The Case For and Against Signing Dan Boyle

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Should the Senators sign UFA defenseman Dan Boyle?

 

After six successful seasons in San Jose, Dan Boyle expressed his desired to stay with the Sharks despite a disappointing first round exit against the Los Angeles Kings.

 


 

Unfortunately, Sharks GM Doug Wilson has other plans.

 


 

With Wilson confirming yesterday that the Sharks won't re-sign the veteran defenseman, Boyle now headlines this summer's UFA class for defensemen. While Boyle's previous contract is the most expensive on the list, he'll be 38 in July and might find himself with fewer suitors if he wants a multi-year deal.

Boyle's an Ottawa native and that fact combined with his résumé (Stanley Cup in 2004, Olympic gold in 2010) is no doubt appealing to Sens GM Bryan Murray. Murray is no stranger to making a free agency splash by inking an aging, offensive defenseman. Four years ago when veteran Russian defenseman Sergei Gonchar was a UFA, Murray was willing to give him a three-year deal when other teams were only willing to commit two, and Gonchar signed with the Sens. With "leadership" all the rage in the nation's capital these days, a veteran like Boyle could help guide youngsters like Wiercioch, Cowen, and Ceci.

 

Ottawa's experience with Gonchar, both during his three years with the team and last season after his departure, should serve as a note of caution for Ottawa. Gonchar netted 91 points in 186 games with the Sens but struggled offensively and defensively at times. Gonchar was a useful player for the Sens during his time in Ottawa, but at $5.5 million per season, the price was steep.

Boyle will most likely sign for at least that price and at least two seasons. Is he worth the price for a budget-conscious team like Ottawa?

Boyle still led the Sharks defense in ice time this season, but was passed by Marc-Eduard Vlasic as the team's best defenseman, as evidenced by Vlasic selection to Team Canada.

By his own admission, 2013-2014 was a disappointing season for Boyle. He suffered a serious concussion and admits he rushed back from the injury, which probably impacted his play. What remains unclear was how much can of his decline can be attributed to his concussion, his age, or a mixture of both. As Fear the Fin's The Neutral explains, Boyle was also the victim of some poor team shooting percentage:

While Boyle's struggles were certainly real, part of what explains his diminished production in the regular season was the fact that the Sharks scored on just 5.7% of the shots taken when Boyle was on the ice at even-strength. Particularly for defensemen, that's a percentage that tends to regress to league average in the long run.

Despite the down year, Boyle still had good possession numbers (53 CF%). But there's reason for concern there too, as @GraemeNichols from The 6th Sens illustrates:

Unfortunately however, his advanced numbers reflect a player who played sheltered minutes and posted average relative corsi numbers on a very good team. Granted, they were still impressive corsi numbers, but the concern here is: 1) whether his numbers (and to what degree) are propped up by playing in San Jose; and 2) whether Ottawa’s a situation that will expose Boyle and put him in a situation where he cannot be as successful.

How does Boyle fit into Ottawa's blueline? Admittedly, it's tough to find the dollars and the space for him. Re-signing Chris Phillips eats up some of the money that could have been spent on Boyle as well as a spot on the backend. Ottawa already has eight defensemen and Murray would need to make at least one trade (mostly likely one of Eric Gryba, Jared Cowen, Mark Borowiecki, or Patrick Wiercioch). It's possible Murray could move two defensemen to accommodate signing Boyle, but I think it's more likely Cody Ceci, with his affordable ELC, spends the season in the AHL if the Shark is signed.

Boyle is still a quality power play quarterback. In 2013-14, he scored six goals and 18 points with the man-advantage and would give Ottawa an impressive one-two punch from the blueline. While it's possible Paul MacLean would play Erik Karlsson and Boyle together on the power play, both are right-handed shots and MacLean has been loath to put such pairings together in the past. However, Boyle on the second power play unit seriously upgrades the power play as a whole and means Karlsson won't have to play the full two minutes.

 

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