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Leddy, Boychuk, Halak find stability with Islanders

by Brian Compton

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders' three most important acquisitions last offseason, defensemen Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk and goaltender Jaroslav Halak, cleaned out their lockers Wednesday at Nassau Coliseum, still numb from the 2-1 loss to the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round two days earlier.

After the Islanders failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, Leddy, Boychuk and Halak sparked a resurgence that led to 47 regular-season wins and a third-place finish in the Metropolitan Division.

The three will be integral pieces moving forward. Halak has three years remaining on the contract he signed last May. Leddy and Boychuk, acquired in trades one week before the season started, each signed a seven-year contract to remain in New York.

"You never want to go home unless you're going home with the Cup," said Boychuk, who won a championship with the Boston Bruins in 2011. "Obviously we're going home a little bit early. It's hard to swallow, that's for sure.

"We have a good team and we will for a while. You use this as a learning experience for some of us, and bring it into next year and use it as motivation."

Boychuk, who had nine goals and 26 assists in 72 regular-season games, and two assists in the playoffs, could have become an unrestricted free agent in July and would have been a commodity on the open market, but he opted to sign a seven-year, $42 million contract with the Islanders on March 12. After being blindsided by the trade from Boston in October, he said his family enjoyed living on Long Island.

"The first year was a little bit different, there were some challenges this year," Boychuk said. "We found a nice spot and we're enjoying it."

Of deciding to stay with the Islanders, Boychuk said, "It's a good decision because you know we're going to have a good team for a long time. It just solidifies our position that we have a good team and we're going to be good for a while. Hopefully we win a Stanley Cup next year, year after, year after that. That's the ultimate goal every year is to win. Hopefully we can do that."

Leddy, who won the Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013, signed a seven-year extension with the Islanders worth $38.5 million on Feb. 24. He admitted it's a completely different experience being on Long Island long-term as opposed to his time in Chicago, when he would only see the Coliseum and the Marriott hotel adjacent to the arena then head out of town.

Even though the Islanders have played their last game at Nassau Coliseum and are moving to Barclays Center in Brooklyn next season, many, if not all of the players are expected to live on Long Island.

"It was great," said Leddy, who had 10 goals and 27 assists in 78 regular-season games and five assists in the playoffs. "Obviously you don't see too much [of Long Island as a visiting player]. You're in and out. It's a beautiful place. Now that the season's done, I'll go down by the coast, my dad's been bugging me about that. I think I'll finally be able to do that and not have to worry about anything."

Halak, who played for three teams in his NHL career (Montreal Canadiens, St. Louis Blues and Washington) before signing with the Islanders last May, said he enjoyed his first season in New York and admitted it's comforting to know there isn't a goaltending controversy. He is the Islanders' No. 1 goalie.

"It was a good season," said Halak, who went 38-17-4 with a 2.43 goals-against average in the regular season and had a .926 save percentage against the Capitals. "It was our goal to make it to the playoffs. Obviously, every team wants to win the Stanley Cup, but only one of those 30 teams can win. It's not easy to win the whole thing. Game 7, obviously we all tried to win the series. It didn't happen this year. I think overall it was a good season. Obviously there was ups and downs through the course of the season. But I'm still proud of all those guys here.

"It's going to be different next year, moving to a different building. Obviously I have to do the same job. We're still going to have most of the guys back. I'm looking forward to next season. We've got a young group here that cares about each other and they want to win. Obviously I want to win as well. I'll try to help them."


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