The first deal made when NHL Free Agency began at noon today (Saturday, July 1) was between the New Jersey Devils and center Brian Boyle, for two years and $5.1 million. There have been a ton of rumor surrounding him over the last week; some said that he wanted to stay with the Maple Leafs, others said he wanted to return to Tampa Bay, the team that traded him to Toronto in the first place. But he’s not with either of those teams; instead, he’ll be a veteran presence on a team that is going to get younger and faster.
The 6-foot-6 and 244-pound center is 32 years old. He’s played for four different teams and is now playing for a fifth. He was drafted by the Kings 26th overall back in 2003. He’s since spent five seasons with the Rangers, two and half with the Lightning, and half with the Maple Leafs. He played 75 games this past season, for both Tampa Bay and Toronto, and accumulated 25 points and 66 penalty minutes.
Here are his stats over the course of his career:
He’s a great penalty killer and he’s a consistently good faceoff-taker. He brings a veteran presence to the team even though he’s only 32. We don’t have to worry about any injuries. And the contract is flexible.
Boyle does bring a veteran presence. Most of New Jersey’s centers are young and they need help and guidance from an older player. Nico Hischier, Michael McLeod, Nathan Bastian, Blake Speers, and even Pavel Zacha… they’re all young.
My biggest concern would have been the Devils adding yet another center. They would have to balance out bringing in a center by getting rid of one. I would have expected New Jersey to potentially trade either Adam Henrique or Travis Zajac but I like Zajac on the top line and Henrique might move to wing next season. Sentimental reasons aside, I don’t think (don’t quote me on this) that the Devils are going to trade either of them any time soon. They won’t resign Jacob Josefson. Zacha might also potentially move to wing. We don’t know what the team and organization are thinking right now.
And this is Boyle’s last tweet (not retweet):
How can you not like him?
I like the deal. I like the contract. I like Boyle. The signing may have caught me by surprise this morning but I’m okay with it! If he doesn’t work out with the Devils, they could decide to trade him at the deadline. There’s no harm in that and they’ll get something back. Boyle is a great guy, on and off the ice, and he’ll be a good locker room presence for everyone.
In other somewhat-related, Devils free agent news: the Kings signed Michael Cammalleri to a one-year contract, the Blues signed Beau Bennett to one as well. The Devils bought out Cammy’s contract yesterday which made him a free agent. They did not give Bennett a qualifying offer and he became an unrestricted free agent; he signed a $650,000 contract so either the Devils didn’t offer him that kind of money (which is ridiculous given the amount of cap space they have) or they didn’t want him back, or Bennett didn’t want to stay. All possibilities. But this should be fun.
Let the games begin!