This week the Axeman tackles the Islanders defensive pickups, Johansen’s new contract and the Oilers’ final cuts.
Welcome to this weeks Axe To Grind! Today's the day we have all been waiting for, looking forward to and counting down to for months now. It's opening day for the 2014/15 NHL hockey season and it couldn't come fast enough. Before we start to get too excited about this season, I still have a couple axes to grind from some events this past week.
The Islanders acquire Boychuk and Leddy.
You really have to like what Garth Snow is finally doing in Long Island. He knew he had to forfeit a first round pick, either in the 2014 or in 2015. Maybe Snow had this vision or something but he kept the 2014 pick and decided to forfeit the pick in the deep and talented 2015 draft. Many were surprised by this move, including myself to be honest. I thought the smart move was to give up the '14 pick and go after the better pick/prospect in 2015 but Snow figured he had a chance to build something for this upcoming year and come hell or high water, he wasn't going to be in the lottery section of the draft for 2015. Well, after some pretty savvy moves this off-season, I think he may have actually found a roster that will not only be out of the lottery, but could have worked its way into the playoffs.
After upgrading his forwards and goaltending, Snow knew he had to improve on his backend. He targeted two teams who he knew was looking for some cap relief and he used that to his advantage.
He acquired a top-four offensive defenseman in Nick Leddy (along with AHL goalie Kent Simpson) for Ville Pokka, TJ Brennan and the rights to Anders Nilsson. Leddy is still only 23 years old and still has room to grow, offensively. Pokka is the bigger name heading to Chicago but I think the real gem in the deal is Anders Nilsson, assuming they can lure him back to North America. I have said for some time now that Nilsson is the best goalie prospect in the Islanders system and I think he is now the best one in the Blackhawks system. The former 2nd round pick bounced between the AHL and the Islanders before heading overseas to the KHL where he has put up some quality numbers.
Also heading to New York is Johnny Boychuk. It cost Snow two 2nd round picks (one in 2015 and one in 2016) and a conditional 3rd in 2015 if the Islanders trade Boychuk to any other Eastern Conference team this year. I thought this was a weird conditional pick. They are saying, don't trade him to another Eastern Conference team because we don't want him to play against him on some teams, but it's OK that we play against him when we play you. Maybe there is something I am missing (and please let me know if I am) but I find this really strange. I think the Islanders are safe in adding that additional, conditional pick as I don't see them wanting to trade him anyway. If anything, I can see Snow trying to re-sign Boychuk before his deal expires this year. For Boston, this is a smart trade for them as well. They had to know it would be tough to re-sign him when his contract expires at the end of this year and got a good return for him. Win-win for both teams here. I own Boychuk in the UHL fantasy league and I am big fan of his game. I have always found him to be underrated and normally overshadowed in Boston's deep defensive system. It seems that a few out there think his numbers will take a hit but I disagree. If anything, I actually think he will flourish in his new environment. These aren't the same ole, same ole New York Islanders.