Saturday, 4 October 2014

Metro Just Got Interesting

We knew the Bruins and Blackhawks were going to start the season having to make trades to get their salary cap underneath the ceiling limit. Names swirled in trade rumors, but nothing was written in stone as to who would be moved and to where. Today, though, one team helped both the Bruins and Hawks out in a big way. The New York Islanders unloaded prospects and draft picks today to acquire defenceman Johnny Boychuk from the Bruins and Nick Leddy from the Blackhawks. Suddenly, the Islanders have a set of defencemen that could push them to new heights in the Metropolitan Division.

The Bruins and Blackhawks have enough depth currently to weather the trades they made. We shouldn't see either team miss a beat in how they play the game as Leddy was a fifth defenceman at best while Boychuk would have been a third or fourth defenceman in Boston's system.

The Islanders, though, got significantly better. I had written in the Metropolitan Division preview,
They have one solid top-four defenceman in Travis Hamonic, and will need someone else to step up if they are to improve on their 28th-overall goals-against-average and their 29th-overall penalty kill.
Well, they can make it two top-four defencemen with Boychuk joining the mix, and adding Leddy to play with Visnovsky, de Haan, and Thomas Hickey suddenly makes the Islanders' back-end much better.

While Boychuk and Leddy won't bring immediate offensive upswing, they are better defensively than the alternatives with which the Islanders were preparing to start the season. Boychuk was an impressive +31 in Boston last year, showing he knows how to patrol the blue line well. His influence should make whomever he is paired with automatically better. He also logged more than twenty minutes per night, so expect Boychuk to play on the top pairing based on his defensive play and endurance.

Leddy will be a good secondary player on the blue line for the Islanders. He'll slot in on the second or third pairing, and he can be a solid power-play contributor. He had ten power-play points last season in a limited role on Chicago's blue line, so he should be given more opportunities on Long Island to improve those totals.

There's no denying that neither Boychuk nor Leddy will have a Shea Weber/Duncan Keith-like season where they score sixty points on the back-end. However, if they can bring a better defensive game to the Islanders, that's just as good as scoring. After all, Jaroslav Halak will need all the help he can get in the Islanders' nets this year, and both Boychuk and Leddy come from solid systems.

I wouldn't quite pencil in the Islanders as Stanley Cup favorites at this point, but these two deals may be enough to push them into the playoffs. And anything can happen there.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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