Should the Senators Pursue Dan Boyle?

There's a slightly surprising rumour making the rounds right now about the San Jose Sharks perhaps soliciting offers for the services of defenceman Dan Boyle. Whispers were around through the season, but thins really took off when John Buccigross tweeted an interesting tidbit:

Buccigross has been wrong before, of course, and others have denied that the offer was ever on the table, but it warrants discussion--especially considering the very capable blue line in San Jose (featuring the likes of Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Jason Demers, and Brad Stuart) and there's potential that the team wants to shake things up after a disappointing first-round exit last year. Also, the Sharks have some decent coin devoted to defencemen (over $24M), and might want to clear some cap space to upgrade their scoring ranks.

Assuming the Sharks are open to the idea of trading Boyle--which might be a big leap--there remain two questions here, in my estimation: Would the Senators benefit by trading for Boyle? If so, what might it take to acquire him?

To the first question, I think the response is an obvious "yes." Although the Senators currently have six blueliners as virtual locks for the roster next season and a seventh (Mark Borowiecki) extremely popular within the organization, there's always room to improve--especially in the puck-moving-defencemen department, which is currently occupied by Erik Karlsson and... umm... Sergei Gonchar, kind of. (Mike Lundin's currently slotted to be the puck mover on a third pairing, but it's going to be a stretch.)

Plus, he's from Ottawa, everyone. That right there is sufficient information, but he's also a leader and seems like an all-around good guy. With two years left on his deal (at $6.67M per), the former Ottawa 67 would also get to spend some time around fellow Ottawa native and current 67 Cody Ceci, who would definitely benefit from a little bit of mentorship from Boyle. The cap hit is theoretically something the Senators could afford, even if Boyle's production continues to decline as it has over the last few seasons (although really, if he's playing with Karlsson on the PP, I don't see his production declining too much).

If Boyle comes on board in a deal where none of our defencemen go out, Lundin becomes our seventh defender and Borowiecki heads to Binghamton for another season. Maybe I'm just a crazy person or maybe I'm optimistic, but I think the Senators could try to include Gonchar in an outgoing package to San Jose--it lessens the cap savings for San Jose (pending other parts being included in the deal), but Gonchar's deal is over after this season, and I actually think Gonchar might do alright in a supporting role on the Sharks' blue line.

Which brings us to the second question: What might it take to get Boyle in a Sens uniform?

One obvious possible answer: A healthy Marian Gaborik. But since the Sens don't have one of those, I reached out to a couple of the resident Sharks fans over at Battle of California with a few questions:

1. Whattaya think of the rumours?
2a. What kind of return would you expect?
2b. Is there any scenario in which you could see Sergei Gonchar as a part of that return package?

First up, the badassedly-named Megalodon:

1. I think these rumors are probably bullshit. Sure the Sharks have Burns and Stuart now, which is great, but as soon as they trade Dan Boyle then the team will be suffering from a really big Dan Boyle-shaped hole. The idea with adding Burns before last season was that Dan Boyle got tired in the playoffs playing all the powerplays AND acting as a number one defenseman, and Burns helps take some of that work away from him. Their first season playing together it didn't really work out that well, but I don't think Doug Wilson is going to abandon ship on the "two elite offensive defensemen" experiment right now.
Brad Stuart is a nice addition to the 2nd or 3rd pairing, but he's a significant step below Boyle and Burns in terms of skill. What the addition of Stuart really means for the Sharks is that one of the bottom-pair defensemen, like Murray or maybe Demers, might find themselves out of a spot.
2a. The Sharks have clearly been looking to score an offensive threat to add to the first or second line, so any trade involving Boyle would probably have to include someone that can fill that role. Also in my opinion trading Boyle is basically admitting the team's window for immediate success has closed (which it hasn't yet so they shouldn't do it), so it would make sense to go after young talent or draft picks.
2b. Sergei Gonchar? Well he's another old offensive defenseman, so he sort of looks like Boyle if you squint. He's not as good, though, and Doug Wilson hates non-North Americans, so I don't think it's likely. Unless the salary cap becomes the team's major concern, Boyle for Gonchar doesn't make sense - although of course adding in a couple of young prospects or a proven scorer to play on the second line could tip the scales.
Regarding your man-crush on Boyle [Ed. note: In case you haven't figured it out, I have one - PR] : It's important to note that Boyle is old and often hurt these days (I've made the point in the past that he's basically living a Tom Waits song), so you need to be ready for that if you're going to trade for him. Also, perhaps more importantly, he likes Godsmack, and Godsmack is horrible. I know that you're probably Canadian so you might not be too picky when it comes to music, but liking Godsmack is completely unacceptable.

Secondly, Patrick Marleau lover Mike Chen:

1. Not much, really. The local CSN insider reported that there was never an offer made to NYR. Here's the thing with Boyle -- Todd McLellan trusts him like crazy, and his ice time shows it. Now at his age, I think it would make WAY more sense to pull him down to the 20-22 minute mark, and with Stuart's acquisition (along with a better-acclimated Burns), I think this is possible. You'll see much more efficiency out of Boyle that way, as his trademark flaw is that he often tries to do too much when shit ain't right.

The other thing is that Boyle played through a pretty major injury for the first two months of the season. After that, he played much better, and he never made any excuses for it. He definitely could be a little tougher in the defensive zone, but I think properly distributed minutes could impact that. In short, I think Doug Wilson has to listen to any offers but they would lose much more than they would gain, as a player with Boyle's skill set is difficult to come by.

Another wrinkle in this is how far along the Sharks think Justin Braun is. However, I think they would give Braun one more season to mature before making any decisions on Boyle's contract.

2a. Something pretty significant. Probably a package of a top-six forward and a top-four defenseman. Like I said above, you can't replicate Boyle's skill set or his competitive fire very easily.

2b. It depends on who he is packaged with. I imagine the ideal package would be a reasonable two-way defenseman and a second-line forward -- the types of players that get overpaid in free agency but fill
valuable roles.

Here's what I can see happening -- if Burns looks more consistent, Stuart eats up PK minutes, and Braun plays bonkers out of the gate (get the tissues for the Fear The Fin folks if that happens) and the Sharks want more forward depth to get a stronger third line and another top-six caliber flex forward, it would make sense to trade an asset like Boyle to get a more balanced roster. But the stars have to align for that to happen.

There you have it: In all likelihood, a very good scorer (see: Gaborik, Marian), or a pretty good scorer plus some pretty good to very good prospects. Maybe a pretty good second-pairing defenceman in there, but it doesn't seem like Gonchar would fit that bill (even if you squint a little).

A scoring forward would almost certainly have to be a part of the deal, then. Neither of Jason Spezza nor Daniel Alfredsson are going to be part of any deal right now, for obvious reasons. Considering how long it took to find a reasonably capable second-line centre, I don't see Kyle Turris going, either. Prospects like Mika Zibanejad and Jakob Silfverberg are unproven, wouldn't fit San Jose's need for immediate support, and--if traded for a 36-year-old defenceman--would probably set back our rebuild a little ways. So we're looking at Milan Michalek as a part of any potential deal, if the Sharks are interested in re-acquiring the former Shark. He'd fit in well in San Jose (again), but our offence would probably suffer hugely if he was a part of the deal (plus he seems like a pretty popular guy in a pretty cohesive dressing room).

So I might find myself ending with the same conclusion I had when I examined a possible move for Jay Bouwmeester: As nice as the acquisition would be, Boyle's value to the Sharks is probably higher than the Sens would be willing to pay.

In the aftermath of the Nashville Predators' decision to match the Philadelphia Flyers' offer sheet to Shea Weber, the Flyers are probably after a top defenceman, too. Somehow they always seem to have an abundance of forward talent, so there's a possible move to be made there. Boyle's nearly as different from Weber as I am, but there's no denying that he's still a capable puck mover in the NHL; will Philly's failed offer sheet kick up the market for Boyle?


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