Islanders’ New Defense is Set for Now and the Future
Just over two weeks after the Islanders locked up Nick Leddy for seven years, Garth Snow and his team signed their other top-2 defenseman long term. The Islanders announced on Thursday afternoon that Johnny Boychuk would be returning for an identical seven years, but at six-million per year. Boychuk, acquired on October 4th, has put up career number with the Islanders this season, with seven goals and 32 points in 59 games. He and Leddy are both top-20 in the league for shots attempted and are the Islanders’ most consistent defensive pairing.
Although Boychuk is 31, this is a good deal for the Islanders. Boychuk would have gotten what he asked for on the market, which is probably more than six million, and would have most likely gotten his seven year deal too, and the Isles certainly couldn’t afford lose him. With the deal, the Islanders have their three best defenseman locked up until 2020 at least – Boychuk, Leddy, and Hamonic – all for 15.3 million combined. They also have an uber-deep prospect pool on defense, with Ryan Pulock (13th overall), Griffin Reinhart (4th overall), Scott Mayfield and Adam Pelech among others waiting in the ranks.
Going along with that core, Thomas Hickey, a UFA after this season and former 4th overall by the Kings, and Calvin de Haan, former 12th overall pick, have both blossomed into solid young players for the Islanders. Lubomir Visnovsky is likely to test free agency this summer, and 7th defenseman Brian Strait is currently signed until the end of next year.
With Boychuk now locked up, the Islanders defensive core is looking better than it has in a long, long time and is also set up for years to come. They have the ability to either go into next season with Boychuk, Leddy, de Haan, Hamonic, Pulock, and Reinhart, or go with Boychuk, Leddy, de Haan, Hamonic, Pulock and Hickey, and dangle Griffin Reinhart as trade bait. Cap will be an issue once some of the younger players want bigger deals in 4-5 years, but that’s a bridge to be crossed when the time comes.
With the likes of John Tavares, Ryan Strome, Kyle Okposo, Michael Dal Colle and other up front, this team is looking like it’s going to be very scary in the upcoming years. They say a good offense wins games, but good defense wins championships, and that’s what the Islanders will look to do if all goes to plan.