Saturday morning was supposed to be about subtractions, but Islanders General Manager Garth Snow decided to add instead.
Snow acquired two impact defensemen trading for Nick Leddy from the Chicago Blackhawks and Johnny Boychuk from the Boston Bruins in successive, but separate deals. The Islanders traded defensemen TJ Brennan, Ville Pokka and goaltender Anders Nilsson to the Hawks for Leddy and goaltender Kent Simpson, while exchanging two second-round picks (2015, 2016) and a conditional 2015 third-rounder for Boychuk.
“It was an opportunity to upgrade our defense,” Snow said. “We addressed – for the most part – the goaltending and the forward position, so today just happened to be the day we had the ability to add an offensive defenseman and physical defenseman, who also has a great shot. [These are] two key additions to our team.”
Both defensemen are Stanley Cup Champions (Leddy with the 2013 Blackhawks and Boychuk with the 2011 Bruins) who bring valuable leadership and playoff experience to a relatively-inexperienced d-corps. Boychuk (321 regular-season, 79 playoff games) and Leddy (258 regular season, 54 playoff games) instantly become the most experienced postseason players on the Islanders roster and only trail Lubomir Visnovky for games played on the Isles blue line.
“They’ve both won a Stanley Cup, so in the leadership department, that helps our group,” Snow said. “Leddy’s ability to move the puck and skate the puck up ice, add offense; Boychuk’s ability to be physical, clear the front of the net and a howitzer for a shot; for us, [those are] two solid additions to our club.”
Despite the timing of the deals, Leddy was landed first, hours before Boychuk, one deal did not hinge on the other. Snow targeted two teams with salary cap constraints and pulled the trigger.
“It’s not a situation where it came out of nowhere,” he said. “We had been communicating with both teams for a period of time now and it all came to fruition today. It’s a good day for our hockey club and obviously an exciting day for our fans. We ended up landing two top-four defensemen.”
Perhaps the most exciting part for the Islanders and their fans were the names not included in today’s deals. The Islanders retained first-round picks Griffin Reinhart and Ryan Pulock. Snow did concede a highly-regarded prospect in Pokka, among other assets, but said “you have to give up something to get something.”
The Islanders traded Philadelphia’s second-round pick (acquired in the Andrew MacDonald deal last spring) in the Boychuk deal, meaning the team is without a first and second-round pick in June’s draft. After drafting two first-round forwards last year and seven defensemen three years ago, Snow was willing to part with next year’s picks.
“We have a pretty good prospect pool of defensemen; Reinhart, Pulock, Mayfield, Pelech,” Snow said. “Which makes the draft picks (two seconds and a conditional third) a little more expendable when you get a quality return in John Boychuk.”
Snow’s suave moves resulted in big additions with little subtractions. As a result, the Islanders have multiplied the talent and depth on the back end.