The Islanders addressed plenty of needs during the summer, but their defense was fairly untouched. Until Saturday.
That's when Garth Snow pulled off a pair of deals within minutes to acquire two Stanley Cup-winning defensemen, shoring up that spot a week before the regular season begins.
The Isles acquired Johnny Boychuk from the Bruins for three draft picks and then obtained Nick Leddy from the Blackhawks for prospects, barely touching the current roster to add what instantly could be their new first pair of defensemen.
The Islanders had a young and banged-up defense the past few days, so the timing worked well to grab Boychuk, 30, from Boston for second-round picks in 2015 and 2016 and a conditional 2016 third-round pick, and add Leddy, 23, from Chicago (along with AHL goaltender Kent Simpson) for prized defense prospect Ville Pokka, defenseman T.J. Brennan and the rights to goaltender Anders Nilsson.
"It was an opportunity to upgrade our defense. It doesn't matter if we were 100 percent healthy or had the injuries we've had," Snow said. "For us, whenever we get a chance to upgrade, we take a long, hard look at it. And today we landed two top-four defensemen."
Each new defenseman has one season left on his contract, Boychuk at $3.6 million and Leddy at $3.4 million. The additions are two more signs that the spending spree Snow went on during the summer, when he added two goaltenders and a slew of veteran forwards, was not his final move toward making the Islanders a playoff-caliber team.
Boychuk has been a mainstay on an elite Bruins defense for the past four seasons, winning a Cup with them in 2011. Leddy played more of a depth role on an equally good Blackhawks defense, winning a Cup in 2013. His skating and offensive abilities will put him on the ice often with the Isles, who need scoring from the blue line.
The Bruins and Blackhawks have had sustained runs of success the past five years, but both were over the salary cap as the Tuesday deadline to be cap-compliant approached. Both teams had surplus defensemen, and Snow had been in talks with both clubs for several weeks.
Snow's only gamble is with next June's draft, thought to be a loaded one. He already had committed the Isles' first- and second-round picks in the ill-fated Thomas Vanek trade with the Sabres; the second-round pick going to the Bruins originally was the Flyers' selection, acquired in the deadline deal for Andrew MacDonald in March.
So the Isles have nothing except a pair of third-round picks as of now. "I think we've done a really good job of adding to our prospect pool. We have a good prospect pool, a few good young defensemen," Snow said. "That makes those draft picks a little bit more expendable if you get a quality return."
And given that Snow received a second and a third from Philly for MacDonald at last season's deadline, giving up two second-round picks was a no-brainer for him. The 2016 third-round pick goes to Boston if the Islanders trade Boychuk within the Eastern Conference.
Now all that's left is to start the season. The Islanders will have two new goaltenders, likely three new forwards and now two new defensemen, all with NHL experience.
"We had looked to upgrade in a few different areas this summer," Snow said. "We addressed for the most part the forward position and the goaltending. And it just so happened today we were able to add two key additions to our team. It's obviously a good day for our club."
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