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Islanders' Leddy has grown into cornerstone player

by John Kreiser / NHL.com

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Nick Leddy has been everything the New York Islanders could have hoped for when they acquired him from the Chicago Blackhawks before the start of the season. On Tuesday they made sure he'll be around for a while.

The Islanders announced Leddy has agreed to a seven-year contract that will keep the soon-to-be 24-year-old defenseman with them throughout the prime of his career. No financial terms were disclosed, but Leddy's agent, Neil Sheehy, said the deal is worth $38.5 million for an average annual value of $5.5 million.

Leddy could have become a restricted free agent this summer. Instead he'll be with the Islanders through the 2021-22 season.

He said that while thoughts about whether he wanted to commit to the Islanders began almost as soon as he arrived, he's tried to keep his focus on the ice.

"It's always in the back of your mind, every contract year," Leddy said after New York's 5-1 victory against the Arizona Coyotes at Nassau Coliseum. "You try not to think about it too much. You try to focus on winning games, and the rest will take care of itself."

The Islanders acquired Leddy from the Blackhawks and Johnny Boychuk from the Boston Bruins on Oct. 4, two solid NHL defensemen from teams that had to make moves to get below the salary cap. Leddy and Boychuk have spent most of the season playing together and they're a major reason the Islanders are in first place in the Metropolitan Division after missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.

Islanders coach Jack Capuano was delighted when he learned that Leddy would be around for another seven years.

"The fact that he wants to be around this group of guys speaks volumes for this organization," Capuano said. "He's a great young defenseman and he's got a lot of upside."

Leddy was generally limited to bottom-pair minutes in Chicago behind one of the best top-four defense units in the NHL. But he's stepped up his game after being given more responsibility with the Islanders. Leddy has a career-high eight goals, with 17 assists, 25 points and a plus-14 rating in 62 games.

Before Tuesday, Leddy was second on the Islanders to Boychuk in shot-attempts percentage (SAT%) at even strength at 56.55 percent. Among defensemen with at least 30 games played, Leddy was sixth in the NHL in SAT%; Boychuk was fifth.

One of the smoothest skaters in the League, Leddy plays in all situations with the Islanders, something that wasn't the case with the Blackhawks. He has been solid at each end of the ice.

Leddy has 28 goals and 90 assists in 320 regular-season games with the Islanders and Blackhawks, who acquired him from the Minnesota Wild in February 2010. Leddy won a Stanley Cup; he was a member of the Blackhawks' championship team in 2013. In 54 Stanley Cup Playoff games he has two goals, eight assists.

Nick Leddy
Defense - NYI
GOALS: 8 | ASST: 17 | PTS: 25
SOG: 96 | +/-: 14
Leddy joins a young core of Islanders who have signed long-term contracts, including franchise center and captain John Tavares, goaltender Jaroslav Halak and defenseman Travis Hamonic. Snow's next project likely will be trying to get Boychuk signed to a new deal.

The 30-year-old, who can become an unrestricted free agent after the season, has become a fan favorite and an important locker-room presence. Boychuk has a $3.367 million salary-cap charge but likely will be looking for a substantial raise.

Boychuk said he was happy with his partner's new deal but isn't ready to make the same type of commitment.

"You have to be happy for the guy, and when it's your turn, it's your turn," Boychuk said. "You have to be happy for your teammate; you know he's going to be here for a while, and we're going to have a good team for a long time. That also helps."

Boychuk joked that it took "probably about 10 minutes" for he and Leddy to find chemistry.

"It didn't take too long," he said. "When we first practiced together, we started building chemistry. Playing with him on the ice, there was still a couple of things that we had to do, and keep doing, to learn our tendencies. So far it's been pretty easy to play with him, He's a great player and he will be for a long time. It's nice to see that he gets rewarded."

Lubomir Visnovsky, 38, is in the last season of a contract with an average annual value of $4.75 million, and the Islanders have a couple of highly regarded defense prospects, Ryan Pulock and Griffin Reinhart, who could be ready to compete for full-time NHL roles next season. This also is the final season the Islanders have cap space allocated toward the buyout of Alexei Yashin's contract, which means an extra $2.204 million in space in 2015-16.

Should Boychuk opt to stay, he won't have to worry about finding a new partner for a while. Leddy hopes to convince him to remain an Islander.

"I love playing with him," Leddy said with a smile, "so I'm going to be pushing his buttons a little more."

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