Over the last six years, the New York Islanders have watched as Nick Leddy has blossomed into one of their key players. The team acquired the defenseman early in the 2014-15 season from the Chicago Blackhawks, and he has been a mainstay in the lineup ever since.
New York is in a similar position as the Blackhawks were when they dealt Leddy, as they battle the salary cap. As the team has explored all options to remain cap compliant, Leddy’s name has circulated in trade rumors of late. However, it is important to remember how much he has brought to the table thus far and what he might be capable of this coming season.
The deal saw Leddy go to New York along with goaltender Kent Simpson, in exchange for defensemen T.J. Brennan and Ville Pokka as well as goaltender Anders Nilsson. Nilsson has had the most success of the players dealt by the Islanders, especially this past season.
Nilsson never played for the Blackhawks but made his way around the league with the Edmonton Oilers, St. Louis Blues, Buffalo Sabres, and Vancouver Canucks before landing with the Ottawa Senators during the 2018-19 season. He took over as the starter in Ottawa last season after splitting time the year prior and was one of the few bright spots on an otherwise uninspiring roster.
Pokka has never appeared in an NHL game, and Brennan has never appeared in more than 20 games in a single season. Nilsson was the clear bright spot in the Blackhawks’ return package, though his success came with other teams. He was traded to Edmonton by the team, in exchange for Liam Coughlin, who has also never appeared in an NHL game.
Leddy has been by far the most productive asset in this deal, as he has had a consistent role with the Islanders from the beginning. He has appeared in at least 60 games in each of the last six seasons, and that number would surely be higher without this season’s shortened finish. His Islanders’ career also includes three seasons with at least 40 points and finished with a plus-18 rating in his first season with the team.
Aside from a very forgettable 2017-18 season that saw him record a minus-42 rating, Leddy has been a very consistent member of the Islanders defense over the past several seasons. Early in his tenure with the team, he was on the team’s go-to pairing with Johnny Boychuk and played big minutes including the power-play. As the Islanders have gotten better defensively as a whole, Leddy’s role has diminished slightly as other talented defensemen have begun to log crucial minutes at his expense. This trend has a chance to change for the better next season.
The goal of the Islanders during this offseason was to unload a bad contract or two in an attempt to free up space to sign its restricted free agents. Leddy was among those discussed in rumors, but the team would certainly prefer to unload a less productive player with a similar cap hit. If they are able to do so, Leddy should return to a team that has a large role on defense that needs filling.
Even with Noah Dobson presumably filling most of the minutes left behind by Devon Toews’s departure, Leddy should still be able to have an increased role. Toews was introduced to the team’s power-play even more last season, and Leddy could benefit from some extra time on the first unit. His current deal expires at the end of the 2021-22 season, so this season could put him in a good spot to continue producing the following year when he’s looking for a contract.
After analyzing this deal, it is clear that the Islanders won the deal. The Blackhawks made this deal to get rid of Leddy’s contract, not necessarily to get the better players. The Islanders are now in a similar situation as they struggle to manage Leddy’s high cap hit among their other large contracts.
Leddy has been one of the team’s most consistent point producers, especially among defensemen, and has been just as productive in the team’s recent playoff runs. While the team is distasted by the financial aspects of having Leddy currently, it shouldn’t forget the immense value he’s brought to the table over his career.