Boston GM Peter Chiarelli finally got his team under the salary cap on Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, it took a swing of an ax rather than a surgical snip to get the Bruins there.
Chiarelli sent top-four defender Johnny Boychuk to the New York Islanders in exchange for a 2015 second rounder, a 2016 second rounder and a conditional 2015 third rounder. The move clears Boychuk's $3,366,557 salary off the books and gets the Bruins under the cap to start the season.
The trade was first reported by Arthur Staple of Newsday. Chris Johnston of Sportsnet noted that the Isles will send the conditional third round pick to Boston only if they trade Boychuk, a pending UFA, within the Eastern Conference during the 2014-15 season.
Viewed as a hockey trade, it's a fair swap of assets, but it's one that a contending team would never voluntarily make. Losing Boychuk creates a massive hole in what was regarded as one of the league's top defenses. He's a rare talent, a positionally-savvy defender who is equally menacing with his shoulder as he is with his shot. The Bruins may be deep on the back end, but they can't replace this kind of player with Matt Bartkowski or David Warsofsky. It seems inevitable that one or both of those second-rounders will be packaged at the deadline when a similarly-salaried veteran could slide in under the cap.
It's a significant addition for the Islanders, a team that's desperate to shore up its blueline after finishing 28th in goals-against last season. Boychuk's presence buys more development time for a stable of promising but raw defenders and improves their chances of avoiding the draft lottery—something they're desperate to do during a season when their first-round pick belongs to the Buffalo Sabres, who now look to be the day's biggest losers.
UPDATE: Garth Snow's not fooling around. Minutes after sealing the deal with the Bruins, he took advantage of a similar cap crunch in Chicago to acquire defenseman Nick Leddy and prospect Kent Simpson in exchange for defensemen Ville Pokka and T.J. Brennan and the rights to KHL goaltender Anders Nilsson.
It's a savvy bit of management by Snow, who now has a pair of recent Stanley Cup winners to shore up his team's back end. With Lubomir Visnovsky, Calvin de Haan and Leddy on the left side and Travis Hamonic, Thomas Hickey and Boychuk on the right, the Isles now boast a group that looks positively upper-middle class.
The loss of Leddy won't hurt the Hawks as badly as Boychuk's departure will hit Boston, but the bottom pairing defender will be missed. Klas Dahlbeck, recalled from the minors on Friday, is the best bet to take his place on the opening night roster, but Pokka could be there in Chicago before long. The 2012 second rounder was the key to the deal for the Hawks, who no doubt coveted his ability to QB a power play and drive possession at even strength. The Isles could afford to move him because of their depth of young talent at the position, but make no mistake--this is a huge get for the Hawks. Nilsson's a long shot to see the NHL in a Hawks sweater, but Brennan is an intriguing pickup. The 25-year-old was the AHL's highest-scoring defenseman last season, tallying 25 goals and 72 points in 76 games. That said, the Leafs chose not to recall him at any point last season and with this deal Brennan is now with his fourth organization in less than 18 months. That suggests he's a talent that people like but just can't bring themselves to love. Word out of Chicago is that both he and Pokka will report to Rockford.