Examining the affect of Nick Leddy possibly leaving the Islanders

For the Islanders and their fans, all eyes are pointing to this weekend. Saturday marks when every NHL team must submit their list of protected players for the Seattle expansion draft. There’s a couple of names that have been the chatter the past few weeks in regards to whom the Isles might leave exposed, Nick Leddy among them.

Then came the development yesterday which provided even more clarity about where the 30-year-old d-man stands with the organization. The Athletic’s Arthur Staple reported that Leddy is indeed being shopped by the Islanders with the hopes the team doesn’t have to leave him unprotected and lose him to Seattle for nothing.

Leddy has one season remaining on his seven-year, $38.5M deal he signed with the organization back in 2015.

Hearing Leddy is on the block isn’t surprising based on the tumultuous cap situation facing the Islanders — they very little money to spend and still have to pay Adam Pelech, Anthony Beauvillier and Ilya Sorokin — but the thought of him leaving is still a tough one. Leddy has been an integral part of the Islanders for over the last seven seasons.

When he and Johnny Boychuk were acquired within mere hours of each other before the start of the 2014-15 campaign, they immediately changed the entire outlook of the organization. The Isles made the postseason in back-to-back years with Leddy being part of the top defensive pairing. Over the past few years, he has still maintained his status as a reliable presence, but Leddy has seen his role change somewhat under head coach Barry Trotz. Because of the ultra-defensive system Trotz employs, the d-man’s offensive mindset has had to take a backseat. The emergence of Pelech, Ryan Pulock and Boychuk being forced to retire due to an eye injury have all been a factor why.

Now while it’s not a given Leddy is no longer in an Islander by next Wednesday, starting to look at life without him is definitely worth thinking about.

For starters, the Isles would lose arguably their most important offensive d-man. All due respect to Pulock — who is a solid attacker from the blueline in his own right — Leddy has been the team’s go-to guy from the backend for years. He’s been a Trotz favorite since he took over.

Leddy had three-plus years of 40 points or more until stumbling in 2018-19 and has been the team’s top power play quarterback for several seasons now. His speed and ability to enter the zone also have made him extremely valuable to the Islanders’ success as well.

Filling Leddy’s slot in the top-four won’t be an easy task either. As Staple said, prospects Samuel Bolduc and Robin Salo are likely options, but they might still need more seasoning.

Beyond them, could Noah Dobson be ready for another promotion? He was given the vote of confidence last year when the organization had to depart with RFA Devon Toews, whom they traded to Colorado. This year was sound one for Dobson playing third-pair with veteran Andy Greene.

But remember this, the Isles drafted Dobson in 2018 as high as they did with the thinking he would be on a top-four defender for the future.

On the flip side, Leddy being moved or taken by Seattle would allow g.m. Lou Lamoriello some flexibility to keep the core together that has now gotten to the third round in back-to-back years. The Isles are very close to being a Stanley Cup winner, and there are a few important pieces that need to be kept here for them to finally get over the hump.

Knowing for that to happen at the expense of Leddy might not soften the blow, but sometimes you have to sacrifice in terms of the bigger picture.

Changes are coming soon for the Islanders and they could start with Nick Leddy being at the forefront. Him possibly leaving will have an affect in a number of ways.

 

 

Nick Leddy finally arrived for the Islanders in the playoffs last night

Everything about the Islanders’ series-clinching win over the Boston Bruins last night was perfect. From the charged-up atmosphere to how the game unfolded with the Islanders dominating the opposition at every turn.

And then there was d-man Nick Leddy’s game, which was perfect as well.

Leddy, who has yet to have a solid showing in the postseason thus far, was tremendous and made some very big defensive plays throughout the contest. He recorded an assist, 20:31 of ice time and three blocked shots.

“Ledds was really good, head coach Barry Trotz told the media following the win. “I thought he was really solid. He had a great play on the 2-on-1. He skated. I thought he was firm. When Nick is skating firm like that he’s a difference-maker. I can go up and down our lineup. We had a lot of great performances by a lot of great people tonight.”

This postseason up until Wednesday night had been a far cry from how the 30-year-old Leddy performed in the regular season. In the 56-game sprint, the defender registered 31 points — which was the most for an Islanders’ defenseman — all with having to adjust to pairing with a new defensive partner in Scott Mayfield. He and Mayfield’s optics weren’t pretty during the season, but both had still been quite effective going into the playoffs.

Once the first round against Pittsburgh began, something seemed off about the way Leddy looked. He wasn’t using his patented speed. He wasn’t being hard on the puck or the opposition. And he just looked worn down. That looked to be the case at points in this past series as well, especially when Charlie Coyle posterized him at the beginning of Game 5. There’s speculation — and there probably will still be until the Isles’ season is over — that something was ailing him.

But then you got a vintage Leddy performance last night. And you see again why he is one of those guys that has long been one of the most underrated pieces the Islanders have had the past five-plus years.

Heading into another heavy matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Leddy’s speed and offensive ability will be crucial. Tampa rolls four lines just like the Islanders, plus they have some real game breakers in Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point. Then again, now that he’s got a truly good outing this postseason under his belt, maybe that confidence and swagger starts to show up again in Leddy’s game.

The Islanders and their fans were waiting for Leddy to finally make an impact this postseason. It finally came last night in the perfect spot in a perfect performance all around.

This second round series had a lot of dynamics that ended up favoring the Islanders. No more was that the case then how their trade deadline acquisitions panned out as opposed to the Bruins. Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac combined for seven points for the Isles in six games, including Palmieri scoring in three consecutive games. Taylor Hall on the other hand had just two points, one of them being an empty net goal in game one.

Isles fans had clamored for g.m. Lou Lamoriello to trade for Hall when captain Anders Lee went down in March. But in the moment, Lamoriello made the right choice and the Islanders have become an even more dangerous squad because of it.

 

 

Nick Leddy looking like an offensive dynamo once again for the Islanders

There have been quite a few surprises we’ve seen take place when it comes to the play of certain players from the Islanders this season. The one that maybe might be the most is the rebirth of Nick Leddy as an offensive threat once again.

At this juncture of the season, Leddy has been far and away the Isles’ most consistent d-man from an offensive perspective.

Leddy is currently riding a five-game point streak and his 15 points in 22 games leads all defensemen in that category. He’s notched a team-best 14 assists — the most recent coming in last night’s win in New Jersey — which is three more than second-best Mathew Barzal’s 11. On top of that, he’s shooting the puck a lot more. His 33 shots through 22 games are the fourth-most of any defenseman.

Those numbers were definitely not what people were expecting after all the changes surrounding Leddy that took place in the few months prior to now and because of his low production in the past two seasons. Leddy produced career lows of 21 and 26 points the last two years and heading into this year, he was going to be without his longtime d-partner Johnny Boychuk, who was forced to end his career in November due to an eye injury. There was also having to take on a bit more responsibility after the organization dealt their most skilled d-man offensively — Devon Toews — back in October. Head coach Barry Trotz paired him with Scott Mayfield, more known for his defensive prowess, to round out his top-four on D.

All of these adjustments might have taken their toll on Leddy, but he hasn’t shown at it at all. In fact, he’s looked even more confident and determined, even with the few hiccups he and Mayfield have had. But its been the offense that’s been the sticking point.

“We need that with the movement of Devon,” Trotz said of Leddy earlier this week. “We asked Nick to jump in there and do that. The biggest thing with Nick is his skating. He’s known more as a transporter than a playmaker, but his confidence is growing. This game is too hard to score just with your forwards. You need your defense involved at the right time. I like what Nick has done so far this year.”

Leddy’s excellent season thus far brings back shades of when the 29-year-old arrived on Long Island in 2014. He had earned a good reputation for his offensive mindset and impeccable skating during his years in Chicago, but It was clear from the start of that year: he was better than advertised. Leddy tallied 37 points (10 goals, 27 assists) that year and then followed it up with three consecutive 40-plus point years.

Now it’s as though that side of Leddy has returned, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Isles. Not only because they’re hot right now and are tied in points with Washington in points for first place in the East Division, but because the club has needed another offensive-producing blueliner to go with No. 1 d-man, Ryan Pulock.

Earlier this season, Islanders g.m. Lou Lamoriello said Leddy looked the best since he came on the scene three years ago. Leddy has proven his boss’s words are ringing true.

A lot of it is a result of him finding his groove offensively, which has been on display now all season long.

Oliver Wahlstrom is quickly becoming what the Islanders had hoped for when he made the team this year. The 20-year-old rookie scored again last night with the goal being one of the most impressive from any player on the team all season. His snipe over the shoulder of Devils’ goaltender Aaron Dell sent shockwaves at just how much confidence he’s playing with at the moment.

The kid is on absolute fire with goals in back-to-back games and six points in his last five contests.

Islanders’ GM Lou Lamoriello has high expectations for Mathew Barzal this season

The Islanders’ season is less than a week old, but that hasn’t kept g.m. Lou Lamoriello from having a few things to say about his club’s start.

Lamoriello did a radio spot with Sirius NHL Radio yesterday after the Isles’ 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins Monday night. It was a very candid and open interview, probably some would say the most open the Islanders general manager has been to date.

One of the main topics discussed was Mathew Barzal and Lou’s expectations for him in this shortened season.

“What we expect from Mat is to do the things that god has given him with his talent,” Lamoriello said.

Barzal is now in his fifth season in the NHL and he’s just agreed to a three-year, $7M deal on January 9th. That contract put him with captain Anders Lee as the highest-paid player on the team. He’s also considered the Islanders’ best player from an offensive standpoint; the 23-year-old has led the team in points three straight seasons.

Lamoriello though is looking for more from his stud center beyond the scoresheet.

“Not worry about scoring, but just worrying about both ends of the ice,” he said. “He has worked at that, been outstanding and made that commitment. “He wants to be an Islander. He said that loud and clear. He’s been great. I have nothing but good things to say about him. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone with better edges. He’s certainly an integral part of this team.”

It’s true that Barzal has gotten better in some of those areas, but he still hasn’t reached that echelon where he’s one of the more consistent two-way centers in the sport. That’s expected to change this year. Lou knows it. He knows it.

Barzal even made it a sticking point after signing his new deal that consistency was going to be key for him moving forward.

And it goes hand-and-hand with what the Isles are trying to accomplish: Winning a Stanley Cup.

The Isles’ bread-and-butter under Lamoriello since he arrived in 2018, and furthermore Barry Trotz, has been a defense-first mentality. Barzal plays a key part in that. It’s easy to see why Lamoriello is so keen on him being laser-focused at improving with and without the puck  as opposed to him just leaning more towards offense, which most fans have been clamoring to see for a while now.

Expectations coming into this season were already sky high for Barzal. The fact that Lamoriello came out and said what he likes to see from him was different and enlightening.

You usually don’t hear the general manager talk expectations about their star players, let alone Lou Lamoriello. Obviously though he sees the untapped potential Barzal has.

And he hopes that potential comes out in droves this year not only offensively but defensively.

Lamoriello also had some high praise for the defensive corps he and the coaching staff assembled this year. What he said about the duo of Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech really drove home how great they’ve become.

“I never realized what their abilities were. Great human beings, great teammates, he said. “They stay within their limits and playing together they’ve make each other better. They’ve done a great job.”

Lamoriello also was emphatic about Nick Leddy and how he feels he’s playing his best hockey since he took over the organization. He also was quick to point out Noah Dobson and how he thinks he will progress.

“Noah Dobson has outstanding potential. We feel he’s going to get better and better.”

Speaking of Pulock, it seems he and the rest of the guys in the room are more than comfortable continuing to play the underdog role despite two straight postseason appearances and making the Eastern Conference finals this past summer.

“I think we as a group are kind of fine with that underdog mentality and trying to prove people wrong,” he said chatting on NHL Network yesterday. We’ve looked at it the past couple of years and had success that way. We’re gonna keep building that way.”

Pulock also showed off his stitched ear from the shot he took up high on Saturday, all 18 of them. That’s a hockey guy.

 

Takeaways from the Islanders’ 2-0 win over the Captials

New York Islanders, Cal Clutterbuck

The New York Islanders beat the Washington Capitals 5-2 to take a 2-0 lead in the series. This was one of the best Islander playoff games in recent memory. The Islanders were firing on all cylinders, and for a team who “can’t score,” they scored a lot. The Isles definitely had some rough spots during this game, but that’s expected when playing a great Hockey team like the Capitals. The Islanders won 40 minutes of Hockey last night, but how, and why didn’t they win all 60?

First Period

The Capitals basically pressured the Islanders into giving up a terrible goal in the first period. Alex Ovechkin forechecked, and he was rewarded when he scored off of a slow backhander. Not even a minute in, and the Isles are one down. The rest of this period was really just good pressure by the Isles and some breaks for the Caps.

Second Period

The Islanders came to play in this period. Nic Dowd commits a penalty, and this leads to something the Islanders never do. They scored on the powerplay. Nick Leddy scores with an accurate slapshot from the point. Not even 2 minutes later, Cal Clutterbuck forechecks which leads to a Scott Mayfield pass to the crease, Matt Martin scores a tap in. A minute later, Derick Brassard leads a rush with Leo Komarov. Brassard passes it to Komarov, and he hits it off the post. Komarov missed a wide-open net. Ovechkin would take advantage of this and tie up the game once again. Finally, Brock Nelson steals the puck from Jakub Vrana and has a 1v1 with Braden Holtby. Fifteen seconds after Ovechkin ties the game up, the Islanders lead by one again.

Third Period

The last 7 minutes of this period was the best 7 minutes in recent Isles Hockey. Before that, the refs call a silly tripping penalty on Andy Greene, which leads to a blown empty-net chance by Ovechkin. Ovie had the hattrick and the game on his stick and whiffed on it. Greene comes out of the box, and then the Isles dominate 5v5 play. The Islanders at one point got two forward shifts of forechecking off before the Caps could even leave the zone. All this pressure led to JG Pageau wide open, and it was blocked, but it hit Clutterbuck’s hand and the Isles score, 4-2. Finally, after some tremendous 6v5 defense, the Islanders get the puck out, and Anders Lee scores the empty netter.

Conclusion

This was just a really solid effort from the Islanders. The Capitals are the better team on paper, but that will never stop a well-coached, determined team from winning. Game 3 is on at 12 pm EST tomorrow.

New York Islanders: Trade Options for Nick Leddy

New York Islanders, Nick Leddy

The New York Islanders traded for Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy in 2014. The package was Nick Leddy for Ville Pokka, T.J. Brennan, and Anders Nilsson. Safe to say that the Islanders won this trade. The Islanders then resigned Leddy to a seven-year deal worth $38.5 million in 2015. Leddy has served the Isles well for five years now, but it could be time to get rid of his ginormous contract. Arthur Staple has recently stated that the Devils, Sabres, and Red Wings are all pursuing Leddy. The price starts with at least a 2nd round pick and another piece. Let’s review these options.

New Jersey Devils

The Devils are an up-and-coming team, and by up-and-coming, I mean they’re at the bottom of the league, but they’re young. The Devils need talent, and Leddy isn’t the bell of the ball, but he’s better than what they have. I see the deal as being Nick Leddy for Nick Merkley, a 2nd round pick and a 5th round pick. It’s not the most appealing package for the Isles, but the Devils have nothing to offer.

Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres continue their trend of being the best team in the league until December. The Sabres do have younger prospects, but no salary cap space. I can see the Sabres having to give up more of an established forward to obtain Leddy. I don’t believe the Sabres could get the deal done without giving up a key piece of their team due to their cap issues. Leddy isn’t a cheap contract by any means, and that means teams will have to lose good players to get him.

Detroit Red Wings

This is the worst team in the league without a doubt; there’s nothing that anybody can say that will reverse this fact. The Wings also have zero to no guys to trade away right now. But, for the sake of argument, let’s say they trade away Robby Fabri and a 4th round pick for Nick Leddy. The WIngs don’t have cap space and have to resign key players like Anthony Mantha, so taking Fabri off their hands will be good for all. The Isles get a 3rd line winger for Pageau, and the Red Wings cry themselves to sleep thinking about Alexis Lafreniere.

Two Islanders’ players who could be traded due to salary complications

New York Islanders, Nick Leddy

The New York Islanders are facing tumultuous times in the coming days with portions of the revised collective bargaining agreement being leaked. The salary cap is expected to freeze for the next two seasons with the NHLPA attempting to ratify terms this week.

Ultimately, the Islanders will have to make some difficult decisions on players to lower their expenses. The entire NHL will have to make tough choices, and players will undoubtedly lose their jobs or be traded.

Let’s take a look at two players the Islanders could trade:

1.) Thomas Hickey

Hickey was one of the Islander players that struggled the most last season. He can be a decent pairing on the third line of defenseman, but with $2.5 million left on his deal over two years, he could be a better fit on another team. Andy Graziano of WFAN believes he is a prime candidate to be treated since management instilled their confidence in Noah Dobson.

With the league hoping to restart early in 2021, the timetable to conclude the 2020 season and crown a champion is being expedited.

To give you an idea of how poor Hickey played in 2019, the year prior in 2018, he posted five goals and 20 assists over 69 games played. This past season, he played in 40 games and logged zero goals and just four assists. He also logged 33 penalty minutes compared to 24 in 2018, which is nearly a 20 game differential.

Finding a way to gain any sort of value from him would be extravagant for general manager Lou Lamoriello.

2.) Nick Leddy

Leddy has seen his performance consistently decrease as he increases in age. He is no spring chicken to the rumor mill, and he could be a player the Islanders could find a new home for. He is currently on a seven-year, $38.5 million deal. He would be in the fifth year of his contract, with two years left at $5.5 million per season.

His price tag would be a nice saving for the Islanders, but considering he’s almost 30 years old, gaining ample value from him will be difficult.