Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News tweeted this shortly after the Rangers acquired Keith Yandle from Arizona:
This trade is an indictment of the Dan Boyle off-season signing
— Pat Leonard (@PLeonardNYDN) March 1, 2015
He couldn’t have been more correct if he tried.
When the Rangers signed the now-38-year-old Dan Boyle on the opening day of free agency last summer, it was in the hopes that he would finally be their puck-moving, offensive minded defenseman who could finally quarterback the power play. What they got instead was an aging veteran who did all of those things at one time in his career, but has long since lost overall effectiveness in most of those areas of the game.
Now, the Rangers are shelling out $4.5 million a year for an average defenseman who is not a big piece of the power play, a staple in what was once the argument for bringing him to New York in the first place.
There is no question that if this were the Dan Boyle of 2006, the Rangers would have offered more money for a longer period of time for him to be the lights-out power play quarterback he once was. Unfortunately for the Rangers, this is a very different Dan Boyle, and not in a beneficial way for the Blueshirts.
Once upon a 2006-07 season, Dan Boyle was playing with the Tampa Bay Lightning, arguably at the highest level of his career. He finished the year with a staggering 63 points, 37 of which came while skating with the man-advantage. Yes, over half of his points that season came on what was the ninth-ranked power play in the National Hockey League.
You’d better believe he was an impact player on that Lightning power play.
When his tenure began in San Jose in 2008-09, the Ottawa native continued to produce offensively, particularly when it came to special teams and the power play. In each of his first three seasons with the Sharks, Boyle registered 25 or more points with the man-advantage, equating to equal or greater than 50 percent of his offensive production for the entirety of each of those seasons.
There is no denying the impressiveness of those numbers. Dan Boyle was, at one time, an extremely effective offensive defenseman, but come the lockout-shortened season of 2013, that all started to change.
While the majority of Boyle’s offensive production was still coming on the power play, his rate of production started to decrease. After putting up 48-plus points four seasons in a row, he came back with 20 total points in 46 games played in 2013. Even if the season had been a full 82 games, he would have been on pace to finish the year with 35 points, a marked decrease from the year before. Then in the first full season back following the lockout, almost on cue, Boyle returned with a 36 point season, 18 of which came on the power play.
With his two-year production decline as well as his continued aging, which never does actually slow down, Glen Sather went out and spent $4.5 million per-year to bring in the veteran.
Boyle’s declining scoring trend of the two prior seasons wasn’t a mirage. No, it was actually quite indicative of what was to come for Boyle, and his numbers this year indicate that quite clearly. In 45 games this season in New York, Boyle has registered just eight goals and seven assists for 15 points, only seven of which have come on the power play. I’m sorry, but those are not numbers of a power play quarterback.
The Dan Boyle who’s showed up on Broadway this year is not the same Dan Boyle of seasons past.
And so, here we are in the recent aftermath of what was the 2015 NHL trade deadline with the Rangers adjusting to life with top-tier defenseman in Keith Yandle now at their blue line; a defenseman who has now three times in his career posted 25 or more power play points in a season.
It should, because Yandle is entering the stage of his career that Boyle was in approximately six years ago. Yandle is – let’s be honest here – exactly what Glen Sather hoped he would get out of Dan Boyle last July 1st, but when reality smacked him in the face, he came to the realization that Yandle was needed to play the role Boyle otherwise would have.
If Dan Boyle was seven or eight years younger, this Yandle acquisition never would have been necessary. But now, in an effort to make up for what has become a clear mishap from the offseason past, Sather had to make up for his missteps. That’s not to say Boyle has been bad by any means, he just hasn’t done what Sather had in mind when he inked him to a 2-year deal worth $9 million last July.
And so here the Rangers are, near the top of the league, playing some very impressive hockey as of late. They have an offense that has no trouble finding the back of the net, and a defense that’s deeper than the Atlantic itself. But when you step back and think of what unfolded this past weekend, go ahead and ask yourself if Yandle ever would have even entered the mind of Glen Sather had Boyle worked out the way he’d initially hoped?
The answer should be a resounding no.
Yandle is a no doubt a great addition to the Rangers. He may in fact be in Don Maloney’s words “the final piece to a Stanley Cup winning team.” But no matter what Sather may say publically, this was also an indictment of the offseason signing that was Dan Boyle.
Jake Gittler is now in his second season as a contributing member of The Hockey Writers. After spending the 2014-15 season working in Communications for Adirondack Flames of the AHL and covering the New York Rangers here for The Hockey Writers, Jake’s coverage has been switched over to the Colorado Avalanche for the 2015-16 season. Jake can be reached via email at Jakegittler@gmail.com, or on Twitter @Jgittler_hockey.