The New York Islanders have some salary cap gymnastics to navigate this summer, and the closer we get to the NHL Expansion Draft, the clearer the picture should become. Arthur Staple of The Athletic indicated that Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy is being shopped for a trade.
“There’s a much bigger sense of urgency to any trade talk now, given that Leddy could be the odd man out on the expansion protected list submitted on Saturday,” said Staple. “But two league sources indicated that the Islanders are shopping the 29-year-old defenseman this week so they would not have to leave him unprotected and potentially lose Leddy to Seattle for nothing” (from, ‘Is there interest in Vladimir Tarasenko? Could Nick Leddy be shopped? What we’re hearing about the Islanders as they enter the offseason,’ The Athletic, 07/12/21).
What’s interesting is that this news broke around the same time the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks struck a deal that sent Duncan Keith and prospect Tim Söderlund to Edmonton (no salary retained) for Caleb Jones and a conditional 2022 third-round pick.
That’s a good return for a 37-year-old defenseman with two seasons left on a contract with a $5,538,462 annual cap hit, who averaged 23:25 of ice time (TOI) with four goals and 15 points in 54 games last season, and a B-level prospect. That’s also great news for Islanders general manager (GM) Lou Lamoriello, as Leddy is 30 and posted a 31-point campaign in 2020-21 while averaging 21:35 TOI. A younger, mobile defenseman who knows how to push play to the offensive zone should be worth a little more than what the Blackhawks got for Keith, despite the extra year on his contract.
So what are some possible destinations for Lamoriello to consider for Leddy? Here’s what Capfriendly.com’s armchair GM tool came up with.
The Panthers have said they want to move Keith Yandle, so they may try to buy him out or get him to waive his no-movement clause somehow. That said, after Aaron Ekblad and Mackenzie Weeger, the Panthers might want to add another reliable defenseman who can move the puck and eat minutes. They haven’t been able to move past the second round of the playoffs, and if they feel Leddy is an upgrade on Yandle, this might be the perfect move to improve their blue line.
Meanwhile, the Islanders receive a young winger in Owen Tippet, who is known for his shoot-first mentality and a scorer’s touch.
“Tippett made the jump from the AHL to the NHL and did so unspectacularly although he certainly seemed like a player who was getting better and better as the season went along,” said George Richards of FLAHockeyNow.com. “Tippett did not see a lot of time up on Florida’s big-time scoring lines, but when he did, he certainly did not look out of place. Tippett has a terrific shot, skates well and is a pretty good defender. He’s going to be just fine” (from, ‘Florida Panthers 2021 Report Cards: The Forwards’ FLAHockeyNow, 07/05/2021).
Tippett is exempt from the expansion draft, which will allow the Islanders to protect Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock, and Scott Mayfield guilt-free and turn Leddy into something rather than nothing. They will sign someone like Andy Greene to a contract, likely one year at the league minimum, to meet the expansion draft requirements, and it’s unlikely he would interest Seattle.
Tippet played 45 games after he earned head coach Joel Quenneville’s trust and even got in the mix for top-six minutes occasionally. The Islanders could use some NHL-ready youth, and he could compete for a job on J.G. Pageau’s line. The Panthers, on the other hand, have plenty of options on the wing and would like to upgrade their blue line with a puck-moving defenseman.
Meanwhile, the Islanders can use that second-round pick coming their way in two ways. One, Lamoriello could strike a deal with the Seattle Kraken, flipping the pick to the Kraken to select Jordan Eberle. Now, with Leddy and Eberle off the books, Lamoriello has plenty of cap space to re-sign Kyle Palmieri and bring in a defenseman via unrestricted free agency to replace Leddy’s minutes – like Alec Martinez or newly bought out Ryan Suter – and he still has a second-round pick to use at the upcoming draft. Two, he could use the pick to add to a pretty thin Islanders prospect pool.
Los Angelas Kings
The Los Angeles Kings have already been active this offseason, and are looking to upgrade their blue line, which is thin after Drew Doughty.
There’s plenty of talent coming through the pipeline, and with veterans like Doughty, Anze Kopitar, and Dustin Brown, the mix of youth and veterans could be a recipe for success for LA to return to the playoffs. The Kings could and should have interest in Leddy with $14,690,412 in cap space, and none of their free agents up for a big payday. Leddy would immediately slide into the Kings’ top four and could even play first-pairing minutes with Doughty.
On the other end, Arthur Kaliyev and a second-round pick would join the Islanders. Sticking with youth who needs no protection in the expansion draft, the Islanders would receive another player who could play in the NHL full-time this season, and if not, add another promising young talent to their thin prospect pool.
“Kaliyev sits on 50 goals and 100 points in the OHL, making him the first 17-year-old to score 50 in the OHL since Alex DeBrincat,” said Corey Pronman of Kaliyev going into his draft year. “The only other current NHL players to do the same Steven Stamkos, John Tavares and Jeff Skinner. Kaliyev is also one of the leaders in shots on goal across the CHL” (from, ‘Is there interest in Vladimir Tarasenko? Could Nick Leddy be shopped? What we’re hearing about the Islanders as they enter the offseason,’ The Athletic, 07/12/2021).
Kaliyev is a first-round talent that somehow fell to the second round of the draft. The Kings have a plethora of talent coming through their pipeline and can afford to part with the likes of Kaliyev to acquire some much-needed help on their blue line. The Islanders would also receive a second-round pick for the same reasons as previously stated.
Who doesn’t love a homecoming? The Blackhawks parted ways with Keith yesterday, clearing just south of $6 million in cap space. Whether or not that space is used to acquire Seth Jones remains to be seen, but if it’s not, the Blackhawks will be getting their captain, Jonathan Toews, back next season and could return to the playoffs with players like Toews and Patrick Kane still on the roster.
Leddy seems like an obvious fit to return to Chicago. He’d easily be their number one defenseman and could help Toews and Kane lead the team to the postseason.
The Islanders, on the other hand, continue to receive picks to fill their cupboard and Pius Suter. Funny enough, Suter was invited to the Islanders’ training camp for the 2018-19 season but failed to obtain a contract and returned to Switzerland to play in the National League. He later signed a contract with the Blackhawks and made his NHL debut early in the 2020-21 season.
Suter potted 14 goals and 27 points in his first NHL season, and at just 25 years old, he’s a restricted free agent listed as a center and a left-winger. He is also exempt from the expansion draft, giving the Islanders flexibility with who they protect. He’s another player who should fit on the Pageau line, infusing more young talent into the Islanders’ roster.
The goal in moving Leddy should be to receive draft capital while also bringing in a younger, NHL-ready player. If Keith was worth that type of return, Leddy should do a little better. The Islanders have lots of cap gymnastics to figure out this offseason, and moving Leddy is tough for the blue line, but there are ways to make it work.
Lamoriello needs to use the draft picks acquired in a Leddy trade to move out more unwanted salary and make room to sign key restricted and unrestricted free agents this summer. We’re eight days away from the expansion draft, and something could happen sooner rather than later. Buckle up, Islander fans.
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