Despite being with his third team in the last year, Nick Leddy is back in a familiar place: the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A veteran of 12 NHL seasons, Leddy has been to the playoffs in 10 of them, suiting up for 125 playoff contests, four of which have come this postseason as a member of the St. Louis Blues, the first playoff games he has played not wearing a Chicago Blackhawks or New York Islanders jersey. Once Leddy’s season is over, whenever that may be (St. Louis currently trails Colorado 1-0 in their second round series), Leddy will find himself in uncharted territory: unrestricted free agency.
At 31-years-old, Leddy has never had the opportunity to hit the open market, initially signing extensions as a RFA with the Chicago Blackhawks, and then the New York Islanders after an October, 2014 trade. Leddy’s expiring contract, a seven-year, $38.5MM deal, was signed with the Islanders in 2015 before Leddy was set to become a RFA. That contract proved to provide good value to the Islanders, for whom Leddy played 518 regular season games and 67 playoff games, many of which were as one of the team’s top defensemen. However, with cap concerns creeping up this past offseason, Leddy would find himself once again traded, this time to the rebuilding Detroit Red Wings. The veteran was tasked to be a leader in a young dressing room, with the organization hoping they could take the next step. On the outside of the playoff picture once again, Detroit dealt Leddy at the trade deadline, where he would become a key piece on the blueline for the St. Louis Blues, who have their eyes set on their second Stanley Cup in four seasons.
Now an UFA, Leddy will look to parlay his experience into another contract to cover his early and mid-30’s. What Leddy’s next contract will look like is an interesting discussion however, as he has plenty to admire, but does pose some concerns for a team that would be committing to him. First, looking at the positives, Leddy can be described as a durable defenseman who skates and moves the puck well, and who has developed his defensive game nicely in the past few seasons. Over the course of his career, Leddy has missed very few games and would average over 40 points-person-season in his prime. After a tough 2017-18 season which would see Leddy accumulating a minus-42 rating despite having 42 points of his own, Leddy was able to reinvent his game under coach Barry Trotz. Though the strong point totals did not come back to their previous form, the defenseman showed his ability to work diligently in his own end and move the puck out routinely.
On the other hand, after being traded to Detroit and away from the system that saw him take steps forward defensively, Leddy again struggled in his own end, and played to a minus-33 rating in Detroit before being traded to St. Louis. With the Blues, Leddy would rebound, posting eight points to go with a plus-3 rating in 20 regular season games down the stretch. Still, as a 31 year old defenseman who relies heavily on his skating, Leddy’s prime is likely behind him and even with the steps he has taken to round out his game, his occasional struggles defensively do raise concern.
All of this is to say, Leddy is more than a capable NHL defenseman, but these factors will play into what his next contract looks like. He almost certainly will not receive the seven-year term he has on his current contract, and the $5.5MM AAV it carries is potentially out of the question too. However, on a shorter-term contract of three or four years, Leddy could push a number that is close to his previous salary even if he cannot reach it.
One name to look at as a potential comparison for Leddy is Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman T.J. Brodie. The former Calgary Flames blueliner signed his four-year, $20MM contract with Toronto just after turning 30 years of age, a year younger than Leddy is now, but on a similar trajectory. Brodie, like Leddy, made a name for himself in his mid-20’s as a smooth skating, puck moving defenseman who could regularly provide point totals in the mid-40’s. Then, like Leddy, Brodie’s defensive struggles would become apparent before making adjustments to solidify his defense.
Unlike Leddy, when Brodie’s defensive game took a change for the better between 2017-18 and 2018-19, his offensive output would stay the same. However, the next season, 2019-20, Brodie’s offensive numbers would dip severely, albeit still playing a sound game in his own end. It was after this season that Brodie hit the UFA market and signed with Toronto. Now for Leddy, much as it was for Brodie after making impressive changes to his defensive game, but hitting some bumps in the road, he will hit the UFA market.
Ultimately, Leddy’s market should come down to a combination of factors that should include the flat salary cap, how teams believe his game will fit in their system, and perhaps most importantly, how those teams feel his game, which is particularly skating-reliant, will age over the life of the contract. What may be his biggest selling point, however, is something mentioned in the beginning of this article: his 125 games, and counting, in the Stanley Cup playoffs, accumulated over 10 of his 12 NHL seasons, including a Stanley Cup, experience which, of course, cannot be taken away with age.