New Ranger Dan Boyle anxious to play on the Garden ice
After six years in San Jose, Dan Boyle -- the Rangers' most significant offseason acquisition -- is going coast-to-coast.
"I was just on the phone with the movers,'' said Boyle, who is uprooting his wife and two young daughters to the New York suburbs. "We're pretty close on finding a place near the practice rink.''
With relocation on the front burner, Boyle, 38, a staple of the Sharks' blueline and the highest-scoring defenseman in team history, wasn't at all concerned last week that he hadn't spoken with coach Alain Vigneault about his role.
"They got me for a reason,'' said Boyle, who signed a two-year, $9-million contract in the first hours of free agency on July 1. "I'm not going to re-invent myself; they know what they're getting.''
Indeed, what the Rangers -- who unexpectedly climbed to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years before bowing to the Kings in five games -- hope to receive is abundantly clear: an experienced, competitive, mobile defenseman with an accurate, right-handed shot who can quarterback a power play that has been wildly inconsistent for several seasons.
Essentially, Boyle is being asked to fill two vacancies: that of second-pair defenseman Anton Stralman, a free agent who left for Tampa Bay and a five-year, $22.5-million contract, and at the point on the power play, where center Brad Richards, whose long-term contract was bought out, was deployed.
"There's going to be some pressure, I know,'' said Boyle, who had six goals and 18 points with the man-advantage in what he termed a subpar 2013-14 season. "I'm just going to try to help, maybe provide some different looks.''
Overall, Boyle's offensive numbers were down, but he rebounded after missing seven games last October with a concussion from being boarded from behind by St. Louis' Maxim Lapierre.
Still, with 12 goals and 24 assists, Boyle would have been the Rangers' second-highest- scoring blueliner behind Ryan McDonagh (14-19-43). The team's five other d-men scored only 14 goals.
Boyle, who averaged 21 minutes a game with San Jose, likely will pair with Marc Staal.
The Rangers had been interested in Boyle for years, and he acknowledged hearing the whispers. Former coach John Tortorella, who deployed Boyle as a "rover'' when the Lightning won the Cup in 2004, often lamented not having a similar asset on Broadway.
"That's how the game has evolved in the past 12 to 15 years,'' said Boyle, who has 561 points in 954 games and 70 in 107 playoff games. "You're seeing more players like that: Kris Letang, Erik Karlsson . . . ''
Now Boyle will play for Vigneault, whose style is familiar. "I've seen a lot of his Vancouver teams, especially in the playoffs,'' Boyle said. "He's a creative mind, trusts in his players; some coaches are too X's- and-O's-driven. I've heard nothing but good things,'' including accolades from former Tampa Bay teammate Martin St. Louis.
In an offseason that has been focused on re-signing critical regulars after Boyle was in the fold -- Derick Brassard (five years, $25 million), Chris Kreider (two years, $4.95 million), Mats Zuccarello (one year, $3.5 million) and Dominic Moore (two years, $3 million) -- the front office had little choice but to fill holes up front as economically as possible.
Besides Stralman and Richards (who signed a one-year, $2-million deal with Chicago), Benoit Pouliot (five years, $25 million) and Brian Boyle (three years, $6 million) departed for greener pastures in Edmonton and Tampa Bay and Derek Dorsett was traded to Vancouver to create more cap space.
General manager Glen Sather and Vigneault looked to the Western Conference and landed two low-risk, high-reward depth forwards: Lee Stempniak, 31, a right wing who could match Pouliot's 15 goals (12-22-34 in 73 games), for $900,000 and another former Flame, Matt Lombardi, 32, who agreed to a two-year, $1.6-million deal after leading the Swiss league with 50 points (including 20 goals). He can play center or wing and should assume Brian Boyle's role on the penalty kill. And former Canuck Tanner Glass, 30, sought by several clubs, accepted a three-year, $4.35-million offer. The fourth-liner, with 64 fights in his five-year career, will step in for Dorsett.
When training camp opens next month, the Rangers hope one or more forward prospects -- J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast and Oscar Lindberg -- can earn roster spots, but Boyle brings stability and some offense to the Rangers' blueline, where he wanted to be.
Despite an offer from the Islanders, who had traded for his rights, Boyle chose free agency and ultimately the Rangers.
"The Islanders came out of the blue; I had no say. Not to sound cocky, but I had plenty of options,'' the Ottawa native said last week. "Growing up as a Canadian kid, you'd like to play for an Original Six team; never had a chance. So I'm anxious to get there.''