Hutton, Parker Wotherspoon, Mitch Vande Sompel and Thomas Hickey.

Aho heads the top of the list for a reason. For him — who’s actually the only one besides Hickey with any NHL experience (he played 22 games during the 2017-18 season) — this could finally be his time to shine. He has thrived for the Isles’ AHL affiliate the last three seasons, including three All-Star Game appearances.

The 24-year-old Swede was also qualified by the organization back in October with the notion he would be fighting for a spot on the blue line. He’s been patient with waiting to get his chance to prove his worth.

Back in April, he voiced his frustration too about wanting to play for the big club but not having received that opportunity just yet. “It was a little frustrating,” he then told a Swedish news outlet. “In the beginning you are just happy to get to practice with the team every day and see and learn. Then it’s clear, it doesn’t really matter what level you are at – you always want to play matches.”

“It is up to me to try to prove that you should be up in the NHL and that you will take the chance next time it comes. For me, it’s just a matter of continuing to play in the way that has taken me to where I am today. At least they say they have me in their future plans and tell me not to give up. If I do what I’m good at, my chance will come, they say more or less. I can not do more than that.”

Hutton, 25, has made good strides playing in Bridgeport the last two years after turning pro. A lot of critics believe he could be a very good d-man. Wotherspoon and Vande Sompel have been attached at the hip almost throughout their time in the minors. Vande Sompel has had some tough luck staying healthy — he suffered an arm injury in training camp last season which cost him nearly the entire year — but at 22, he’s still young enough to where he should receive a long look. Wotherspoon seems ready to make the jump to the Islanders after another solid season anchoring Bridgeport’s defense.

Then there’s Hickey. Even at 31, has to garner consideration because he’s once again healthy and still under contract until after the 2021-22 season.

You might also be asking yourself, where does Andy Greene fit in all of this?

It’s a good question.

Greene, who supposedly will be back with the organization based on comments from Lou Lamoriello, will probably be suited as the team’s extra d-man. He turned 38 in late October, and with the amount of depth and options the Isles have on D, it’s hard to see him being a regular every night.

The Islanders’ defense was already going to be different this season. What with Devon Toews being traded and Noah Dobson taking his place. But now with Boychuk out of the equation, another huge spot is open with several names ready to fight for it.

They’ve seen this situation in the past and it should be fun to see it take place again.

 

 

 

New York Islanders: The Devon Toews trade was the right move

New York Islanders, Devon Toews

Everyone and their mother know that the New York Islanders had to trade Devon Toews because of cap space problems. Then all of a sudden, Johnny Boychuk retires and frees up a good amount of cap space. Now everyone is calling for Lou Lamoriello’s head because of this. This is interesting for many reasons, but a primary one is that no one knew how bad Boychuk’s eye was.

Boychuk was ready to play another season just two weeks ago, and now his illustrious career is over. I believe trading Devon Toews was the right move, and it’ll remain the right move.

Arbitration Hearing

Devon Toews was traded basically right before his court hearing. Lou Lamoriello has stated many times that he didn’t know how much they would award a player of his caliber. It’s not like Toews was being shopped the entire offseason like Boychuk was. But in the end, Toews got traded, and it’s the right move. I mean, let’s say we kept Toews and Boychuk still retired, those contracts almost cancel each other out, and the Isles still have no money to resign Mat Barzal.

Cap Space

The Islanders would have no room to sign Mat Barzal. Through my estimations, they would have around $6 million to sign him, Greene, Martin, and Schneider. This is not NHL 21; this is an unrealistic scenario. These players deserve money, and that’s what they’re going to get. How much Barzal wants remains a mystery.

Barzal could be asking for $9.5 million for all we know. I assume it’s lower than that based on what Ryan Pulock said when he resigned. But still, you could not keep Toews, Pulock, and Barzal on the Island if they re-signed Toews. The Isles chose the better two players, their franchise players stayed as they try to win a championship.

Johnny Boychuk was an Islander in every sense of the word

New York Islanders, Johnny Boychuk

From the moment he arrived on Long Island six years ago, it was clear Johnny Boychuk was meant to be an Islander. That’s why it was hard not to feel the emotion pouring out of him after word came out yesterday that his career with the team had come to such an abrupt end.

The Isles announced yesterday that Boychuk, 36, was being forced to retire as a result of an eye injury he suffered late last season, thus marking the completion of a 13-year NHL career.

“When somebody tells you that you’re not going to ever play again – or that you shouldn’t – it’s tough,” Boychuk told reporters via Zoom. “It’s been really, really tough.”

Boychuk was traded to the Isles a week before the start of the 2014-15 season which is considered now a pivotal moment in the last decade for the franchise. On that day, October 4, 2014, he was brought to the team along with fellow d-man Nick Leddy in the span of an hour. It didn’t take long for the fans to embrace him either.

Boychuk would score the team’s first goal of the 2014-15 campaign in Carolina and became one of the primary factors for the Isles’ turnaround that year.

Throughout that season too it became clear Boychuk was the kind of presence the organization preferred long-term. And so that became the case when the franchise inked him to a seven-year, $42-million dollar deal.

“There have been so many good memories,” Boychuk also said when reflecting on his time with the team. “It’s tough to process everything at one time…When I got traded to the Island, we had a good group of young players. Now, they’re veterans and they’ve got experience. I see potential. I think a lot of guys see potential in the Islanders. It’s a good place to play and to be with your family, to have a bond together as a team. It’ll continue to just get better and better. I didn’t realize it when I first got traded there, but I realized it after a year of what it was to be an Islander. You take pride in it.”

As the years have gone by, that pride Boychuk referred to he helped re-establish for the franchise in many ways both on and off the ice. He wore his heart on his sleeve, and man was he tough.

But even that saying doesn’t even begin to describe to optimize Boychuk. The term “warrior” is best suited instead. That was the mentality he played with every single shift whether he was throwing his body around or going down to block a 95 mile-per-hour slap shot.

That was who Boychuk was. He was old-school. And it’s the reason the blue and orange faithful fell in love with him.

Then there is what he meant to the other guys in the room over the years.

“Anyone who knows JB knows he is one of a kind in every way. He is a selfless teammate, who never backed down, shot every rimmed puck, has a heart of gold, and touch of moderns top customer. But above all, he is always there for you. I’m lucky you call you my friend, Love you Beezy,” tweeted captain Anders Lee.

“Johnny Rocket, absolute pleasure calling you a teammate and friend, a true role model and leader on and off the ice, #55 will be missed,” said Ryan Pulock.

“One of the best teammates I’ve ever had. Warrior on the Ice and a teddy bear off of it. The game of hockey will miss you @joboych! Love you my brother. ❤️ #JohnnyRocket🚀,” Matt Martin wrote.

There were many more tributes to Boychuk, which only show how respected he was by his teammates but also the profound effect he had on them not even from a hockey standpoint.

But for all that Boychuk has done for the Islanders, no one probably said it better than head coach Barry Trotz after the team staved off elimination in game five against Tampa Bay in the Conference finals.

“Johnny is one of those unique guys that you come across,” Trotz said. “He’s old school, he’s one of the most likable guys that you’re ever going to meet, one of the most committed guys. The first shift he blocked two or three shots. He’s got welts all over his body. He gives you everything that he has night-in and night-out. He’s fearless.

“He’s really a bit of a leader or a father figure for the young guys. He’s always taking care of people. Leadership is not necessarily caring about yourself. It’s caring about all of the other people. That’s where Johnny is really good. He cares about everybody in that room. He’s one of the most likable guys. He brings a different energy to the room because he’s been there, done that. He’s been an Islander for a long time.”

It will be weird to not see Boychuk out there being his usual self whenever next season begins. He’s been a part of this franchise for over half a decade and has been through all the twists and turns and more recently its success.

His time with the Islanders is over now. But the lasting effect he had during his tenure won’t be forgotten.

An Islander in every sense of the word.

Johnny Boychuk will be missed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York Islanders: Johnny Boychuk’s career is over, references eye injury as deciding factor

New York Islanders, Johnny Boychuk

Longtime New York Islanders defenceman Johnny Boychuk’s career is officially over. It’s a really sad day for all Islander fans as one of the guys who changed the franchise around has to retire early.

Hearing the trade for Boychuk and Nick Leddy simultaneously, every NHL fan knew the Islanders were on the upswing. And that trade doesn’t feel so long ago, but that was 6 years in the past. Johnny Boychuk isn’t that elite 30-year-old with the booming slapshot anymore. He’s a great 36-year-old veteran who would give it his all 60 minutes a night.

Johnny Boychuk is being forced to retire due to his eye injury that happened back in March. His face was sliced by a skate while in front of the net. He currently has permanent nerve damage in his eye and bad peripheral vision. It’s a sad ending for a fan favorite.

What’s Next?

Johnny Boychuk will never step on the ice ever again for a professional Hockey team. As he said, “it’s not a decision, it was a life choice I guess.” Johnny Boychuk will take a behind the scenes role with some team. It’ll probably be the Islanders as he tries to win his second Stanley Cup, but this time he’ll win it off the ice. Lou Lamoriello loves to keep his guys around, so it wouldn’t shock anyone if Boychuk doesn’t leave the Island for good.

The Positives

In this sad situation, there are only two positives I can think of from this. One is that Johnny Boychuk will be safe, and we won’t have to worry about him on the ice. If his eye started going and he couldn’t see someone coming at him, yeah, that’s very bad. All Isles fans want the best for Johnny Rocket.

Another positive is the cap space. The Islanders gain back a good amount of cap space from this and should be able to sign Mat Barzal now. Also, they have those 2 second-round picks from the Toews trade lying around. All in all, I love you, Boychuk. It’s been a pleasure watching you for so many years, thank you for everything. It’s okay, you can go now, you did everything you could, the Islanders will be fine.

New York Islanders rumors: Serious cap relief incoming

Andrew Ladd, New York Islanders

The New York Islanders have some serious cap space issues. And they have to resign Mat Barzal relatively soon. Islander fans can finally take the anvil off their foot. Incarcerated Bob has tweeted that someone is either retiring or being put on LTIR. He also stated that he’s trying to get full details on this to see if this will actually happen soon. That disclaimer is for you, Bob, now you don’t have to worry about “false information.” Let’s say hypothetically that someone on the Islanders is retiring or being put on LTIR soon. What impact would this have on their cap space? And who are the candidates for this fate?

Andrew Ladd

Andrew Ladd has had a long 16 year NHL career. After only playing 30 NHL games within the last 2 years due to injury, the skates might finally be hung up. If Ladd retires, he has nothing in his career that he wished he could do better. He was a great captain for the Atlanta Thrashers. Ladd was a two time Stanley Cup Champion. He’ll end up with just short of 1000 pro Hockey games played and over 500 points recorded. There would be no shame if Ladd hangs the skates up. This would also open up $5.5 million in cap space for the Islanders, which would solve almost all of their problems. Ladd is the most likely candidate.

Johnny Boychuk

Johnny Boychuk is still an NHL caliber defenseman, which is why it hurts me to say that he might retire. Boychuk has been hurt 3 times every season for the last 3 years. And when you get up there in age, after a long successful career, calling it quits isn’t unlikely. The Islanders have also stated that they would offer Boychuk a behind the scenes role with the team if he retired. This retirement wouldn’t open a ton of cap space, but it would still be enough to resign Mat Barzal.

New York Islanders: Cory Schneider signs and Johnny Boychuk update

Cory Schneider, New York Islanders

The New York Islanders have finally signed their first free agent in 2020. This one is quite a shocker. It isn’t the top 6 forward that all Islander fans have been wanting. It isn’t Barzal or Pulock or Toews being re-signed. No, it’s the Islanders signing a depth goalie. But, this move makes total sense. I mean, why wouldn’t the Islanders sign Cory Schneider? He’s not the best goalie by a mile, but the Islanders have no depth. Christopher Gibson and Linus Soderstrom both left. I like this move a lot for the Islanders.

Where Does He Fit?

Schneider is almost certainly going straight to Bridgeport. But, he’s a good replacement goalie if either Varlamov or Sorokin goes down. Mitch Korn will have a field day turning Schneider’s career around. No surprise that Lamoriello signed Schneider, though.

Lou really just recycles the same eight guys in every franchise he’s been with. Schneider will teach Jakub Skarek the ropes. This is perfect for the young goalie. Every young player needs that veteran presence to calm them down and teach them a few things. The contract details haven’t surfaced yet, but my best guess is that it’s a one year deal for about $1 million.

Boychuk Traded?

This is why you clicked on this article. Lou Lamoriello has somehow found multiple suitors for Johnny Boychuk. Always reliable and up to date source, NRD, states that “Things heating up slightly… still a few yards to go, but the Isles are more confident now then they were on finding a home for Boychuk.”

They also stated that the Islanders won’t get anything major back for him. The Isles need this trade to happen. They instantly open up $5 million in cap space and can start resigning their big guys back. Don’t be surprised if it’s Ottawa trading for him.

New York Islanders: 2 Trades Lou Lamoriello Must Make

New York Islanders, Nick Leddy

The number of times I’ve said that the New York Islanders have no cap space is too numerous to count. The Islanders aren’t loaded with pieces to move other pieces. What I’m saying is that the Isles cannot make a Marc Staal-esque trade. Since the Isles are in a difficult cap situation with no great trade pieces, there are only two trades I know the Isles must make, and it involves some defensemen.

Nick Leddy

This may be surprising to NHL fans, but Nick Leddy has trade value. Nick Leddy had a solid year, but it’s Noah Dobson’s time to shine. Leddy’s trade value apparently has been ramping up as of late.

It’s looking like the minimum return for Leddy is a 2nd round pick. The Islanders have zero second-round picks until the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. Now the Isles can either ship Leddy off for cap space or package him. I wouldn’t be surprised if a team like Ottawa would offer up Anthony Duclair for Leddy and maybe Leo Komarov. A Leddy trade is something the Isles must do.

Johnny Boychuk

Johnny Boychuk’s cap hit is absolutely terrible. The fact that Garth Snow believed this contract would help the Isles, in the long run, is ridiculous. Boychuk is a great player and an ageless wonder, but it’s past his time. He’s hurt often now and was benched in favor of Andy Greene during the playoff run.

Now the question is who in the right mind would take on Boychuk’s contract? Well, no one is taking on Boychuk straight up, there has to be a deal sweetener. Josh Ho-Sang seems like someone that has a little trade value. Ho-Sang and Boychuk for I guess a 7th round pick. If the Isles can make that trade, they are complete masterminds of the trade market.

New York Islanders: Team Awards Part 2 (Norris Trophy)

Ryan Pulock, New York Islanders

Today, we will continue the team awards for the New York Islanders. The award in question is the Norris Trophy. The Norris Trophy is given out annually to the best defender in the league. This award takes points, steals, blocks, and many more stats into account. Only one Islander will win this award, and two will just have missed out on being the best defender for the Islanders. Without further introduction, let’s see who the Islanders’ best defenseman of the 2019-2020 season was.

Ryan Pulock

The reason Adam Pelech doesn’t win this award is because Ryan Pulock plays offense. Pulock has a booming slapshot that can be as fast as 107mph. Pulock is the most complete defenseman on the Islanders and about a season or two away from Norris Trophy contention. Ryan Pulock has great stick skills, a great shot aforementioned, and a good presence. There are only two things he needs to work on: using his body more and becoming more accurate.

Adam Pelech

Shoutout to the #pelechposse on this one. Adam Pelech is the best defensive defenseman on the Islanders and possibly the metropolitan. Pelech has his signature poke and pinch. I believe Adam Pelech will be a top defenseman in the league very soon. He needs to get older and more experienced before that leap happens, though. The team went into the dumpster without Pelech, and it became dangerous again when Pelech came back.

Johnny Boychuk

That’s a surprise name, isn’t it? Yes, 35-year-old Johnny Boychuk makes my top 3 in the Islanders’ Norris Trophy award. Boychuk will put his life on the line if it means his team can win. Boychuk is as tough as they come. And I absolutely love Boychuk’s play. He’s still got it even at 35.

Johnny Boychuk’s leadership was on full display in his return last night for the Islanders

New York Islanders, Johnny Boychuk

A lot of people were waiting for Johnny Boychuk to make his return for the New York Islanders. It finally came last night.

After he had not suited up since game one of the qualifying round against the Florida Panthers, where he suffered a concussion after taking a high hit from Florida’s Mike Matheson, Boychuk finally got the call from head coach Barry Trotz to go back into the lineup.

Boychuk didn’t disappoint in his first game back, which just happened to be the biggest of the postseason for his team; the Islanders were appearing in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals trailing the series 3-1to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In only the fashion he knows how, the 16-year vet led by example with a throwback, workman-like performance as the Isles forced game a six with a 2-1 win in double-overtime on a Jordan Eberle goal.

“He brings a presence for us,” said fellow defensemen Ryan Pulock. “He goes out there, he blocks shots, he plays tough. We knew when he was getting his opportunity, he was going to step in and do his job. Big block early on the kill, and just playing hard. That’s what we expect from him, and that’s what he did.”

That presence Pulock was referring to was felt early and often. Boychuk’s crucial block on a one-timer from Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov at the end of the Lightning’s first power play of the night basically saved a possible goal. The block too, not only stopped a scoring chance, but Boychuk took the wicked slapper off the chest and immediately hunched over in pain. Talk about being welcomed back to playoff hockey.

 

Boychuk wasn’t done yet though.

Towards the end of the first frame, he blocked another shot — the second of his team-high six — only this time, he ended up losing his blade because of it. That moment also came with the Lightning buzzing, helping to keep them at bay as the period winded down.

After that eventful first, Boychuk’s name wasn’t heard much the rest of the night. Despite not seeing the ice much — just 12:04 to be exact — Boychuk’s leadership still reined throughout the game and it most certainly had an impact. Boychuk’s “energy” which Trotz alluded to — from he having gone through a situation like the one the Isles were tasked last night and because he’s been with the team for a long time — also helped give the team a much-needed boost.

“Johnny’s one of those unique guys you come across,” Trotz said following the victory. “He’s old school. He’s one of the most likable guys you’re ever going to meet. One of the most committed guys. He’s got welts all over his body. Just gives you everything he has night in and night out. He’s fearless.”

Seeing how Boychuk performed in Game five also shouldn’t come as something new to many. Ever since he became an Islander, he’s been the consummate definition of what this team is all about — hard work and a team-first mindset. It was that way five years ago when he went toe-to-toe with Alex Ovechkin in the postseason and its the same way now. Last night was just another moment of what makes him one of the most respected leaders in that room.

“He’s really a little bit of a leader and a father figure for a lot of the young guys,” Trotz added.  He’s always taking people around him.”

There should be no doubt Boychuk should be in for game six. The 11F/7D format seemed to help the Islanders, with he being that extra blueliner. But more than just that, it was Boychuk’s leadership which spoke more volumes than anything. It was clearly on full display and the Isles benefitted immensely from it.

New York Islanders: Will Noah Dobson Get the Starting Spot Next Year?

New York Islanders, Noah Dobson

New York Islanders‘ defenseman Noah Dobson is close to NHL ready. There’s one problem for Dobson, though; there’s a million other defensemen on the roster. The Islanders have established defensemen like Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk. Both of those defenders have long, expensive contracts. This makes them hard to trade and lowers Dobson’s chances of starting a lot.  How can Noah Dobson start next year?

Have a Strong Training Camp

Training camp is a time for unproven draft picks, old veterans, and undrafted free agents to show that they have what it takes. Noah Dobson is no different. Just because he was the number 12th overall pick doesn’t mean he gets a hall pass. Dobson has to give it his all on every single rep and take the spot away. Last year, general manager Lou Lamoriello has stated that he would give Dobson every shot to make the team. It won’t be as hard to make the team for Dobson, but it will still be a challenge, especially if he wants to be in the top 6. Sliding in with Nick Leddy or whoever stays around isn’t a gift; he will have to earn every minute.

Trading Talent

There are a few defenders that need to go if Noah Dobson wants a shot of making the team. Nick Leddy has the most trade value out of all those defenders. If the Islanders can unload Nick Leddy off for someone like Tomas Tatar, Dobson moves up in the depth chart. Johnny Boychuk already has one foot in the grave. Andy Greene took his spot for the playoffs indefinitely. Boychuk doesn’t have much trade value; he’s old and costs a lot of money. It would be nice for the Islanders to trade Boychuk due to cap space problems, but it’s unlikely.

Conclusion

Noah Dobson has a good shot to start next year, but he has to work for it. There are many obstacles in front of him, but adversity builds character.