Top 4 Trade Talks: Is Nick Leddy Perfect Fit For Habs?

Here comes that time of year again where everything starts to heat up but forget the shorts and the flip flops because this time of year and the heat that comes with it is for the phone lines and negotiation tables.  The Montreal Canadiens may be in position to celebrate Canada Day by making a big splash in the free agency waters but with contracts for previously pending UFAs looking rather generous, some have cooled off to the idea of pursuing such a route.  Although free agency should remain a cost effective option in terms of assets, teams elsewhere are getting desperate to make their salary cap situation more cost effective as well and larger names are evidently being sold for little in return.  Pairing the likelihood of high cap hits and extended term with the age of any left side defencemen of UFA status, trade targets are beginning to make the rounds about the water cooler in favor of free agency acquisitions.

 

General managers lately appear to be taking a Marc Bergevin type of approach in finding trade partners in off the radar scenarios so surprises may be welcomed or suggested.  Certainly, some teams are notoriously cap strapped with teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning running out of room whilst in search of an extension for Brayden Point and a right side defenceman or teams like the Nashville Predators being forced to sell a superstar in what GM David Poile said was “not a hockey deal but a business deal” considering the lack of return.  Wanting to avoid such scenarios, some executives are beginning to think about how to keep themselves in strong position for the not-too-distant future and that brings the focus to a team that could find themselves threatened…

 

The New York Islanders

 

How screwed could a team with nearly $21,000,000 in cap space possibly be? Quite, apparently.  Not bad for a team that was presumed by casual observers to be rebuilding, considering their lack of playoff success or chances coming into the season.  However, how many ace prospects do they have? How many players on their team at the NHL level were under the age of 25? (Answer: they had just five players age 25 or under to start the season) Perhaps the truth in the numbers is that they were actually loaded up with a fleet of veterans looking for a fit in an outpost that was graced with the presence of Jack Adams winner and apparent wizard in Barry Trotz as he fixed that entire team right up.

 

However, with veterans on the books and expiring restricted free agents come expenses.

 

With their captain Anders Lee nearing expiration and the team wishing to retain his services as well as RFAs Michael Dal Colle and Anthony Beauvillier (not a bad little trade target himself) needing a payday, something is going to have to be left for their superstar center Mat Barzal when his day comes due next year along with budding back end presence Devon Toews among others.  Lou Lamiorello has been quoted as having Nick Leddy’s name being dangled out there for future cap alleviation but his hit is none too large with three years remaining on his current deal at $5,500,000 annually.

 

Leddy has everything that the Canadiens need in a defenceman and –probably not an unrelated factor– everything Shea Weber needs in a partner: mobility, puck moving skills, tremendous vision to aid his precision passing and a balanced 200 foot game.  Possessing truly complete two-way abilities, it is not a stretch to think of him as a matured Victor Mete –that has scored a goal– at 6’0 and over 200 pounds.  Putting his stats into context, Leddy boasted three consecutive seasons of 40+ points until this past season; with this in mind, his 2017-18 +/- (if there is any stock to be held here) was -42 but shaped right up in 2018-19 to an even 0.  What this suggests is not only a lack of understanding of defensive structure from the coaching staff prior to this past season but that, on Leddy’s behalf, he is a versatile and coachable player with an easily fair cap hit as it stands equivalent to the average annual value of Jeff Petry but with an additional year of term.

 

Whether as a partner for Shea Weber to free Victor Mete up for full time top pair deployment or paired with Petry not only in cap hits but as a hypothetical partner, this is one of –if not the— most desirable target for the Montreal Canadiens and one that Marc Bergevin should be familiar with due to both parties having spent time in Chicago at the same time.  To cover all the bases here and round the corner for home, this cap hit also leaves flexibility for extensions to be handed to the likes of Artturi Lehkonen and Joel Armia, assuming that they would not be send to Long Island in such a hypothetical deal.

 

Of course, what is such a case to be made here in today’s times without at least briefly mentioning analytics? While projections and comparable statistics will change with different staffs, teammates and structures, Nick Leddy has seen measurements that line him up to being a steadily capable top pair guy on a contending team and also patterns to suggest that everyone on his team sees greater benefits in terms of possession and driving the play.  While most anything that is not named Jake Gardiner would be an upgrade over that top four spot on the left side, any given statistic or piece of game footage would suggest that all signs point to Nick Leddy as the best available option around the NHL today.

 

While other targets and alternate avenues may be pursued, the likely cost in terms of assets and cap space is best spent here.  Such a scenario and opportunity could likely inspire a guy like Nick Leddy to do as other incoming Canadiens have done and potentially play the best hockey of his career, making many hypothetical deals to be had an even bigger win for the Montreal Canadiens with a Stanley Cup winner as they hope to address their most glaring issue as it currently stands.

 

Team need, partnership fit, salary cap friendly, available to be had.  The top four reasons that the top four defensive deployment for the Habs would see a grand slam with Nick Leddy.

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