Nick Leddy never received his tribute video at UBS Arena – and perhaps shouldn’t next year either.
By the time the Detroit Red Wings visited the Islanders' new arena on March 24th, Leddy had been traded to the playoff-bound St. Louis Blues in a move that solidified their blueline. St. Louis went 15-4-2 after acquiring the 31-year-old defenseman and advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs before being eliminated by eventual Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche in six games.
“He was a really good player for us,” Blue general manager Doug Armstrong said after the season. “He’d be a great guy to get back.” If he’s good enough for the Blues' Top-4, surely, he’s good enough to be part of the Islanders' third pair.
On Wednesday, during his 10-minute session with the media, Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello let it be known that in a “perfect world” the team would make two additions on the back end – one offensive and one defensive on the blue line.
The Islanders could do far worse than a Leddy reunion – and they did.
There were times a season ago when Barry Trotz spoke the plain truth about where his roster was lacking. On one occasion earlier season, he lamented the team’s challenges playing 3-on-3 in overtime.
We don’t have a Nick Leddy,” said Trotz “Really the changes is Nick Leddy and Chara. They’re absolutely the total opposites as players. We need the other guys to just collectively try to add some of that element. There’s no one that skates like Nick Leddy on our defense at all. He’s one of those elite skaters. That’s part of the salary cap world that we’ve had to deal with. We just have to adjust with the players that we have.”
Watching Leddy during his last year on the Island, he failed to generate the type of offense a player with his skating and puck-moving ability should create. He still entered the zone at a high rate (better than the rest of the defense) but didn’t drive the play from there to create quality chances. Still, he logged over 21 minutes a game and that number rose to 23 minutes in the post-season. Playing with Scott Mayfield, he had the defensive trust of Barry Trotz and the coaching staff.
“Apologize to Nick Leddy” became a common refrain on Isles' social media platforms, an acknowledgment that the fanbase did not fully appreciate what he gave the Islanders in his seven seasons and how big of a void the trade left to fill.
Yes, the Islanders need to find a defenseman to play alongside Noah Dobson, but they also need to find the right fit for Mayfield and the right fit might be the old fit. Leddy is not going to get his $5.5 AAV again and the savvy skating veteran is likely looking for his last multi-year deal given his age.
Per Jim Rutherford in The Athletic, Evolving-Hockey projects a five-year contract for Leddy worth just over $4.9 million per year. Meanwhile, according to The Athletic’s player cards, Leddy’s market value is $1.7 million, a product of a year spent on the defensively challenged Red Wings. If the AAV comes in somewhere between those numbers, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better suitor than the Islanders. They have a need for the skills Leddy still possesses and play a structured system he knows well.
Leddy can’t be the only move on the blue line. Lamoriello can't run it back to the 2021defense and expect drastically different results. However, if the asking price for Jakob Chychrun remains too high and Robin Salo's readiness remains in question, Leddy's familiar shaven face becomes a more attractive option.
You don't want to be in a position where all you can do is worse than Nick Leddy.