According to Darren Dreger (via Jonas Siegel), former San Jose Sharks defenceman Dan Boyle, whose rights are currently owned by the New York Islanders, has the Toronto Maple Leafs high on his list of teams that he’d like to play for. This ties in nicely with a quote from Dreger (via Hope Smoke) last month saying that the Leafs likely have interest in him. But does this lead to anything?
Does it make sense for Toronto?
Here’s the thing with Dan Boyle, and it’s the same thing as with Joe Thornton. Despite being 38 years old, he’s still one of the league’s better offensive defencemen, and more often than not, he keeps the puck away from the defensive zone entirely. Granted, playing for the San Jose Sharks for the last couple of years has probably been a contributor to that, but on a relative scale, Boyle was excellent in 2012/13 and just a hair below the team average in the regular season. He was also one of San Jose’s best players during the first round that they would prefer to never speak about again.
Boyle’s spot on the Leafs would be on the first pair, alongside Dion Phaneuf. Say what you will, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Boyle is an upgrade over Carl Gunnarsson, who, while solid, probably shouldn’t be the on the top pair, as he has been for the past couple of years. Boyle’s offensive prowess should allow for him to be looked at to pinch more often than Phaneuf, which alleviates some of the concern about Dion’s foot speed. he’d make that pair much strong with the puck, which should limit the amount of defence-first situations required to begin with.
As well, if Toronto plans on parting ways with Cody Franson, Boyle can step into his role on the powerplay. This allows them to use Franson as an asset in a trade to upgrade in another position, such as centre. Boyle also would add a veteran presence to the team. I’m not sure that I buy into that as a key component, but it’s a good bit of cake icing for a team that hasn’t had a 35+ player that isn’t a role guy in over half a decade.
Does it make sense for Boyle?
The speculation for the past few weeks is that Boyle is specifically interested in joining a contender, which makes Toronto seem like a weird team to have so high on the list. But who knows. That could just be smoke and mirrors, or maybe he sees the Leafs more positively than some people. While one can definitely argue that an overhaul of systems execution is necessary from the coaching staff, the player personnel only needs two big pieces to be “in the conversation”, and he would be one of them.
Besides, what competitor would be likely to persue him? Most of the elite teams in the league either have their top pairing figured out, or have limited cap space. There are some exceptions; Anaheim, Colorado, and depending on how you feel about them, Montreal come to mind. But even then, the Avs have some young pieces that are going to need contracts or replacements, the Habs may just retain Andrei Markov, and jumping to a rival in the Ducks doesn’t seem likely. People have brought up a return to Tampa Bay, and I suppose it’s possible, but he left the city on pretty bad terms in 2008. I don’t think Toronto is the obvious front runner, but seeing the Leafs on his list isn’t entirely shocking.
Though honestly, if I were him, I’d keep talking to the Islanders for the time being. Their glaring issues last year appeared to be a lack of starting goaltender, first pairing defenceman, and healthy John Tavares, and with Jaroslav Halak now being on the team, he could be one of the three pillars of the solution. But, barring that, Toronto at least exists.
Is It likely?
I think this one is far from a slam dunk, but deserves at least a maybe. Both sides seem to be willing, and the fit seems theoretically possible. My initial worry was that he’d ask for too many years (35+ players stay on the cap if they retire), but a two year deal doesn’t seem like something that would come back to haunt them, at least for long. This may be the easiest route to go in pursuit of a number two defenceman without giving up assets, at least for now.