The San Jose Sharks are in serious trouble.
After taking a 3-0 series lead over the Los Angeles Kings in their 2014 Western Conference Quarterfinal series, the Sharks dropped four straight, with their failure to execute contributing as much to their elimination as the determination of the 2012 Stanley Cup champs. Earlier this week, it was announced San Jose would not be retaining the services of forward Martin Havlat–who will be traded–and defenseman Dan Boyle, a talented veteran offensive defenseman set to hit free agency this summer.
As it so happens, the Minnesota Wild could certainly use the services of a veteran top-4 offensive defenseman, though the team is also said to be in on the Thomas Vanek sweepstakes. With a plethora of young forward talent popping up left and right like daisies, perhaps the Wild’s cap space would be best put to use shoring up the back end. Acquiring the services of Boyle would certainly work to that effect.
An undrafted collegiate free agent, Boyle played four years for the Miami University (Ohio) RedHawks, scoring 30 goals and a total of 147 points in 148 regular season games. He was then signed by the Florida Panthers before being traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning three and a half seasons later. Boyle really hit his stride in Tampa Bay, scoring 66 goals and a total of 253 points and a negative-25 rating in 394 games. He also played a big role in helping the Lightning win the Stanley Cup in 2004, scoring two goals and eight assists for 10 points and a plus-7 rating in 23 games.
Boyle would then be traded fresh off of signing a contract extension with the Bolts to the Sharks in the summer of 2008, where he’s been a big part of their success in recent years. At 5’11” and 190-pounds, Boyle–who will turn 38 prior to next season–is slightly undersized for a defenseman, but he’s a smooth skater, superbly talented offensively and is a rare right-shot from the point. Outside of youngster Jared Spurgeon, Minnesota doesn’t have a right-shot blue liner that is ready to receive top-4 minutes let alone a regular NHL shift.
Unless the Wild has big plans in the immediate future for Nate Prosser and/or youngsters Mathew Dumba and Christian Folin, Boyle would certainly be a welcome addition to a blue line that always seems to be just one legitimate top-4 veteran defenseman away from greatness. The best part is that there are a lot of factors to this potential signing weighing in Minnesota’s favor. At 37, Boyle isn’t getting any younger and wants to win a Cup now. He’s coming off a six-year $6.666 Million per year deal, but the Wild could probably sign him for half that at a two or three-year deal. If that truly is the case, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher should jump on it, because it’s better to have another top-4 veteran defenseman in the fold this offseason rather than pay a hefty price at next year’s trade deadline.
There are certainly other options out there on the market when it comes to veteran defensemen, but there’s no question Boyle is as intriguing as they get. In the end, maybe Fletcher should consult Wild top defenseman and assistant captain Ryan Suter; I’m sure he’s got a thing or two to say about Boyle’s talents.