This is part of a free agency article highlighting all available free agents before the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline. This section highlights Brian Boyle. If you’re interested in reading the entire article, click here.
Weight: 245 lbs
2019-20 stats: 6/9/15 in 39 games with the Florida Panthers (NHL)
Brian Boyle can be a huge part of a contending team.
Not just because of his 14 years of professional hockey experience. And also not just because of his proven usefulness as a bottom-six forward.
He can, physically, be a huge part of a contending team. At 6’6, he would be one of the tallest players in the league.
Jokes aside, I honestly believe that Brian Boyle brings a lot to a Cup contending team.
Boyle was picked 26th overall by the Los Angeles Kings in 2003, but it wasn’t until 2010 when he broke out with the New York Rangers.
Brian Boyle scored 21 goals for 35 points in 82 games, and he’s been a consistent 20-point scorer ever since.
Another thing he’s done ever since? Brian Boyle has made the postseason in each year starting from that 2010-11 season. That is ten straight years. He’s done so on six different teams.
He brings what many GMs strive for on their bottom line. He’s big, he’s physical, and he’s experienced.
However, I don’t think those intangibles are his ticket back to the NHL, though. The stat that jumps out for me with him would be his abilities in the faceoff circle.
Brian Boyle isn’t an elite faceoff taker, but he’s found success at the dot for most of his career.
His FO% of 52.4 put him in the top-50 most effective and consistent faceoff takers in the league last season.
Sure, it’s a far cry from Sean Couturier’s 59.6, but it still makes Boyle one of the more consistent faceoff men in hockey.
The analytics don’t favour Boyle, but I do feel that with a player like Brian Boyle, you aren’t looking at those numbers. At this point in his career, he’s likely not a guy that a contender is playing every game or a guy that will play much more than 10-12 minutes a night. At 36, teams know exactly what he is. He’s a big player who can provide some production on the fourth line, he can take faceoffs, and he can still throw the body.
Boyle’s agent, Richard Curran, confirmed to me that Boyle is looking for a contract for the remainder of the season.
I truly believe that the best fit for Brian Boyle right now would be the New York Rangers. Larry Brooks of the New York Post reported earlier in the season that the Rangers had looked at signing Boyle, and the fit makes sense.
None of the Rangers’ full-time centremen have over a 40% faceoff rate. In fact, with their current projected lineup, their percentages go 46.3% (Mika Zibanejad), 44.5% (Ryan Strome), 39.7 (Filip Chytil), 48.3 (Brett Howden).
It’s pretty bad. This has been a pattern throughout the season. The Rangers are currently well out of a playoff spot, but this is a team that’s built to contend. The team has room to rotate Brian Boyle in with the aforementioned Kevin Rooney and Brett Howden. Should he join the Rangers, it would be a return to a fanbase where he was a fan-favourite for five seasons with the team.
The return would be great, but the Rangers don’t really give him a strong chance at winning his first Cup. After all, it would be a battle just to get to the playoffs.
I’m sure the Tampa Bay Lightning would be interested in a return, but they don’t have the cap flexibility to rotate around Boyle.
The New York Islanders, whose GM, Lou Lamoriello, has traded for Boyle before, might’ve been an option, but I believe that acquiring Travis Zajac in the Palmieri trade rules them out.
The Boston Bruins have shown interest in Boyle in the past. The Hingham, MA native didn’t grow up far from Boston, and his style of play fits what the Bruins have been known for before. However, the Bruins have been working hard to find an upgrade via trade, and I’d bet that they’d rather save any cap flexibility that they can keep.
I also believe that Boyle’s style of play fits what new additions Brian Burke and Ron Hextall could be looking for in Pittsburgh. Although their need for a centre has been calmed by the emergence of Frederick Gaudreau, it wouldn’t hurt to rotate a guy like Boyle in there to see how it goes. A guy like Mark Jankowski looks like he needs a push, and maybe platooning with Boyle will give him some competition.
Overall, if he does return to the NHL, I’m not sure that Brian Boyle is more than a taxi squad player/4th line centre. I don’t see him asking for more than $700-800k on a one-year deal, and it’s very possible that he could treat it as his farewell year. A team with cap flexibility could use him, and I only say flexibility because it’s very likely that Boyle won’t be an everyday player, meaning that a team would likely need room to keep another forward (unless they’d put Boyle through waivers multiple times).
It seems like the desire to play is very strong from Brian Boyle, who once said that he would play “until they tell me I can’t anymore.”
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