A narrative we often hear over and over again surrounding the New York Islanders is how GM Lou Lamoriello traded off two puck-moving defensemen in consecutive off-seasons. And although one is much more well regarded as an NHL defenseman than the other, only one will be available in the summer of 2022. It's pretty evident that Lamoriello is going to have to fill two holes on the Islanders' blue line, so the question is, can Nick Leddy fill one of them?
The Islanders traded Leddy last summer to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Richard Pánik (50% retained salary) and a second-round pick (No. 52) that eventually became Aatu Räty. Leddy was a veteran on the blue line for a young, still rebuilding Red Wings team. That's likely the reason Leddy's +/- was way down at -30 (the sixth-worst +/- in the NHL), but we've seen him hit some lows like that before in the 2017-18 season when he was a -42. The Islanders weren't very good that season either with a measly 35-37-10 record.
In 55 games with Detroit, Leddy accrued a goal and 15 assists. He was later scooped up by the St. Louis Blues at the 2022 NHL Trade deadline. He played a pretty strong 20 games to close the 2021-22 season in St. Louis scoring two goals, and eight points before heading to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Last night, Leddy drew back into the lineup after sustaining an injury and got the scoring going for the Blues in an elimination game for the Minnesota Wild.
Leddy has always shown the ability to enter offensive zones cleanly as he did last night for the Blues. The Islanders will be looking to add some speed and skill to their roster, especially to their blue line as Lamoriello indicated earlier this week.
"We’d like to improve our defense if we can, as far as offensively. If there’s a way of making a hockey deal, certainly with our forwards, we would do that. I think what we have to do is get improvement out of our younger players and also a more complete year out of some of our veterans than we did this year."- Lou Lamoriello
If not a scorer, the most important hole for the Islanders to fill will be a defenseman to pair with Noah Dobson in the top-four. The Islanders certainly could go back to Leddy and see if he has interest in returning to Long Island, but not in a top-four capacity. Leddy is well suited as a third-pairing defenseman, and although Barry Trotz won't be at the helm any longer, he did pair with Scott Mayfield for 56 games in the 2020-21 season.
As a big defensive defenseman, Mayfield pairs well with a puck mover like Leddy. With the Islanders looking to play a more offensive game, it could relieve some of the defensive woes you've seen in the past. Mayfield had a respectable 50% xGF% (via Natural Stat Trick) with a revolving door of defensemen flanking him this season and would benefit from a consistent puck-moving defenseman on his side.
Leddy's speed and puck-moving skill are something the Islanders missed in 2021-22 with Zdeno Chara and Andy Greene as regulars on the Islanders' blue line. If Leddy could take a 50% discount (much like Cal Clutterbuck) with term that makes sense for the Islanders' "win-now window," it certainly makes sense to bring him back via free agency with the goal to play a faster, more offensive game.