The New York Islanders’ acquisition of the rights to defenseman Dan Boyle Thursday is the latest in GM Garth Snow’s continuing efforts to boost the experience quotient of his franchise. He’s had a spotty record in that regard, but until the franchise relocates to Brooklyn in 2015, the only way the Isles are going to augment their youth with veteran savvy is via a trade – and, if they want to sign Boyle, by overpaying him.
It’s accurate to say the Islanders weren’t at the top of Boyle’s destination list as the former Sharks and Lightning blueliner looked toward unrestricted free agency this summer. The soon-to-be-38-year-old has entered the stage of an NHLer’s career where, in terms of priorities, money is a distant second behind the opportunity to win (he’s earned more than $54 million during his 14-year-career). Although the Isles have a number of players any NHLer would want to play alongside, nobody believes they’ll be in position to seriously contend for a Stanley Cup. And in a UFA market that’s thin on veteran D-men, he’ll still have a number of suitors (including, perhaps, the Bolts) for his services.
So, why would he agree to play on Long Island? Good question. If there were a serious amount of money – and more importantly, term – thrown at him by Snow, he’d likely have to give it some serious thought. There’s been speculation Boyle is looking for a two-year deal, but the Isles likely will be among a number of teams prepared to give him a contract of that length. If the Isles offer him a three-year-deal, they’d likely be the only ones and would be snickered at by other teams.
Moreover, since there’s no chance he’ll be paid more than the $5.5 million captain John Tavares will take home next season, he’s going to have to agree to a significant financial haircut. Between that reality and other suitors, it’s tough to see him becoming an Islander.
Any team that signs him is still going to get solid play out of Boyle – he averaged a Sharks-best 21:16 of ice time in 2013-14 – but his minutes have dropped in each of the past three seasons from the 26:14 he averaged in 2010-11. In some ways, the Isles will likely dodge a bullet if he chooses to test free agency; Snow can deal Boyle’s rights to another team in an attempt to recoup the fifth-round pick he traded to San Jose Thursday.
However, you can’t fault Snow for trying to bring in a proven winner and calming veteran force. If this Isles squad is ever going to climb out of the competitive doldrums, they’ll need players like Boyle on board.
The trouble is, until they play in shiny (relatively) new Barclays Center and rehabilitate their battered image, it’s going to be a huge challenge to convince those types of players to sign up for the challenge.