Going into 2020-21 what three questions surround the New York Islanders blue line? How about, what will they do with Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy?
On Saturday, New York Islanders defenseman Andy Greene indicated that he doesn’t plan on retiring at the end of the 2019-20 season. In speaking with Newsday’s Andrew Gross, Greene said that he will definitely be back in 2020-21.
Whether or not he stays with the Isles still isn’t clear. Greene and GM Lou Lamoriello still haven’t discussed any long-term plans.
It’s hard to see the Islanders signing Greene past this season with the number of defensemen already signed to contracts. Excluding Greene, the Isles have six defensemen signed to deals in 2020-21, and that doesn’t include Devon Toews or Ryan Pulock, both will surely be re-signed.
It seems unlikely that the Islanders keep
for another season, but the news has forced me to wonder about the Islanders blueline and what questions linger for the 2020-21 season?
What to do with Johnny Boychuk?
With the need to sign Mathew Barzal, Ryan Pulock, and Devon Toews to extensions for 2020-21, the Isles are going to need to find some cap space. That means players with big cap hits – who may no longer be necessarily worth the hit – could be moved.
Johnny Boychuk has two years remaining on a seven-year deal he signed back in 2015 with a $6 million cap hit. At 36 years old he’s no longer that $6 million defenseman he once was. I’ve already discussed options for Boychuk like either trading him or buying out his deal through a compliance buyout (if that becomes an option).
It’s not to say that Boychuk isn’t any good. As a sixth defenseman, Boychuk is a solid option that can chew up 15-20 minutes a night.
But with the way his contract is structured, Boychuk provides a big cap hit with a low payout. That payout gets even lower after July 1 when that $2.75 million signing bonus is paid. So a team needing to hit the cap floor without needing to pay out big money could use Boychuk.
What they decide to do with Boychuk will not only have an impact on the Isles roster in 2020-21 but a direct impact on rookie Noah Dobson.
What’s the plan with Noah Dobson?
Dobson was used sparingly in 2019-20 by the New York Islanders. He featured in 34 games out of a possible 68. Most of that ice-time came after Adam Pelech sustained a season-ending injury on January 2nd.
With a healthy Adam Pelech in 2020-21, and if Johnny Boychuk stays, Noah Dobson will certainly get less ice-time. Now 20-years-old, the AHL is a real option for Dobson. Sending him to the AHL was already an option this season, even if just for a conditioning stint. If ice-time is hard to come by next season, the AHL is a possible destination.
Dobson is clearly talented and a star in the making, but management clearly doesn’t feel he’s at the point where they can put him on the ice for 15+ minutes night-in and night-out.
What the Isles decide to do with Boychuk will have a direct impact on where Noah Dobson starts the year in 2020-21.
Will Nick Leddy be traded?
It’s been a few years now that Nick Leddy’s name has been bandied about the trade block. He carries a $5.5 million cap hit and is still young (he just turned 29 on March 20). But since Barry Trotz arrived, Leddy has fallen down the Islanders depth chart.
He’s now regularly used on the Islanders third-pair with long-time defensive partner Johnny Boychuk.
Let’s say the Isles want to keep Andy Greene for another year, or that Thomas Hickey is brought back into the mix. (Hickey is still under contract for two more years with a $2.5 million AAV.) The Islanders third pair could be either Greene or Hickey with Noah Dobson on the right.
With that third pair and the other two remaining the same as they were in 2019-20, the Isles would still have a solid blue line.
Pair 1: Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock
Pair 2: Devon Toews and Scott Mayfield
Pair 3: Andy Greene/Thomas Hickey and Noah Dobson
Extra man: Johnny Boychuk
Making Nick Leddy expendable.
Nick Leddy still carries value in the trade market. Moving him could free up a good chunk of the Isles current cap and help bring back something they could use. I know Barry Trotz said earlier in 2019 that they won’t be trading Nick Leddy, but going into 2020-21, that could certainly change.