Isles Acquire Defenseman Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk

It appeared that this rainy Saturday would be nothing but a dreary day on Long Island with every resident hoping for a few rays of sunshine to brighten up the day. Well, the sun may not have appeared from behind the clouds, but things are certainly shining bright after the New York Islanders made some bold trades that have drastically improved their roster. 

The New York Islanders have acquired defenseman Johnny Boychuk from the Boston Bruins and Nick Leddy from the Chicago Blackhawks. 

The day started with news that the Isles had trimmed their training camp roster by 13 players, sending many prospects to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers or their respective Junior teams. 

Additionally, the Islanders announced that recently drafted prospect Joshua Ho-Sang had signed an entry-level deal with the Islanders before being sent back to Juniors. 

But much like today's forecast, when it rains in Islanders country, it pours. 

With rumors circulating on the twitter-sphere that the Isles were closing in on a deal with the Blackhawks for Leddy, Newsday's Arthur Staple tweeted out that they had acquired Boychuk instead for this year's second round pick, as well as a second round pick and conditional third round pick in 2016. 

Boychuk is a 30-year old defenseman with a Stanley Cup championship on his resume, bringing a wealth of experience and veteran leadership to a young blue line. Last year with the Bruins, he set career highs in goals (5), assists (18), points (23) and plus/minus (+31). 

Although he may not score a lot from the back end, Boychuk's 6'2, 225 pound frame, as well as his skating ability, will be an intimidating presence on what was a rather small and fragile defense core. 

He is in the final year of his contract and will be eligible for unrestricted free agency next off-season.

But the news wouldn't stop there. 

A follow up deal with the Chicago Blackhawks would soon be announced, as Snow would send goaltender Anders Nilsson, defense prospect Ville Pokka and recently signed d-man TJ Brennan to the Blackhawks for Leddy and goaltender Kent Simpson. 

Leddy is only 23 years old and is in the final year of his contract. Unlike Boychuk, he will be an RFA at the end of the year, which will give the Islanders an opportunity to extend him long-term based on the year he has in 2015. 

The 6'0, 190 pound defenseman is a former first round pick of the Minnesota Wild and is coming off an impressive year, scoring a career-high seven goals along with 24 assists for 31 points in 2014. Unlike Boychuk, Leddy is a puck-rushing defenseman that will give head coach Jack Capuano additional options on his power play units. 

However, similarly to Boychuk, Leddy also has a Stanley Cup championship on his resume after winning the title with Blackhawks in 2013. 

Simpson is a 22-year old goaltender with only one game of NHL experience under his belt, having dressed in 31 games with the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL last season. He should provide added depth behind Kevin Poulin with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers next season. 

The players that the Islanders parted ways with were certainly expendable, making this deal a major win for the Isles. Nilsson had been given plenty of time to prove that he was an NHL goaltender and failed to do so. Pokka was one of many defense prospects that the Islanders could certainly afford to move, and Brennan has yet to prove himself at the NHL level and was only signed for insurance purposes this off-season.

These moves have now allowed the Islanders to have a group of six defenseman that should be able to compete on a regular basis with the rest of the Metropolitan Division. 

With Travis Hamonic, Calvin de Haan, Leddy, Boychuk, Thomas Hickey and Lubomir Visnovsky the likely starters on opening night, one would have to assume that Ryan Pulock and Griffin Reinhart will be sent to Bridgeport. That would leave Matt Carkner, Brian Strait and Matt Donovan fighting for a seventh and eighth spot with the Islanders for when injuries inevitably occur. 

Overall, Garth Snow has had a very impressive off-season; his busiest in years. With added depth on offense after signing Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin, two legitimate goaltenders in Jaroslav Halak and Chad Johnson, and now adding two top-four defenseman in Leddy and Boychuk, the Islanders have put themselves in a position to make a run in this year's playoffs. 

The pressure will now fall on Capuano, who has had a difficult time helping his team handle pressure when important games have been on the line in the past. 

Looking back at previous seasons, the Islanders would typically be at their best when they were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention and unable to achieve post-season glory. 

This improved roster, with 2015 being the last and final year that the orange and blue will skate on Nassau Coliseum ice, will be feeling the pressure to win from the get-go. 

This is not a year about developing prospects. This is not a year about hoping to only move out of the bottom-five spots in the standings. 

This is a year about winning before taking the next step and moving to Brooklyn; a year about giving back to the tired and die-hard fans that have struggled through endless years of rebuilding that were compounded with horrific losses, laughable contracts and mockery from the rest of the league. 

Capuano is going to have to find a way to lead his team through this uphill battle that they have never been presented with before. 

At the very least, Snow has provided his coach with a team that should certainly be capable of doing so.

-Rob McGowan


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