March 13, 2015

Isles, Boychuk Agree to Seven Year Extension

The Islanders completed one major chapter in their turn of events success story this season when they announced Thursday that they reached a 7-year, $42 million extension with defenseman Johnny Boychuk, ending the "will he, won't he" debate that has been the underlying devils advocate when many fans took pride in the teams turnaround.

Now, they have a few things to take pride in with off the ice issues as well.

Boychuk's new deal means he's bypassing the right to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, marking the first time in recent memory that the Isles have been able to keep - or even sign - someone who was to be one of the top names on the market. For the Islanders, this is something monumental.

Boychuk will celebrate as an Isle for 7 more years.
For years, players shunned Garth Snow's overtures to sign with his team, despite offering the most money in some cases. This past offseason was no different when after securing a starting goaltender in Jaroslav Halak he went hard after Jarome Iginla, Dan Boyle and Thomas Vanek only to be turned down for less lucrative deals on teams with some postseason successes. When you look at what each of these players have done, and the resulting moves the Isles made I think it's fair to say we're all pretty happy with how things have turned around for the Isles.

Boychuk gets a no-trade clause in his contract. That's right, he would have gotten one on the open market and the Isles, who don't usually give those out, gave one to a player who actually wanted to stay. The front loaded contract will have full no trade protection until July 2019 before becoming a partial no trade clause. Boychuk also got a huge signing bonus in the pact.

It is obviously nice that the Isles get to keep a guy who has fit their system perfectly and lets not make any mistake about it - this is a deal that would have been matched, or perhaps even topped on the open market for a team looking to make a splash on defense. The Isles gave up two second round picks to get the top four blueliner from a cash strapped Bruins team, and the standings tell the story. The Bruins have gotten on pace now but struggled for much of the first half of the season without a dynamic defenseman like Boychuk patrolling their back-end. Tuukka Rask's numbers shot up and Zdeno Chara seemed to age suddenly.

The deal comes after some tongue-in-cheek comments from Boychuk and Nick Leddy, the latter of whom signed a 7-year extension a few weeks ago to avoid becoming a restricted free agent this summer. They were acquired on the same day just minutes apart from each other, and provided the shot in the arm that they and the Isles needed. They've been the Isles first pairing since the season started and both flourished with the increased ice time and they will continue to do so for years to come.

Is giving seven years to a 31 year old the best thing? No, but it's free agency at it's finest and he could have gotten 7 years from someone else on the market, or less years for a higher cap hit. The $6 million figure is the going rate for someone who would have been far and away the best player at his position. Given what we've seen from Boychuk this year both on and off the ice, this deal was a no brainer for the Islanders.

There is nothing but good vibes here. It changes the whole landscape and opinion of this team. The Isles were aggressive in the summer and at the trade deadline and Snow has made every effort to surround his young talent with the best players available. And given the fact he looked at adding some players that had term left at the deadline it's pretty clear he's setting the stage for more to come.

More can come much easier with what the Isles have done this season and the fact that both Leddy and Boychuk are signed for cap hits that aren't terrible when you look around the league at similar defensemen. Even Travis Hamonic has signed for a very team friendly deal, as he got a 7 year extension of his own last year.

I remember when we were disappointed that Snow let Mark Streit and Andrew MacDonald go to the Philadelphia Flyers. Not because they were great players here - they clearly were not going to be worth their salary for the Isles - but because it could strengthen a division rival. And it's done anything but that for Philly.

The Isles greatly improved 33% of their defense within hours on October 4th, and did so without giving up top prospects in Michael Dal Colle, Griffin Reinhart and Ryan Pulock. When you look at the latter two, both defensemen, you start to realize that the Islanders are incredibly close to having one of the most dynamic bluelines in the NHL and one that can go against the other best corps on a nightly basis. Reinhart and Pulock seem like they might be ready as soon as next season, or at least one of them should be. I'm not convinced both of them will be on the Isles long term, however, especially after the Boychuk and Leddy deals.

It's the first time in a while that we can be proud of this Isles team, and now after the past few weeks we don't have to only be happy about the on-ice results. They may not win the division and the jury is still out on if they can get out of the first round but they have taken great strides this season and have ensured that they can set themselves up for bigger and better things next year and beyond, complete with a good revenue stream coming from the Brooklyn move.

- Chris

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