The Tampa Bay Lightning are in the midst of their first-ever Stanley Cup playoff series against their in-state rival Florida Panthers. The two teams have a long history of playing against each other in the Sunshine State Showdown but have never made any blockbuster transactions on the business side of the game. The Lightning, however, did make arguably one of the best trades in franchise history when they acquired defenseman Dan Boyle from the Panthers. He not only played a key role in the Lightning’s 2004 Stanley Cup win, but his trade ultimately led to the addition of Andrei Vasilevskiy.
On Jan. 7, 2002, Lightning general manager Jay Feaster sent a 2003 fifth-round draft pick to the Panthers in exchange for Boyle. Registering 147 points in 148 games played, Boyle excelled at the NCAA level. His offensive capabilities translated well to the AHL, tallying 99 points in 117 games across three seasons. He spent time in both the NHL and the AHL from 1998 to 2001 but never reached his true potential during his time in South Florida. The undrafted Miami University (OH) product played 129 NHL games prior to arriving in Tampa.
Boyle finally found his stride when he put on the Bolts uniform. In the remainder of the 2001-02 season, he tallied five goals and 15 assists in 41 games. He became a star for the Lightning, bringing an offensive dimension to an already physical defensive corps.
Boyle’s strong skating abilities and offensive prowess made him a great power play quarterback. A scoring powerhouse, he recorded less than 53 points just once in his four full seasons with the Lightning. During the 2006-07 season, he became the first defenseman in franchise history to light the lamp 20 times in a season. What was initially a depth move by the Lightning ultimately had a major, long-lasting impact on the organization. The Panthers used the 2003 fifth-round pick to draft defenseman Martin Tuma, who never made an NHL appearance.
Hoisting the Cup
Boyle played an instrumental role in the Lightning’s first Stanley Cup win in 2004. His 39 points helped the Lightning win their second straight Southeast Division title, finishing the regular season with a record of 46-22-8-6. He finished the season with 15 power play points, a plus-23 rating, and averaged 22:46 of ice time.
And Boyle was no slouch in the playoffs, either. He tallied two goals and eight assists in 23 games played. He played incredibly well at both ends of the ice, and you could certainly argue he did not get the recognition he deserved. When speaking about Boyle’s role during the Stanley Cup playoffs, former head coach John Tortorella said,
“I don’t think [Boyle] ever received enough credit for what a fierce competitor [he was]. I witnessed it first-hand. [He was] the engine of our Stanley Cup team. We don’t get where we go if it isn’t (for) what [he did] at that rover position that [he] had, as far as just doing [his] thing.”
One of the major storylines from the Stanley Cup Final occurred during Game 1 of the series. Boyle’s house was engulfed in flames due to an electrical fire, ultimately causing approximately $300,000 worth of damage. Fortunately, no one was injured in the incident. Boyle did not miss a single game in the series and hoisted the Stanley Cup after a 2-1 Game 7 win at the St. Pete Times Forum. I am sure that rebuilding his family’s home led to a long summer, but I can imagine having the Stanley Cup in hand made it a little easier.
Despite signing a six-year, $40 million contract extension in Feb. 2008, Boyle’s tenure with the Lightning would soon come to an end. The franchise found itself in financial turmoil and was ultimately sold to new ownership that June. The new management was desperate to shed salary and, despite his enormous impact on the team, pressured Boyle to waive his no-trade clause. After initially refusing, he eventually gave in. The Lightning sent Boyle and Brad Lukowich to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Matt Carle, Ty Wishart, a 2009 first-round pick, and a 2010 fourth-round pick.
Unfortunately, Boyle’s exit left a major blemish on his time with the Lightning. When asked about the trade situation, Boyle said,
“I don’t have the nicest things to say about what happened, but I don’t want to dwell on this…I was misled and disrespected, and it was really not the right way to do a lot of things. I don’t have anything good to say about how all this went down.”
Although fans would have liked him to stay longer, Boyle’s legacy as star defenseman will be everlasting in Tampa. Overall, he played 394 games with the Lightning, recording 253 points and averaging 24:32 of ice time. An elite defenseman and Stanley Cup champion, he retired after 17 seasons in the NHL.
After six seasons with the Sharks, Boyle played his final two seasons with the New York Rangers. He tallied 164 goals and 441 assists in 1,093 NHL games. On Oct. 5, 2016, the 5-foot-9 blueliner, who certainly did not let his size define him, officially announced his retirement.
Nearly two decades after the trade that sent Boyle to Tampa, the Lightning continue to reap the benefits of his trade chain. Trading him away to the Sharks was not a well-liked transaction at the time, but it ultimately led to drafting Vasilevskiy.
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As I mentioned previously, Carle came to the Lightning as a part of the deal that sent Boyle to the Sharks. Carle played just 12 games with the Bolts before being traded, in addition to a 2009 third-round pick, to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Lightning received forward Steve Downie, defenseman Steve Eminger, and a 2009 fourth-round pick. Downie played well for the Lightning, tallying 112 points in 214 games with the club. In his fourth season in Tampa, he was part of a three-team trade that sent him to Colorado and brought defenseman Kyle Quincey to the Lightning.
Quincey was then traded to the Detroit Red Wings for a 2012 first-round pick. The pick was number 19 overall — the glorious pick that the Lightning used to draft Vasilevskiy. The Big Cat has developed into arguably the best goaltender in the world. Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but it is hard to imagine where the franchise would be without him in net. All in all, Boyle will forever be remembered as one of the best blueliners to put on a Lightning uniform. Although his time in Tampa ended on a bad note, Bolts fans should be thankful that it ultimately led to the acquisition of the winningest backstop in franchise history.
Andrew is a freelance writer who covers the Tampa Bay Lightning at The Hockey Writers. He is a passionate hockey fan who grew up near Tampa, Florida. He is a husband, father to a Golden Retriever, and is studying to be a Physician Assistant. Follow me on Twitter: @Andrew_Mulville