Over the weekend, Comcast SportsNet reported that the Flyers are interested in San Jose defenseman Dan Boyle. There are certainly questions: Would the Sharks move him? Would he be a good fit? Is he worth the $6.6 million cap hit he comes with? Are the Flyers just driving up the price for the New York Rangers, as we'd expect them to do.
To help find some answers, I had a quick Q&A with our friends from SB Nation's Sharks blog, Fear The Fin. See our conversation below.
BSH: Would the Sharks be willing to part with Dan Boyle at the deadline?
FTF: It's possible but I can really only see it making sense for the Sharks if the return is immense, which I suppose goes without saying. Trading Boyle would essentially be throwing in the towel on this season and given the degree to which things headed south in terms of attendance and season-ticket renewals the last time the Sharks missed the playoffs a decade ago, Doug Wilson knows to tread lightly here.
Despite the declining salary cap, the Sharks aren't really in a position where they'll be forced to move Boyle. Presumably Martin Havlat can either be traded or dumped via amnesty buyout and it seems likely that's an option the team would pursue before shipping out their top defenseman and ice time leader. If Boyle is shipped out, it's because Wilson has decided to focus on the future and believes he can secure a substantial part of that future by moving #22.
What would they require in order to part with Boyle?
Prior to this past weekend, I would have said a young forward with top-six upside. But given the prices paid for the likes of Douglas Murray and Brenden Morrow, it's clear that the speculation this would be a sellers' market wasn't without merit. An interested team would likely have to ante up a 1st rounder in addition to a young forward to convince the Sharks to move Boyle at the deadline, unless the forward is a legitimate building block like Sean Couturier, a price I'm guessing the Flyers balk at.
As long as we're talking Flyers, perhaps Matt Read and a 1st would get it done although that still seems awfully steep for Philadelphia. Regardless, I wouldn't be shocked if that's the price range the Sharks are expecting for Boyle. Combined with the aforementioned factors, I think this makes it more likely a potential Boyle deal will be orchestrated at the draft rather than the deadline.
Since he's been out West the last few years, tell us about Boyle's game. The strengths, the weaknesses, etc.
The rumors of Dan Boyle's demise as an effective defenseman have been greatly exaggerated in my opinion. After recovering from a broken foot that he somehow managed to play through for the first two months of the 2011-12 season, Boyle was placed on the Sharks' shutdown defense pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic and excelled in difficult minutes playing against the conference's elite forwards. It was the culmination of a process that began when Todd McLellan first arrived in San Jose, parallel to the trade that made Boyle a Shark.
Although he was largely sheltered that first season on the West Coast, facing third-tier competition on a pairing with Brad Lukowich, Boyle's responsibilities at even-strength slowly increased as the years went by to the point where he and Douglas Murray were mostly deployed against the toughs in 2010-11 before he and Vlasic became the team's all-situations tandem last season. In addition to being able to move the puck at a high level during even-strength play, Boyle is arguably the best power play quarterback in the NHL.
His arrival in San Jose (along with McLellan's) transformed the Sharks' 5-on-4 unit from decent to terrifying. From 2008 through 2012, no defenseman in the NHL was on the ice for more shots on goal per 60 minutes of power play time than Boyle and only ex-Shark Christian Ehrhoff was on the ice for more 5-on-4 goals per 60. Where he shouldn't be counted on to provide all that much help (although he's still a passable option) is the penalty kill but he can still log a large amount of tough minutes effectively at even-strength and run the first unit of a power play.
Now at age 36, how long do you see him performing at a high level? Can he be an anchor for several more years?
It's impossible to say for sure since the aging curve for defensemen tends to vary quite a bit more than that for forwards but he hasn't shown many concrete signs of slowing down. Another undrafted, undersized defenseman with offensive ability in Brian Rafalski was able to be a very important piece of the Red Wings blueline through the end of his 37-year-old season and was a first-pairing Olympian at 36 so it probably isn't ridiculous to suggest Boyle can continue to be the player he is now through at least the end of his current contract.
Despite playing through the aforementioned foot injury in 2011, Boyle has never missed more than six games in any season as a Shark and, barring any freak occurrences, could at the very least quarterback a dangerous power play until he's 40.
Our thanks to Fear The Fin for taking the time. What are your thoughts?