Brian Boyle, who had a breakout season with 21 goals for the Rangers last year, agreed Thursday to a three-year, $5.1 million contract taht provides a dramatic hike in salary for the third and fourth-line center. With the deal, the restricted free agent---who had scored just four goals in each of his three previous NHL seasons---avoids an arbitration hearing that was scheduled for July 25.
Boyle, 26, came to camp last September on the bubble but made the team after improving from the 2009-10 season in all areas of the game. Last summer, the 6-foot-7, 240-pound forward worked on his skating, shooting and being more physical and wound up being only one of four Blueshirts who played in all 82 games. Along with the 21 goals and 14 assists, both career highs, he was one of the Rangers top penalty-killers and a legitimate bargain for $550,000.
By Jan. 1, Boyle had 14 goals and eight assists, but his production tailed off in March and April, in part due to a sore back. In the final 18 games of the regular season, he managed just one goal and two assists.
The terms of the contract, which were confirmed by Boyle's agent, uses $1.7 million in cap space and leaves the Rangers with about $11.2 million to spend on their final two RFAs---forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan---who are scheduled for arbitration hearings on the 21st and 28th. Talks are continuing and both are expected to sign multi-year deals worth about $4 million annually.
The Rangers also are seeking a veteran defenseman to support their 25-and-under blueline, but can exceed the NHL’s $64.3-million cap during the summer, as long as they are under by opening night in October. They can achieve that by a trade, waiving a player, demotion to the minors or a buyout.
Boyle, a Boston College graduate who was acquired from the Kings for a third-round pick at the 2009 NHL draft, is the third restricted free agent to sign this month. Center Artem Anisimov and defenseman Michael Sauer signed two-year deals, for $3.75 million and $2.5 million respectively.