First and foremost, this is a hugely necessary move in terms of salary cap. According to CapFriendly, Leddy makes $5.5 million against the cap, while Panik makes $2.75 million. Because of retention, the Islanders just gained $4.125 million in cap space.
That cap space is incredibly important for the Isles. With Johnny Boychuk moving to LTIR when the season starts, they’ll have over $14.6 million – more than enough to re-sign pending RFAs Anthony Beauvillier, Adam Pelech, and Ilya Sorokin.
This also allows the Isles to protect wingers Jordan Eberle and Josh Bailey in the expansion draft, which would have been difficult otherwise. They now have enough cap room that losing one of Bailey or Eberle isn’t necessary.
New York Islanders trade Nick Leddy to Detroit
A consequence of protecting Bailey and Eberle (along with Mat Barzal, Anders Lee, Anthony Beauvillier, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Brock Nelson) is that Kieffer Bellows will be exposed, and barring another trade, will likely be selected by Seattle.
In all likelihood, the Isles would have lost Leddy for nothing during the expansion draft – so getting anything at all for him is a job well done. The return, though, is actually impressive.
The 2nd round pick involved in the trade is Edmonton’s, 52nd overall. The Islanders now own two 2nd round picks this year, and two more next year – they could draft players with them or trade the picks for cap relief to chase free agents such as Gabriel Landeskog or Dougie Hamilton.
Richard Panik has bounced around the league a lot, but was most recently on Washington before being traded to Detroit as part of a package for Anthony Mantha. He had nine points in 36 games with Washington last year, but his advanced stats are encouraging:
He’s a pretty average player who isn’t a liability on either end of the ice and gets assists at an above-average rate. Sounds like a perfect Barry Trotz third-liner to me, and with half his contract retained, I’m actually pretty excited about Panik on the Island.
Every team is required to expose one defenseman who is under contract for the 2021-22 season and played a certain number of games. With Leddy gone, the only Islanders who meet that requirement are Ryan Pulock and Scott Mayfield, both of whom they obviously want to keep.
Does that mean they’ll be losing Mayfield or Pulock? No, I’m confident Lou Lamoriello knows about that rule. I expect the Isles to sign a pending free agent – probably Andy Greene, although technically Braydon Coburn meets the requirement too – within the next day or so.
That would leave Greene or Coburn exposed to Seattle, but I don’t think there’s any risk of them taking a veteran like Greene when Kieffer Bellows or Otto Koivula will be available.
Now, of course, this trade weakens the Islanders’ defense. We’re looking at Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock, a very good top pair, but Noah Dobson and Scott Mayfield both play the right side. Andy Greene, if signed, can play the left, but there’s still a hole.
Maybe Barry Trotz is ready to give one of the left-defense prospects – Robin Salo or Samuel Bolduc – a chance in the NHL, or maybe they’ll use their surplus cap space (which could be as much as $2.5 or $3 million, even without any more trades) to sign a free agent.
On a personal level, I’m sad to see Leddy go – trading for him was one of the moves that turned the Islanders from a joke into a respectable team. But this was clearly a great trade for the Islanders in essentially every way.