NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — One day after locking up their best young defenseman for years, the Islanders were reportedly working toward signing their best veteran defenseman long-term.
According to Canada’s Sportsnet, the Islanders are believed to have made at least one offer to impending unrestricted free agent Johnny Boychuk that would make him the highest paid player on the team, with an average annual value in the $6 million range.READ MORE: NYPD: Delivery Worker Stabbed To Death, E-Bike Stolen Near Sara D. Roosevelt Park
Boychuk, 31, has been everything the Islanders envisioned and then some since coming over in a trade with the salary cap-strapped Boston Bruins a week before the regular season started.
The Islanders acquired Boychuk on the same day they traded for Nick Leddy, giving up a pair of second round draft picks and a conditional third rounder. Leddy, who came over from the Chicago Blackhawks for three prospects, signed a seven-year extension Tuesday valued at a reported $38.5 million.
Leddy’s average annual value of $5.5 million equals that of franchise center John Tavares, though it’s a well-known fact that Tavares signed his cap friendly deal a few years ago knowing full well it would give general manager Garth Snow flexibility to lock up more of the Isles’ young players long-term. The Islanders will almost certainly do everything in their power to extend Tavares long before he becomes unrestricted at the end of the 2017-18 season.READ MORE: Bill Clinton Discharged From Hospital After Treatment For Infection
Now a top-pairing defenseman, Boychuk has become a physical and responsible presence in his own end, while establishing a career high with 29 points in 52 games.
Boychuk was asked several times about his contract status after scoring a goal in the Islanders’ 5-1 win over visiting Arizona on Tuesday.
When asked by Stan Fischler of MSG Network if he’d be an Islander next season, Boychuk said “Hopefully.”
The potential problem the Isles face is that unlike with Leddy, who was going to be a restricted free agent, they have no leverage with Boychuk. Various NHL insiders have said the veteran defenseman will likely be one of the top players available this summer, which may be why he has yet to come to terms with New York.MORE NEWS: Suffolk Police: Man Killed In Hit-And-Run On Long Island Expressway In Brentwood
If the Isles are unable to sign Boychuk long-term, they have plenty of young, NHL-ready defensemen in their system. Still, adding Boychuk to Leddy and Travis Hamonic as defensemen signed for several seasons would allow top prospects Griffin Reinhart and Ryan Pulock to develop at a less demanding pace.