As surprising as it is to have a gangly rookie Tyler Myers currently setting the time-on-ice pace for the Sabres, the fact 23-year-old Chris Butler is the only other 20-minute player on the team is an equal eye-opener.
Beset by injuries to more experienced defenders such as Craig Rivet and Andrej Sekera, the Sabres have had to plug in some fresh faces to carry the load. And given how the team sits atop the Northeast Division with a 15-7-2 record, the contributions from guys like Butler have certainly helped get this team back to its winning ways after missing the playoffs last season.
A graduate of the United States League’s Sioux City Musketeers and the NCAA Denver Pioneers, Butler quickly found his way to the NHL after tossing up the mortarboard, spending just 27 games in the American League before getting the call.
“Last year I got an idea of what things were going to be like and luckily for myself there were a lot of injuries just as I came up, so I basically got forced into playing bigger minutes early on than I would have as a call-up,” Butler explained. “I got myself acquitted and comfortable maybe 15 or 20 games into my call-up and then had a good talk with the coaching staff at the end of the year, just kind of letting me know to make sure I had a good summer of training because I was going to play a bit bigger of a role this year.”
With 21:43 of average ice time, Butler is playing five more minutes per game than last season. And while that number has certainly been pushed upwards because of the injury bug circulating through the Buffalo dressing room, Butler plays a sound, smart defensive game you can’t appreciate by simply looking at the scoresheet.
It’s fitting Butler learned from, and attributes much of his early success to, another unassuming, reliable minute-muncher-turned-coach who patrolled NHL bluelines for nearly two decades.
“One of the real nice things was having Eric Weinrich,” Butler said of his time in the AHL. “It’s just the little subtle things you can learn from a guy who’s played 1,000-plus games. He teaches you things that a lot of people who just watch the game don’t really understand. He did a good job of making me a better partner for my partner when I was out there. Breakout passes, looking for different options, he’s been a huge help for me so far in my career.”
Butler still keeps in touch with his mentor, who is currently the assistant coach for Buffalo’s affiliate in Portland, through congratulatory text messages and visits when the Pirates play nearby. But after his jump to the NHL, a couple other veterans – Teppo Numminen and Craig Rivet – helped Butler acclimatize himself to the league. Like Butler, neither play with a particular show of flash, but the St. Louis native noted that what he picked up from them was their smart, responsible positional plays that always allow them to make an impact.
“Teppo had an outstanding career and he did a good job of making me feel comfortable when I was out there, talking to me,” Butler noted. “He’s such a smart player. If you watch the way he plays he makes few mistakes, passes are dead-on, he’s always in the right spot, always taking away a passing lane. And then Craig Rivet took me under his wing at the end of last year.”
With the towering Myers making waves with his noticeable two-way play and dominating frame, Butler will never be the money-making face of the defense corps, but if he can continue to munch big-time minutes, learn the subtle intricacies of his position and just play the smart, safe defensive game he’s dedicated himself to, he will be a valuable, unassuming piece of the puzzle in Buffalo.
Rory Boylen is TheHockeyNews.com's web content specialist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Tuesdays.
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Back before basement-dwelling teams spent trade deadline day dealing away futures, picks, and rentals to the contenders, some teams managed to get together to make hockey trades.
Today is trade deadline day, which means you can expect to hear certain words repeated over and over. "Buyers." "Sellers." "Rentals." Those are the key terms on a day filled with bad teams flipping players to good teams in return for future assets.
But back in the old days, there used to be a different term that showed up occasionally on days like today: "Hockey trades."
To be honest, back then we pretty much just called them "trades," and they went something like this: Two teams exchanged players in a deal where both sides were trying to get better. Nobody was throwing in the towel and rebuilding, and nobody was sacrificing future assets for a short-term boost. Just two teams, both trying to improve their rosters right now, and using a trade to do it.
I know. Crazy stuff.
But it did happen. And we even sort of got one Tuesday night -- the Brandon Davidson/David Desharnais deal, while not anyone's idea of a blockbuster, was at least kind of hockey-ish. So today, while we wait for the rental market to heat up, let's look back at five true hockey trades from deadline history where there were no clear buyers and no sellers, just two teams trying to get the best end of a deal.
1989 – Mike Gartner and Larry Murphy for Dino Ciccarelli and Bob Rouse
Let's start back in 1989 with a classic hockey deal. No picks, no prospects, just a forward and a defenseman on each side of the trade.
Oh, and 75% of the deal ended up in the Hall of Fame. That's not bad for a day's work.
The deal saw Capitals GM David Poile trade away Gartner, at the time the franchise's all-time leading scorer, and Murphy, who'd been a Norris finalist less than two years ago. In exchange, the North Stars gave up their top goal-scorer in Ciccarelli and a hard-nosed blueliner in Rouse.
As it turned out, none of the players stuck around in their new homes all that long. Gartner was traded again at the 1990 deadline, and by the time Ciccarelli was dealt to Detroit in 1992, all four players had moved on. Still, at the time this was an impressive blockbuster, and in hindsight it's probably the most star-studded four-player deal in league history.
1991 – Ron Francis, Ulf Samuelsson and Grant Jennings for John Cullen, Zarley Zalapski and Jeff Parker
This may be not just the biggest pure hockey trade in deadline history, but the biggest trade of any kind, period. It was a monster blockbuster, one that left fans in Hartford perplexed and fans around the league worrying that a good Penguins team had just added the final piece.
As it turns out, both of those reactions were on the nose. The deal was a major win for the Penguins; the 28-year-old Francis was a perfect fit behind Mario Lemieux, giving Pittsburgh one of the best one-two punches down the middle in a generation. Today, the deal is often described as a heist, one that may even have contributed to the Whalers' eventual move to Carolina.
But at the time, it wasn't all that hard to see what Hartford was doing. They got a little younger and added a player in Zalapski who became their best offensive blueliner. More importantly, while it's been all but forgotten now, the 26-year-old Cullen was in the middle of an absolute monster year, and had 94 points through just 65 games when the deal went down. He finished the season ranked fifth in the Art Ross race with 110 points; that wasn't just more than Francis would manage that year, it was more than the Whalers' star had ever had during any season in his career.
Still, there's no doubt that in hindsight, the Penguins won the deal. Cullen never hit those heights again, while the move rejuvenated Francis. And the grizzled (and occasionally outright dirty) Samuelsson was the perfect fit for a skilled Pittsburgh team looking to make a long run through the postseason grinder.
1991 – Geoff Courtnall, Sergio Momesso, Cliff Ronning and Robert Dirk for Garth Butcher and Dan Quinn
Our second entry from 1991 was the biggest of the actual deadline day (the Francis deal came the day before). The Blues and Canucks hooked up on a six-player trade, and it's another one that looks lopsided in hindsight.
At the time, the Blues looked like a team that was ready to make a run at the Stanley Cup. They battled division rival Chicago all the way to the wire for the Presidents' Trophy, ultimately ending the season sitting second overall with 105 points. Like so many contenders before and after, they wanted more toughness on defense, and Butcher certainly fit that description. Adding him to a blueline that already featured Scott Stevens left the Blues with two guys who could eat big minutes and still beat you in the alley. Quinn was a nice add as well, 25 years old and just two years removed from a 94-point season.
But in hindsight, the Canucks made off with a haul, adding four veterans in the deal (as well as the deal's only draft pick, a fifth-round choice). The best of those turned out to be Ronning, who had 85 points two years later. Along with Momesso and Courtnall, he was a key piece of the Canucks' team that made a run to within one win of a Stanley Cup in 1994.
The Leafs threw in a fourth-round pick and the rights to a prospect who never made the NHL, but this was essentially a one-for-one deal. And it even featured two players who were virtual clones of each other: Old but speedy right-wingers who ended up in the Hall of Fame based on their offense.
So why make the swap at all? For the Rangers, the move came as part of a massive deadline day shakeup by GM Neil Smith that saw them make five trades involving nine players. The day was all about reshaping a team that was challenging for the Presidents' Trophy, but had its eye firmly on the bigger prize of ending a 54-year Cup drought. Anderson didn't have Gartner's numbers, but he had five Cup rings, and Smith was betting that he could make it six in New York.
That bet ultimately paid off. Anderson's time in New York was underwhelming, as he managed just twelve points combined in the regular season and playoffs before bolting as a free agent. But the Rangers did win their Cup, so Smith's long day of deadline work can't be viewed as anything other than a win.
As for Gartner, he spent two seasons in Toronto, scoring 35 goals in 1995-96 at 36.
2006 – Jose Theodore for David Aebischer
We'll close with the only entry from the cap era on our list. One year into the new CBA, the deadline was a busy one, and one of the most interesting deals was a good old-fashioned one-for-one goalie trade.
It was a rare case of two teams making a mid-season trade of guys who were at least ostensibly their starters. The two players were roughly the same age – Theodore was 29, while Aebischer was 28 – and both had put up similar career numbers. Theodore's peak had been far higher, including a Hart Trophy in 2002, while Aebischer was having the better season. Theodore was also more expensive and was recovering from a heel injury.
In hindsight, the deal ended up being fairly even. While Theodore never regained his Hart Trophy form, he spent two full years in Colorado compared to Aebischer's one in Montreal. Theodore later resurrected his career with a good 2007-08 campaign and went on to play through 2013, while Aebischer never overtook Cristobel Huet for starter duties in Montreal and was out of the NHL for good by 2007.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008; you may know him from Twitter as @downgoesbrown. His e-book, The 100 Greatest Players in NHL History, is available now. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.
Welcome to NHL trade deadline central 2017. Stay tuned to THN.com for up-to-minute analysis of every trade, as it happens.
Our team of experts will break down every trade, as they happen. As has become the case the last few years, several NHL teams got an early start on the trade front. So we decided to get the tracker going a little early. All the notable trades from the last few days are here. You can also check out a list of every trade made over the last year and beyond season in the Trade Log on our transactions page.
TO FLORIDA: LW Thomas Vanek TO DETROIT: D Dylan McIrath; 2017 third-round pick
THN's Take: Vanek was a polarizing trade commodity. On one hand, he's been the Red Wings' best offensive player this season, with 15 goals and 38 points in 48 games. On the other hand, he was a massive disappointment the last time he was a trade deadline rental in 2014 when the Montreal Canadiens acquired him. He had contract motivation that time, too, as he was a pending unrestricted free agent just like he is now. Still, the Panthers didn't have to pay much to get him: a third-round pick and defenseman Dylan McIlrath, who wasn't even taking a regular shift in their lineup. Vanek will add some offensive touch and power play ability and can play on any of the top three lines, though it's unlikely to be the No. 1 unit with Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Jaromir Jagr entrenched. Vanek will fit somewhere into a middle six that includes Vincent Trocheck, Jussi Jokinen, Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault and Nick Bjugstad, probably bumping Denis Malgin down. This team has one deep forward corps. As for the Wings, McIlrath is a warm body who gives them size and snarl should they want to give him a crack in the NHL. He's only 24. The reality is that he's a UFA, though, and the Panthers likely just needed to move some salary. He may not have a future as a Wing. Detroit's return is all about the third-rounder, which was a bit underwhelming considering some less talented players have fetched more than that over the past couple days. – MATT LARKIN
TO MONTREAL: C Steve Ott TO DETROIT: 2018 sixth-round pick
THN's Take: A puzzling trade, even if it didn’t cost Montreal all that much to make the acquisition.
TO SAN JOSE: RW Jannik Hansen TO VANCOUVER: LW Nikolay Goldobin; 2017 conditional fourth-round pick
THN's Take: San Jose adds some speed as it chases that elusiva Stanley Cup, while Vancouver adds another good prospect. More here.
TO EDMONTON: C David Desharnais TO MONTREAL: D Brandon Davidson
THN's Take: It’s curious to see a team once desperate for defensemen trade one for a forward that doesn’t offer much in return, but the Oilers made this deal. There has been speculation that Davidson would have been exposed to Vegas in the expansion draft and likely taken, since he’s a youngish blueliner with a decent dollop of promise. In that sense, Edmonton got something for him in Desharnais, an undersized center who has been a frequent healthy scratch since Claude Julien took over the bench in Montreal. Quick and crafty, Desharnais gives Edmonton another option down the middle, but don’t look for a big impact. -- RYAN KENNEDY
TO CHICAGO: D Johnny Oduya TO DALLAS: RW Mark McNeill; 2018 conditional fourth-round pick
THN's Take: My colleague Ryan Kennedy said it best: "The Blackhawks are getting the band back together." And why not? Reacquiring Oduya cost very little: prospect Mark McNeill and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018. The Stars also eat half of Oduya's $3.75-million salary to get him under their cap. This is an easy win-win trade for both teams. The Stars have thrown in the towel on 2016-17 and are selling off Oduya, a pending unrestricted free agent who will be 36 when next season starts. Dallas wants to give its stable of young D-men, including Julius Honka, Esa Lindell, Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak, more minutes down the stretch. It makes sense for Dallas to see what it has. In McNeill, it gets a 2011 first-round pick who was a pretty effective AHL center with good size but who just couldn't find a home on the Hawks' depth chart. Chicago wanted to give McNeill a fresh start. Oduya, obviously, can slide seamlessly back into coach Joel Quenneville's system in Chicago and helps provide depth with Niklas Hjalmarsson hitting the IR. It's not a guarantee Oduya reunites with old partner Hjalmarsson once he's back healthy, as the Hawks solidified a new top four by signing Brian Campbell in the summer. Oduya has shown signs of decline since signing with Dallas for last season and wasn't an effective possession player there. But he'd be a fine, experienced option to play on the bottom pair. That or Quenneville opts to recapture the Hjalmarsson/Oduya chemistry, which would give Chicago three solid pairings: Duncan Keith/Brent Seabrook, Hjalmarsson/Oduya and Campbell/Trevor van Riemsdyk. Regardless of how the Hawks use Oduya, he didn't cost much. Solid deal. – MATT LARKIN
TO OTTAWA: LW Viktor Stalberg TO CAROLINA: 2017 third-round pick
THN's Take: The Ottawa Senators bolstered their forward corps by acquiring the veteran Stalberg, who brings great speed and a big frame to the organization. A pending UFA, the left winger may very well be a rental, but in the wide-open Atlantic Division, the Sens can use him in the bottom six. Ottawa has a couple of injuries up front right now, including Bobby Ryan, so the more help the better. Stalberg may not contribute much offensively, but he can help out on the penalty-kill and has two shorthanded goals this season. For Carolina, the third-round selection goes into GM Ron Francis’ already-stocked coffers. The man is doing his rebuild the right way and now has seven selections in the first three rounds of the 2017 draft. -- RYAN KENNEDY
TO NEW YORK RANGERS: D Brendan Smith TO DETROIT: 2017 third-round pick; 2018 second-round pick
THN's Take: The Rangers again dealt their future in an effort to make one last run for a Cup with its current core. More here.
TO WASHINGTON: D Kevin Shattenkirk; G Pheonix Copley TO ST. LOUIS: 2017 first-round pick; 2019 conditional second-round pick; LW Zach Sanford; LW Brad Malone
THN's Take: The Capitals are going all in for a Stanley Cup with this move, as we wrote here.
TO OTTAWA: LW Alexandre Burrows To VANCOUVER: C Jonathan Dahlen
THN's Take: Well, we can at least give the Senators points for guts. The Burrows trade likely won't go over too well with the diehard, educated fan base – and it shouldn't. It's not like Burrows was a rental, acquired for a pick, as was the case with Brian Boyle and the Leafs. The Senators doubled down by extending Burrows for two more seasons at a $2.5-million cap hit. He turns 36 April 11. He'll be 38 when the deal ends. I get that the Senators have major injury woes to overcome on their wings, and that the Atlantic Division playoff race is wide open, but…yikes. Worse yet, the Sens surrendered left winger Jonathan Dahlen to Vancouver as the return. Dahlen, 19, rates as Ottawa's fifth-best prospect in our soon-to-be-releaseed Future Watch 2017. Dahlen was highly regarded enough to go 42nd overall in what was, keep in mind, a stellar 2016 draft class. It seems odd now that owner Eugene Melnyk balked at the Colorado Avalanche's asking price for Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog – only to mortgage an A-minus prospect for an agitator in Burrows. – MATT LARKIN
TO MONTREAL: D Jordie Benn TO DALLAS: D Greg Pateryn; 2017 fourth-round pick
THN's Take: We knew a defenseman acquisition for the Montreal Canadiens was likely, but Jordie Benn seems underwhelming. He has decent size and grades out as average defensively in the possession game. He's a legit NHL defenseman. But that's about it. He's just a tiny bit better than Greg Pateryn, not to mention smaller and older than Pateryn. Benn is also a left shot, and the Habs already have Andrei Markov, Alexei Emelin and Nathan Beaulieu as left shots, but Benn had played on the right side in Dallas with Dan Hamhuis on the left lately. Benn can do it and will likely play on Beaulieu's right, but it's not like the right side is Benn's natural fit, so it's a bit of a curious add. From the Stars' perspective, fans should hope Pateryn doesn't take a regular shift with the sinking squad – and that top prospect Julius Honka finds his away into the lineup instead. He showed some amazing possession numbers earlier this season when given 10 games at the NHL level. – MATT LARKIN
TO TORONTO: C Brian Boyle TO TAMPA BAY: C Byron Froese; 2017 second-round pick
THN's Take: We wrote about the Leafs going for it here.
TO MINNESOTA: C Martin Hanzal; RW Ryan White; 2017 fourth-round pick TO ARIZONA: 2017 first-round pick; 2018 second-round pick; 2019 conditional pick; C Grayson Downing
THN's Take: We wrote about Hanzal makes the Wild that much deeper here.
TO LOS ANGELES: G Ben Bishop; 2017 fifth-round pick TO TAMPA BAY: G Peter Budaj; D Erik Cernak; 2017 seventh-round pick; 2017 conditional pick
THN's Take: We wrote long stories about this deal here (on the Lighting's return) and here (on Kings' side).
TO CHICAGO: LW Tomas Jurco TO DETROIT: 2017 third-round pick
TO ANAHEIM: RW Patrick Eaves TO DALLAS: 2017 conditional second-round pick
THN's Take: This deal could be a win for both teams. More here.
A “hockey trade” to help St. Louis compete for a playoff berth would’ve been nice, but it wasn’t available. The Blues did the next best thing: trade Shattenkirk without losing him for nothing.
The Kevin Shattenkirk trade obviously signalled a massive Stanley Cup push for the team acquiring him, the Washington Capitals. And it felt like a white flag wave for the team sending him away, the St. Louis Blues.
It’s not like the Blues received a high-impact roster player in exchange for their prized pending unrestricted free agent defenseman. St. Louis got Zach Sanford, Brad Malone, a 2017 first-round pick and a conditional 2019 second-rounder for Shattenkirk. That’s a classic sell-off package. St. Louis knew it couldn’t afford to retain Shattenkirk this summer as a UFA given he’d command something in the range of $7 million annually at a seven-or eight-year term. Defenseman Colton Parayko is a restricted free agent this summer, Robby Fabbri next summer, and the Blues just extended center Patrik Berglund last week for five seasons at a $3.85-milllion cap hit. Per capfriendly.com, GM Doug Armstrong has 20 players signed for next season already and only about $7 million in cap space remaining, with Parayko left to re-sign. Even if the expansion draft plucks away a piece, it likely won’t be an expensive one – say, Nail Yakupov or Dmitrij Jaskin – so there just wasn’t going to be money left to extend Parayko and re-up Shattenkirk.
We all knew it, as did Shattenkirk’s suitors, which likely hurt Armstrong’s leverage. The package he received from the Capitals is thus respectable. Still, it’s not like Sanford and Malone project as major difference makers for this franchise. Sanford, 22, possesses great size and flashed some scoring potential with Boston College and in the USHL. Malone, 27, is AHL depth and nothing more. At the very least, it’s clear nothing St. Louis received will help much now.
That would be fine if the trade followed typical seller parameters, with the Blues mining the depths of the standings hoping for a lottery pick. But, geez, they currently occupy a playoff position. They hold down the second Western Conference wild-card spot at 67 points and have a game in hand on the L.A. Kings, who sit two points back. St. Louis won seven of eight games after Mike Yeo assumed head coaching duties with Ken Hitchcock let go, but they’ve now lost three straight. Did that mini skid cause Armstrong to declare his team’s Cup hopes dead?
The Capitals are tired of playoff disappointments. Already the best team in the league, they decided overkill was the smart strategy. That's why they went out and got the best player on the trade market.
It’s more complicated than that. Ideally, the Blues would’ve found a “hockey trade” for Shattenkirk, one that would’ve helped them stay competitive, but it was likely difficult to achieve. What team would surrender an important roster player, especially one with term left on his deal, to rent Shattenkirk? An extension would’ve had to be worked out between Shattenkirk and his new team for that to work, and it may have proven too tall of an order.
That left Armstrong with the decision to either keep his asset for the playoffs knowing he’d lose him in the summer – or seek the type of return typically reserved for a team with no playoff hopes. The guess here is the organization decided the fan base could not stomach losing another prized UFA for nothing. David Backes and Troy Brouwer walked in the summer, and the Blues are not nearly as good a team as they were a year ago. Having Shattenkirk depart would’ve been a public relations disaster, especially if the Blues ended up missing the playoffs with him in the lineup. Hey, it was possible. They occupied the lowest seed with an outstanding player like Shattenkirk.
The trade Monday night, then, was about saving face. It wasn’t the sexy return Blues fans likely hoped they’d get for Shattenkirk. The first-round pick could well be 31st overall if the Caps win the Stanley Cup. But the one thing we know about what St. Louis acquired for Shattenkirk and goalie Pheonix Copley: it was not nothing. That’s what St. Louis needed to ensure after losing Backes and Brouwer.
In the middle of a close playoff race, the Maple Leafs managed to secure a playoff-proven center with size without wavering from their mandate of building for the future.
The day Mike Babcock was hired to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs, team president Brendan Shanahan was asked whether he’d abandon the franchise rebuild if Babcock came to him saying they needed a veteran to help them make the playoffs, but it would cost a prospect and a second-round pick.
“I can tell you that was one of Mike’s questions for us and it was the opposite,” Shanahan said at the time. “It was, ‘If we’re four points out, are we still willing to stick to the plan?’ That was an important answer for him to get, especially from our board.”
Things were a little different Tuesday when the Leafs made a deal that netted them veteran center Brian Boyle. First of all, the Leafs aren’t four points out of the playoffs. They’re clinging to the last spot, one point behind the Boston Bruins with a game in hand for third place in the Atlantic Division. It’s a race that will likely go to the dying days of the season. And even though they did give up a second-rounder, it’s pretty safe to say Byron Froese isn’t really considered a prospect. (Although Babcock did seem to have a strange fascination with him last season when the Leafs were tanking the season.)
This is a deal that looks as though it has Babcock’s fingerprints all over it, but the best part of it is that they managed to secure a playoff-proven center with size without wavering from their mandate. And they can thank their work at last year’s trade deadline for that, when they dealt Roman Polak and Nick Spaling to the San Jose Sharks for a second-round pick in 2017 and picked up another from the Ottawa Senators in the Dion Phaneuf trade. One of those picks is now going to Tampa Bay and another is going to the Anaheim Ducks as part of the Fredrik Andersen trade, which still leaves the Leafs with one second-rounder.
And in return, the Leafs get a player who can play down the middle for them, complementing a center ice corps that now looks formidable with Auston Matthews, Nazem Kadri, Tyler Bozak and Boyle. The 6-foot-6 center has played exactly 100 playoff games, 95 of them over the past five seasons. In fact, no NHL player has seen more post-season action than Boyle has since 2012.
The Leafs are flush with prospects and young players and had a plethora of second-rounders, which seems to be the going rate for big-name rentals these days. In addition to the three they had in 2017, they also have two in 2018. With the success rate for second-round picks varying wildly, it was a small price to pay for a team that needed an upgrade on the Frederik Gauthier/Ben Smith tandem on the fourth line.
More importantly, it gives the Leafs an experienced player who knows what it’s like to play in meaningful games. Whether the Leafs ultimately make the playoffs or not, their young players will be exposed to crucial, tension-filled and important games down the stretch. And when was the last time anyone could say that? And if they make the post-season and expose their young stars to that level of competition, all the better. And not only will Boyle be instrumental in leading the way, he’ll also be able to offer some sage counsel to those players if the Leafs do find themselves in the chaos known as the playoffs.
The Atlantic Division is really weak. Spectacularly weak, actually. And if the Leafs can somehow find themselves in the No. 3 spot, they might be able to position themselves for a bit of a run. If not, they’ll find themselves playing the Washington Capitals in the first round and will almost certainly get trounced, but be all the better for having experienced the post-season.
And in case you haven’t noticed, the Leafs have been known to be woeful in two areas of the game – defensive zone coverage and holding onto leads late in games. Boyle will help immeasurably in both of those areas. To be sure, you just know Babcock will feel a lot better being able to put Boyle out for a defensive zone faceoff in the final minute of the game in which his team is clinging to a one-goal lead.
And don’t be surprised if the Leafs and Boyle make this a more long-term affair. Boyle is 32, but he actually doesn’t have a ton of NHL miles on him because he didn’t become a full-time NHLer until he was almost 25 years old. And it’s not as though the Leafs are going to be asking him to do more than an over-30 player is capable of doing. If he can provide them with two or three more years of quality defensive play and leadership, they’ll be happy to take that.
Largely because of Auston Matthews and Babcock, the Leafs have become a destination. Don’t be surprised if Boyle sees it that way, too.