Johnny Boychuk signing continues great run by Islanders GM Garth Snow

Ken Campbell

My goodness, has any general manager reinvented himself better than Garth Snow has? Once regarded as the backup goalie who was the ill-advised hire of a bizarre owner, Snow is putting himself into serious contention for the NHL’s GM of the year award.

Prior to this season, neither Johnny Boychuk nor Nick Leddy even played for the New York Islanders. Now, the two of them are clearly the lynchpins of the organization’s blueline corps and the two defensemen around whom the Islanders have staked much of their future. That much was apparent when Boychuk inked a seven-year deal with the Islanders worth $42 million. That signing came just two weeks after Leddy was signed to a seven-year extension worth $38.5 million.

Considering the fact Snow acquired both defensemen on the same day last fall, it’s only fitting that their extensions would be so similar and be signed at almost the same time. And Snow was able to get both players because he was a GM with a commodity in the form of cap space that neither of his trading partners had.

In a perfect world, Leddy would probably still be a member of the Chicago Blackhawks and Boychuk would be with the Boston Bruins. But Snow realized that GM Stan Bowman of the Blackhawks and Peter Chiarelli in Boston were getting squeezed by the salary cap and was able to get both of them for less than market value. He got Boychuk for second-round picks in 2015 and 2016 and a conditional third-rounder, which would have materialized only if Boychuk had been dealt this season, something that obviously will not happen now. Leddy was acquired from Chicago for Ville Pokka, Anders Nilsson and T.J. Brennan, three players who may never turn out to be NHL regulars.

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10 off-season acquisitions helping their teams get into the playoffs

(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

There has been no personnel move during this season, at or before the trade deadline, that has had as much impact, immediate or otherwise, as the Minnesota Wild scoring Devan Dubnyk from the Arizona Coyotes.

Dubnyk, who has appeared in every single game since coming to Minnesota, has taken the Wild from a team on the brink of losing their season to the hottest team in hockey. Bringing in Dubnyk could make Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher the GM of the Year at the end of the season.

However, most roster constructing is done during the summer as teams look to rebuild or supplement existing pieces in their chase for the Stanley Cup. As such, these are the 10 off-season acquisitions, either through trade or free agency, that are paying off as teams enter the stretch run and battle for playoff position.

Honorable mention goes to the coaching tandem of Barry Trotz and Mitch Korn, who have made the Washington Capitals a team to be feared come the postseason and turned Braden Holtby into a brilliant backstopper. Read more

Rangers’ Kevin Hayes shows incredible body control, co-ordination in stunning goal against Isles

Adam Proteau
Kevin Hayes scores against Jaroslav Halak. (Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

New York Rangers center Kevin Hayes has dazzled fans and confounded opponents in his first NHL season. And the 22-year-old continued that pattern Tuesday with an incredibly athletic goal against the arch-rival New York Islanders.

Hayes was the beneficiary of a tremendous pass from right winger Mats Zuccarello, but still had to fight off Isles defenseman Thomas Hickey, steady his body, turn around and wire a wrist shot past goalie Jaroslav Halak while rugged winger Matt Martin was bearing down on him: Read more

The New York Islanders are now expected to win. Can they deal with that?

Ryan Kennedy
Johnny Boychuk (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

It was the trap game of all trap games. Toronto on a Monday night, with the blood rival Rangers waiting to play them at Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday. And for most of the tilt against the Maple Leafs, the Islanders looked like a team that assumed two points would be handed to them by the lowly opposition.

That of course did not happen and it took a deft Casey Cizikas deflection and a highlight-reel goal from captain John Tavares in overtime to shift the universe back into proper alignment. But the Islanders can pull the positives out of the great escape.

“We came back from a two-goal (deficit),” said trade deadline acquisition Tyler Kennedy. “It shows that guys have a lot of confidence in each other and it’s great to see.”

Defenseman Johnny Boychuk insists his boys didn’t look past the Leafs, but it did take some time to wrap their heads around what they were dealing with.

“We knew we weren’t playing our best,” he said. “But when we did in the third, good things happened and we kept rolling with it.”

Boychuk and Kennedy are going to be key players for New York down the stretch. Not just because of what they can do on the ice, but for the experiences they bring from the teams they played for in the past.

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Bottom feeders refuse to tank by playing hard…and badly

Red Wings celebration (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

On the night the Edmonton Oilers were officially eliminated from the playoff race for the ninth straight season, the Connor McDavid Sweepstakes had the potential for an all-out Tank-a-thon. But the more you watch these bottom feeders play, the more you realize they’re not losing on purpose to get a chance at a generational talent.

They’re just really, really bad hockey teams.

Say what you will about the moves the power brokers of the Buffalo Sabres, Arizona Coyotes, Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs have made off the ice, but it’s crystal clear that those who have a say on what happens on the 200-by-85 playing surface will have nothing to do with the stink of losing on purpose. Read more

Must see: John Tavares plays the hero again with an OT beauty

Ken Campbell
John Tavares (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

If you know anything about John Tavares, it’s that he thrives on pressure situations and loves having the puck on his stick when the game is on the line. He proved that with the Canadian team at the 2009 World Junior Championship, but hasn’t had much of a chance to play in situations that matter in the NHL.

That’s one of the unfortunate byproducts of playing for the New York Islanders. But that’s all changed this season. The Islanders are a contender and Tavares is emerging as a bona fide superstar in the NHL, and a leading contender for the Hart Trophy. The term ‘superstar’ is hugely overused in hockey and given to far too many players who don’t deserve it. But Tavares is truly becoming a superstar and his performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs Monday night proved that. Read more

Maple Leafs (finally) make the right call by scratching Nazem Kadri, John Tavares sounds off

Ken Campbell
Nazem Kadri (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star/Getty Images)

Nazem Kadri stood at his stall at the Air Canada Centre Monday morning and said all the right things. Talked about how he slept in Sunday morning and was late for practice and took the blame and the consequences like a professional. The cynics in the crowd might say it’s the first time a player on the Toronto Maple Leafs has actually shown up in the last couple of months.

“I’ve apologized to the coaching staff…it was my fault and I screwed up and I’m willing to take whatever is given to me,” Kadri said after it was announced he would be a healthy scratch for tonight’s game against the New York Islanders. “It was uncharacteristic of me and it will never happen again.” Read more