This is a cross-post from lighthousehockey. Please go there to comment on this post, it is posted here for completeness in the archive. I’ll put up a link to the LHH post when it is up.
Nick Leddy is the real prize of the D-Men acquired on saturday by the Islanders, for the simple reason that he’s under team control for a while – Leddy is in the last year of a bridge deal this year, with two more RFA years after that (and that generally means a long term contract is likely). So the Isles traded for 3+ years of Leddy, a 23 year old defenseman. So how good is he?
Well its a bit tricky to tell. Leddy has had fairly favorable zone starts (really favorable this last year) and thus his relative possession #s, once adjusted for them, are just a little bit positive over the last two years. Of course, this is just a little bit positive relative to a bunch of the best D-Men in the league, so that’s not really a huge negative. Some neutral zone numbers (see this great post here: http://www.japersrink.com/2014/9/18/6211821/its-all-relative-introduction-to-neutral-zone-scores-for-nhl) also suggest that his slightly positive relative #s are not the result of sheltering but in fact are reflective of true talent.
Potentially, more of an issue with evaluating Leddy’s possession #s, is that he’s spent a decent part of his time the last two years (720 minutes out of 1802) with Michael Rozsival. That pairing of course was pretty damn dominant (61.5% corsi) and Leddy wasn’t even close to that level without Rozsival. On the other hand, Rozsival wasn’t better without Leddy, so it’s likely this was more a case where the two players had great chemistry together rather than Leddy (or Rozsival) being carried by the other guys.
All of this is saying that the possession #s suggest leddy was at least not being a negative driver of possession, and may in fact be a pretty good one when compared to the rest of the league instead of to other Chicago D-Men. And he’s 23, so it’s not like he can’t improve – he’s 10 months younger than Matt Donovan and just two months older than Calvin de Haan.
Individually, Leddy is clearly a bigtime puck moving D-Man, with him having one of the higher rates at carrying the puck into the offensive zone of any D man in Corey Sznajder’s dataset (52% – comparable to Streit or Visnovsky 2013). The on-ice data bears this out (again http://www.japersrink.com/2014/9/18/6211821/its-all-relative-introduction-to-neutral-zone-scores-for-nhl) – with the Leddy and Rozsival pair being #1 in on-ice-controlled-entry%. He’s also a decent scorer, with 30 points each of the last three seasons (if you prorate the lockout season). Course Leddy was 2nd in PP TOI last season on Chicago and that Ice time may go down if the Isles use Visnovsky at PP1 and go with 4 forwards on the PP.
Long story short: Leddy adds a puck-moving D man to the Isles who can score some points, who is likely a plus possession (although not elite possession) player, and he has at least 3 years of team control left (and probably more). To put it shorter, he’s a clear 2nd pairing D. That’s pretty damn good, especially for what we gave up.
Boychuk is a different story than Leddy – whereas Leddy was a trade of long term asset for long term asset, Boychuk is a trade of long term assets for a short term asset – Boychuk comes with 1 year of control, and he is going to get PAID next year. In short, Boychuk is extremely likely a rental – although unlike a trade deadline rental, the Isles will get a full year of Boychuk. The two second rounders given up for Boychuk is a pretty standard rate for a rental D Man (Regehr, Murray, AMac (2nd and a 3rd)), so it’s not an unfair deal (the conditional pick is irrelevant, since it’ll only come into play if the Isles trade Boychuk to an Eastern team, and they would only do that if they got something better than a 3rd back).
Boychuk is again a very different player from Leddy in how he plays – whereas Leddy is a playmaking D-man willing to carry the puck up the ice, Boychuk is a pure defensive D Man. And unlike many crease clearing d-men, Boychuk appears to be pretty decent – he makes the team better than when he’s not on the ice, even when he hasn’t played with Chara (this past year he was saddled a lot with Matt Bartkowski). He’s also by the way a right-handed D-Man, which makes him the 3rd one of those on the Isles (Hamonic, Carkner), so it would make a lot of sense for him to be playing on 3rd pair for the team (unless the team shifts Lubo to the left side, but that seems unlikely). And Boychuk is a pretty damn good third D-Man.
Again, he’s not a playmaking or offensive d man in the slightest. He dumped the puck in a ton last year for the Bruins, which may partly have been a team effect, but was also a real indicator of his tendencies. And that’s not horrible for a D-Man (D man entries aren’t the big driver of possession), and overall, he was a positive D Man in the incomplete data set we have in the neutral zone (again, see here: http://www.japersrink.com/2014/9/18/6211821/its-all-relative-introduction-to-neutral-zone-scores-for-nhl).
In short, the Isles obtained two very solid D-Men on saturday, both of whom probably fit as 2nd pair D-Men. They may be very different types of D-Men, but both will be upgrades, so, yeah, Party on Garth.