The Islanders, who must clear salary-cap space this offseason anyway, traded top-four defenseman and core member Nick Leddy to the Red Wings on Friday night rather than lose him for nothing in the upcoming NHL expansion draft to the Seattle Kraken.
In exchange, the Islanders acquired a second-round pick in next week’s NHL entry draft and bottom-six forward Richard Panik. The Red Wings, who have approximately $44 million in cap space, are retaining 50% of Panik’s $2.75 million cap charge while taking on all of Leddy’s $5.5 million.
That’s a net gain of $4.125 million in cap space for the Islanders, who are now approximately $8.5 million under the flat $81.5 million salary cap for next season, per CapFriendly.com.
All NHL teams except Vegas, the most recent expansion team which is exempt from this expansion draft, must submit their list of protected players on Saturday by 5 p.m. The expansion draft is Wednesday and teams can protect either seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie — which is likely what the Islanders will do — or eight skaters and one goalie.
Leddy, who has one season remaining on his seven-year, $38.5 million deal, was not likely to be protected. Instead, the Islanders likely want to protect top-pair defensemen Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech along with Leddy’s defense partner Scott Mayfield, who has two seasons remaining on his extremely team-friendly five-year, $7.25 million deal.
However, Leddy’s trade leaves the Islanders with no other eligible defensemen to expose beyond that trio. So, another move is likely before Saturday’s deadline.
Pelech, goalie Ilya Sorokin and Anthony Beauvillier are the Islanders’ key restricted free agents while Casey Cizikas and Kyle Palmieri are their top unrestricted free agents.
Leddy played 518 regular-season games, including all 56 last season, with 45 goals and 198 assists over seven seasons with the Islanders after being acquired from Chicago, where he won a Stanley Cup in 2013.
The left-shooting Panik has 88 goals and 106 assists in 517 career games. He’s also played for Chicago, the Lightning, Maple Leafs, Coyotes and Capitals.