When the Boston Bruins traded away Johnny Boychuk back in October, it felt like a slap in the face.
The 31-year-old defenseman was shipped to the New York Islanders for a trio of draft picks just five days before the start of the regular season. Boychuk was about to enter the final year of his contract with a Bruins team that was up against the salary cap. Boston had their doubts about whether they would be able to re-sign number 55 to a long-term extension and eventually decided to trade him to Long Island.
The club may have saved $3.3 million in cap space, but it could not account for the loss of a player that was a solid defenseman on the ice and very popular with the fans off of it.
Six Years In Boston
When Boychuk arrived from Colorado in 2008, no one expected the type of impact he would eventually have as a staple on the Bruins blueline.
The Edmonton native showcased his offensive ability in Providence scoring 20 goals and 66 points in 78 games during the 08-09 season. As a 26-year-old, he earned a permanent roster spot with the parent club.
It was the ideal start to life on Causeway Street. However, it only got better. The next season, Boychuk was part of the Stanley Cup championship team of 2011.
Boychuk began to cement himself as a top-four defenseman playing alongside captain Zdeno Chara in the years to come. The six-foot-two-inch point man was one of the NHL’s most underrated defensive defensemen during the back half of his tenure in Boston.
Another part of Boychuk’s game was the booming slap shot he possessed, earning the nickname “Johnny Rocket”. The right-handed defenseman had a cannon of a slapshot but only managed to score 19 goals in 317 regular season games with the Bruins.
In Boston’s run to the Cup Finals in 2013, Boychuk lit the lamp six times in 22 games while playing stout defensively. It was a sign that he was more than just a “stay-at-home” defenseman and could contribute on the attack.
Regardless, during his time in Boston, he was called upon more for preventing goals than scoring them, which he did very well.
Resurgence on Long Island
When the Islanders brought in Boychuk, the expectation was that he would be a top-two defenseman paired alongside fellow trade acquisition Nick Leddy from Chicago. The duo combined to spearhead a resurgence on Long Island.
Coach Jack Capuano turned Boychuk loose on offense this season. The former second-round pick in 2002 repaid the faith shown by his new coach. Boychuk posted career-highs in goals (9), assists (26), points (35), and time-on-ice per game (21:40).
Capuano also did something Claude Julien was reluctant to do; use Boychuk on the power-play. “Johnny Rocket” had the opportunity to unleash the shot he was famous for back in Boston. His 2:40 power-play time-on-ice per game led all Islanders defensemen while recording a career-high five goals on the man advantage.
In his six years in Boston, Boychuk only did it once.
Defensively, he was still responsible as ever. Boychuk led the club in shorthanded time-on-ice per game (2:02) and blocked shots (149). However, the Isles were thin on the blue line beyond the top two and could not be cured of their defensive woes.
Regardless, Boychuk was handed the reigns as Long Island’s number-one defenseman. He performed well in his new role, stabilizing the blue line for years to come.
Seven More Years!
Garth Snow was satisfied enough to keep his offseason acquisition around for the foreseeable future.
Yes! Yes! Yes! For seven more years!!
— Johnny Boychuk (@joboych) March 12, 2015
He signed Boychuk to a seven-year contract extension on March 12 worth $6 million per season.
“”Johnny’s influence in our dressing room, both on and off the ice, has been immeasurable. His veteran presence is an asset that we are thrilled to help lead our club.” – Garth Snow on Boychuk
During their series with the Washington Capitals, many Bruins fans traded in their Black and Gold for Orange and Blue due in large part to Boychuk. His defensive work on Caps captain and superstar Alex Ovechkin garnered praise from hockey circles around the league. It even made Don Cherry refer to him as “elite”.
And to think he was traded away for three draft picks to save cap space. Ouch.
In his press conference after announcing the trade, Chiarelli uttered this famous line.
“[Boychuk] was upset. I was upset. I’m still upset.”
Though he may be in Edmonton now, Bruins fans are still upset at Chiarelli for dealing Johnny Boychuk away.
In fact, they may be upset for a long time.
Joe is a writer covering the Boston Bruins. He is a lifelong native of Massachusetts and is currently a content writer/manager for a newsletter at a Human Services Agency. Joe can be found on Twitter: @JoeCherryTHW