3 Potential Landing Spots for Brian Boyle

After going unsigned for the entire 2020-21 season, it appeared that Brian Boyle’s career, at least as an NHLer, had come to an end. However, the now-37-year-old continued to believe in himself, stayed in game shape, and was able to not only secure a professional tryout offer (PTO) with the Pittsburgh Penguins ahead of the 2021-22 season, but went on to earn himself a one-year, $750,000 contract.

Related: Metropolitan Division Predictions for the 2022-23 Season

Entering the past season at the age of 36, expectations amongst fans were quite low for Boyle. After all, he had never been much of an offensive producer, and taking a whole season off at his age should have meant he was all but done. However, he was able to prove rather valuable to the Penguins in 2021-22, scoring 11 goals and 21 points in just 66 games, while also playing a significant role on the penalty kill. By the sounds of things, he is hoping to contribute to an NHL roster in a similar way in 2022-23, and these three teams in particular may prove to be a great fit for the 6-foot-6, 245-pound centerman.

Pittsburgh Penguins

While the Penguins did go out and sign another bottom-six penalty killer this offseason in Josh Archibald, they still have room for Boyle on their roster. By all accounts he was beloved in the dressing room and was also highly respected by the fanbase as he not only performed well in limited ice time, but gave it his all every single time he was on the ice.

Brian Boyle Pittsburgh Penguins
Brian Boyle, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Penguins, as a team, last season ranked third in the entire NHL with a penalty killing percentage of 84.4, trailing only the San Jose Sharks and Carolina Hurricanes. Boyle played a massive role in that, as his average of 1:53 minutes per game when down a man trailed only two other forwards on the Penguins’ roster in Teddy Blueger and Brock McGinn.

The biggest problem when it comes to re-signing Boyle right now is cap space, as the Penguins are roughly $1.4 million over the maximum allowable. That said, they could look to bring Boyle in on another PTO and see how things shake out at camp. An injury or perhaps a bad performance from a fringe player would be all it takes to get him another one-year deal.

Ottawa Senators

It has been an incredible offseason for the Ottawa Senators who, thanks to some major additions, appear to be a serious competitor for a playoff spot in 2022-23. However, that said, there are still a few question marks on their roster up front, particularly in their fourth-line center position, which is currently set to be occupied by Dylan Gambrell.

Gambrell, 25, was acquired early into the 2021-22 season from the Sharks in exchange for a seventh-round draft pick. He was able to dress in a career-high 63 games with the Sens, but struggled to make much of anything happen with just three goals and seven points. At this point, he seems like nothing more than a depth option and, age aside, appears to be less effective than Boyle at this time.

Even if the Senators do wish to keep Gambrell up with the big club for the 2022-23 season, they could still choose to sign Boyle as a 13th forward for insurance. It isn’t as if cap space is an issue, as the 871-game veteran would undoubtedly take another league-minimum deal again, and as of now general manager Pierre Dorion sits nearly $8 million below the max.

Chicago Blackhawks

Despite being in the very early stages of a rebuild, bringing in a veteran forward like Boyle to help guide some younger players could be a great move by the Chicago Blackhawks. While they do still have two great leaders in Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, both have been heavily involved in trade rumors and could very well be dealt before or in the midst of the 2022-23 campaign.

If the Blackhawks were to choose to bring Boyle into the mix, there are plenty of areas he can fit into. Despite being pencilled in as the team’s third-line center, Max Domi is able to play the wing as well if need be. There is also an opening on the fourth line down the middle, a position which is currently expected to be filled by Sam Lafferty, though he, too, is able to play on the wing.

Brian Boyle #11, New Jersey Devils
Brian Boyle in the 2018-19 season as a member of the New Jersey Devils (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

To no surprise given the weakness of their team, the Blackhawks have well over $7 million in cap space, meaning they would also have no problem bringing in Boyle. This one would instead likely come down to the player’s decision himself, as this could very well be his last contract in the NHL, meaning he may still want to wait things out to see if an offer from a playoff-caliber team comes his way. At this point and time, however, he may have to settle with anything that comes his way.

Boyle an Inexpensive Veteran Presence

For any teams looking to add a very cheap veteran to the lineup, there are few better options available than Boyle at this point and time. He is a more effective player than others who remain without deals in Keith Yandle and Zdeno Chara, and won’t command the same salary as a guy like Phil Kessel. Many teams could certainly do worse than him as their extra forward.