Devils’ Boyle Trade Marks the Start of Something New

On Wednesday afternoon, the New Jersey Devils began looking towards the future. The team traded Brian Boyle to the Nashville Predators in exchange for a 2019 second-round pick. Boyle has totaled 13 goals and 19 points this season while playing a fourth-line role and will be a nice addition to a Predators team looking to make a deep playoff run. That said, don’t discount the Devils’ return because they got what they needed too.

What the Devils Gave up in Boyle

Boyle has been a valuable depth player for the Devils since they signed him in the summer of 2017. He finished his stint in New Jersey with 26 goals in 116 games, and he had a faceoff percentage above 50 percent in each season. Even though Boyle produced in his role, his 5-on-5 numbers weren’t the best.

Since the start of 2017-18, Boyle has an expected goals for (xGF%) of 47.95 percent, as well as a Corsi For of 48.50 percent. He hasn’t scored a ton at that game state, either, averaging 1.02 points per 60 minutes (P/60), which puts him in the same company as Drew Stafford and Nick Lappin.

Although Boyle hasn’t been great at 5-on-5, he’s stepped up on both the power play and the penalty kill. He’s averaged 2.64 primary points per 60 minutes (P1/60) over the last two seasons on the power play, ranked fifth best on the Devils. He’s also been one of the Devils’ strongest penalty killers. Only Pavel Zacha has suppressed shots at a higher rate while down a man (min. 100 minutes played).

Brian Boyle New Jersey Devils
The Devils will miss Brian Boyle’s presence on special teams. (Photo by Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This is where the Predators will find use in Boyle. He won’t provide much at 5-on-5, but he’s valuable on special teams. They’ll have to find a spot for him on their power play, but he should have no trouble cracking their penalty kill. He’s the type of depth player teams need for a Stanley Cup run, and that’s what the Predators acquired.

The Devils will miss what Boyle provided in a depth role, but his departure means some of their young players will have to step up. Miles Wood could get some of his power play minutes, while Kevin Rooney will get more time on the PK. More available minutes will help the Devils develop their young core through the rest of the season.

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What This Means for the Devils

It’s pretty clear the Devils needed to become sellers, and this trade is the start of that. They’re 20-25-7, and at this point in the season, it’ll take a miracle to make the playoffs. Unless they’re acquiring players who are locked into deals beyond next season, buying makes no sense.

As for the return, general manager Ray Shero made out very well. Boyle is a good player, and he’s having a solid season, but a second-round pick is a strong return for a fourth-line center, especially one on an expiring contract. There’s no guarantee that pick becomes an NHL player, but it’s an asset the Devils want in their hands.

If they end up using the selection in the 2019 Entry Draft, it won’t be the worst thing, given how strong this year’s draft class looks. They’re also in possession of two second-round picks, so they could look to move up on draft day if they choose to.

Brian Boyle New Jersey Devils
Brian Boyle’s departure marks the beginning of a Devils’ roster makeover. (Photo by Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

There’s also the chance for Shero to use the additional pick as trade bait. The Devils have a lot of holes to fill, and the draft and free agency won’t be able to cover them all. A second-round pick alone won’t get them an NHL player with term on his deal, but it could be used as part of a package to get a roster player that they need.

Boyle was a fan favorite in his time with the Devils. He battled through cancer (and won) and became an integral part of their run to the playoffs in 2017-18. They’ll miss his locker room presence, but there’s always the possibility he returns to the team as an unrestricted free agent this summer. For where the team is now, this was the right move, and they should be quite pleased with the return. Now, they can start building to get back to the postseason in 2019-20.

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