With the expansion draft fast approaching, some teams are trying to find trade takers for some veteran players over running the risk of losing them for nothing to the Kraken. One of those teams appears to be the Islanders as Arthur Staple of The Athletic reports (subscription link) that they are shopping blueliner Nick Leddy for that very purpose; as things stand, it’s unlikely he’ll be protected when the lists are submitted on Saturday.
The 30-year-old isn’t the top pairing player he was when he first came to New York but he has logged steady minutes, averaging more than 21 minutes per game for each of the last six seasons. He even had a bounce-back year offensively in 2020-21, notching 31 points in 56 games, his highest point per game average since 2016-17. Of course, his play in his own end hasn’t always been the strongest but as a strong puck-mover, it would seem as if there should be some interest in him.
However, his contract could create some challenges. Leddy, the highest-paid healthy blueliner on the Isles, is entering the final year of his deal but carries a $5.5MM AAV and a $7MM salary for next season. That’s a high price tag to absorb in an offseason when many teams are looking to shed contracts even though the defense market in unrestricted free agency isn’t the strongest. Accordingly, knowing there’s a firm deadline just three days away and a high price tag, New York may not be able to command much of a return.
However, any sort of return that doesn’t have a sizable contract attached to it would still be helpful for the Islanders. They have over $77MM in cap commitments for next season (which does include LTIR-bound Johnny Boychuk and his $6MM deal) with defender Adam Pelech and winger Anthony Beauvillier as notable restricted free agents with winger Kyle Palmieri and Casey Cizikas as notable pending unrestricted free agents. As things stand, they can’t afford them all.
That wouldn’t change with Leddy off the books but it would sure give GM Lou Lamoriello some extra flexibility at his disposal even if it means an extra spot to be filled on the back end. Depending on who they’d then lose to Seattle, the Islanders might be able to keep more of those free agents around. That process appears to involve Leddy’s contract being moved and if they want to have a shot at getting something for him, they have less than 72 hours to do so before the trade freeze kicks in.