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Islanders return in Nick Leddy trade was big brain move by Lou Lamoriello

EAST MEADOW, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 23: General manager Lou Lamoriello the New York Islanders watches practice at the Northwell Health Ice Center at Eisenhower Park on September 23, 2021 in East Meadow, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
EAST MEADOW, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 23: General manager Lou Lamoriello the New York Islanders watches practice at the Northwell Health Ice Center at Eisenhower Park on September 23, 2021 in East Meadow, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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In moving Nick Leddy to the Detroit Red Wings, the New York Islanders received a second-round pick in 2021 and Richard Panik. Losing Leddy wasn’t great, but the Isles got a future piece and possibly a current piece in Panik.

It didn’t look like the Islanders would leave that trade and get equal or even good value in terms of playing assets. Of course, shedding Leddy’s $5.5 million cap hit was a huge win for the Isles so I’m sure Lou wasn’t too concerned about that.

But now that we’ve seen what both assets have become, Lou got much more out of that trade.

New York Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello is a step ahead of everyone

That draft pick turned into Aatu Räty. Second-rounders aren’t typically signed to an ELC as quickly as the Isles locked up Aatu Räty. There’s a lot to like in Räty’s game. We all saw it during the Islanders training camp with Räty flashing his puck skills and hockey IQ.

Picking up what should be a middle-six (maybe even top-six) center could be a huge win for the Islanders prospect pool that is regularly (and rightfully) ranked near the bottom in the NHL.

And then you get to Panik.

Admittedly when the trade was announced my reaction was “why Panik?” The Islanders had a bunch of depth when the trade was made so bringing in yet another bottom-six forward was, well, odd.

But through training camp, Panik has proven to be an effective forechecker and a pretty good disrupter out on the ice. He’s probably not going to provide the same offense he put up in Chicago back in 2015-16 with 22 goals and 44 points, but he could add some offense.

And then you get to the final wrinkle of the trade. The Detroit Red Wings retained 50% of Richard Panik’s $2.75 million cap hit. Bringing his hit down to $1.375 million.

The Islanders will have to make roster decisions based solely with the salary cap in mind. Panik, with his low cap hit, his ability to play in the bottom six makes him almost a lock to make the Islanders roster as an extra this season.

He may not be “better” than say Leo Komarov for that role, but he’s at least a lateral move from Uncle Leo. His low cap hit allows the Islanders to make everything fit under the ceiling.

Moving Pieces Fit

So in moving Nick Leddy – which wasn’t something Lou wanted to do but had to – he picked up a really good prospect and maybe the steal of the 2021 NHL draft and gave his team the ability to navigate the salary cap and without compromising on the quality of his roster.

That’s next-level GM’ing. Exactly what you’d expect from someone who is the only back-to-back GM of the year in the NHL.

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