NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — That buzz you hear around Nassau Coliseum is louder than it has been in a very long time.
Two days after Islanders general manager Garth Snow pulled off a pair of trades that stunned the NHL, former Stanley Cup-winning defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy practiced for the first time with their new team and then met the media.
“It’s nice to be wanted,” Boychuk said Monday. “With us coming in here, it’s going to be a good test for us personally to get used to the systems. It’s not too difficult, but it’ll be a good challenge, that’s for sure, and we’re up for it. There’s good things that are happening. Now we’ve bolstered the defense and it’s going to be a good team and there’s good things that are going to happen.”
Boychuk, a 30-year-old heavy hitter who shined for four years with the Boston Bruins, winning the Cup in 2010-11, was acquired for a pair of second-round draft picks and a conditional third on Saturday afternoon. He figures to bring an air of physicality that was sorely lacking on the Islanders’ blue line, along with a thunderous slap shot.
“I know that I’m going to be having a bigger role here than what it was in Boston. I’m up for the challenge and I can’t wait to get in front of these fans,” Boychuk said.
The move to the Islanders is also a great opportunity for Leddy, a 23-year-old offensive-minded defenseman who has complete-game potential. All he has needed is more of an opportunity to play, something that was difficult in Chicago behind the likes of Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson, among others, players he won the Stanley Cup with in 2012-13. The Islanders will afford him such an opportunity.
“That’d be great, but I also have to work for it,” said Leddy, who was acquired along with goalie Kent Simpson in exchange for defensemen T.J. Brennan, Ville Pokka and goalie Anders Nilsson. “You can’t really expect anything; you have to work on it, work on things and get better every day.”
The Islanders, who have revamped their roster significantly since missing out on the playoffs last season, appear poised to make serious noise in the Eastern Conference. And now that Snow has bolstered the one area that needed the most reinforcements, the coaching staff and players have a bit of a margin for error — along with a lot of depth all over the ice.
“We’ve always wanted to win,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “You always try to make a deal that’s going to be best for your hockey club, and it’s not like Garth hasn’t tried in the past. It wasn’t there for us and you have to be smart with your young players. You’re not going to sell the farm and give away some good young players just to get some quick fix. It worked out for us. Garth had the opportunity to make our team better and he did. You hate to see some guys go, but we’ve had a lot of draft picks and there are assets that we could move.”
Travis Hamonic remains one of the defensemen the Islanders will rely on as they try to get back to the playoffs, but he said he’s thrilled to finally have more guys with experience on the team.
“Both guys (are) great players. I’m pretty thrilled with the additions Garth made,” Hamonic said of Boychuk and Leddy. “Really good moves. I don’t know how he does it, but he had two good pickups. I think both guys bring something a little bit different to the table that we didn’t necessarily have back there.”
The Islanders will unveil their new-look roster on Friday night at Carolina, and then will play the Hurricanes again on Saturday, in New York’s final home opener at Nassau Coliseum.
The Islanders will move to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center after the 2014-15 season.
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