Object of Offseason Affection: Dan Boyle?

That was the news that broke from this afternoon’s garbage bag day at the HP Pavilion Arena SAP Center where the San Jose Sharks cleaned out their lockers.

After suffering through another disappointing playoff ouster, learning that veteran defenceman would not be brought back by General Manager Doug Wilson is hardly surprising. Given Boyle’s salary ($6.67M cap hit) and age (37), the Sharks probably feel like it is in their best interests to move in a different and younger direction.

Conversely, despite having an influx of defencemen who are either under contract or will still be under team control, Boyle could be a potential fit for the Ottawa Senators.

The team has bemoaned the lack of leadership and experience on the blue line and Paul MacLean blamed the blue line’s turnovers within the defensive zone as a sore spot that exacerbated the team’s defensive zone coverage problems.

“Our defensive zone play was a concern for us and part of that was how we exited our zone. We turned the puck over more than anyone in the league inside our defensive zone and that certainly led to scoring chances for the other teams. Our goalies didn’t have much of a chance on some of the turnovers. Moving forward that’s one of our biggest concerns. We have made some strides in our defensive zone but still have lots of work to do there. We had young defensemen starting the year and we felt we would be able to make the adjustments but just didn’t do it quick enough. At the same time, our veteran players who we felt were going to be able to help the young guys settle down, also didn’t do a good enough job. That’s something that we will have to remedy at the start of training camp this coming season.”

Like Sergei Gonchar before him, Boyle could be that veteran presence on the right side that could slot in alongside a Patrick Wiercioch or a Jared Cowen.

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.

With a number of defencemen who already look vulnerable when playing more minutes than they probably should have or project as bottom pairing guys, the risk that Ottawa runs is that Boyle may represent a stopgap solution who is ultimately just a power play specialist at this stage of his career.

There is also the question of what a player of Boyle’s ilk is worth. As a two-time All-Star with local ties, Boyle’s name still has some cache around these parts and with rumours abounding back in 2008 that the  Senators were allegedly close to acquiring him in a trade before he ultimately wound up in San Jose, maybe Bryan Murray revisits bringing him back into the fold if Boyle’s salary expectations aren’t completely out of whack.

Even if he proves to be expensive, as the Jason Spezza sweepstakes continue to ramp up, anyone can look at Ottawa’s cap situation and notice that loses their captain’s cap hit, qualify Hoffman and Gryba, promote Lazar and re-sign Lehner at around $2M, Ottawa’s total cap hit will be around $47M. With the NHL’s rising cap, the Senators will need to spend to the floor, so maybe Boyle’s a target who can help them get there.

Personally, I’d be more on board with the idea of bringing Boyle into the fold had the organization decided not to bring in Chris Phillips. Instead of rolling over and giving the redundant left shooting Phillips $2.5 per annum, the Senators could have used that money to invest in a more talented veteran in Boyle who also actually fills a need on the team.

The Senators could still wind up bringing in Boyle, but they’d have to actively start shopping some of the team’s younger defencemen to resolve their log jam of bodies. Unless the team is suddenly willing to move a guy like Phillips, acquiring a Boyle will come at the expense of some of the team’s younger defencemen like Gryba, Cowen, Wiercioch and Borowiecki.

Would the team be willing to give up those kind of controlled assets to accommodate two to three years of Dan Boyle? I suppose it depends on their return, but considering the Senators are reportedly dangling Spezza for future assets, jettisoning prospects to make room for Dan Boyle and improve this team in the short-term isn’t really congruent with the direction that this team should have.

Crazier things have happened though, so I’d love to hear the opinions of our readers. What would you make of a Dan Boyle signing by the Senators?

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