The San Jose Sharks announced their first move toward a new team with the trade of Dan Boyle Thursday, June 5. They will receive a fifth-round pick that will jump to the fourth round if the New York Islanders can re-sign the soon-to-be 38-year old veteran.
The move was anticlimactic since general manager Doug Wilson had already announced the team would move on without him. Still, making it official was significant as more than the pictured assets made Boyle the greatest player to ever patrol San Jose's blue line.
The Sharks have had greater all-time players on their blue line. When his career is over, no one will say Boyle is as good as Rob Blake.
However, Blake only had one very good season in teal in a Hall of Fame career. By contrast, Boyle might have had his best years in San Jose.
The first two seasons Boyle was with the Sharks (2008-09 and 2009-10) were his highest two point totals in his career. He was also working on his defensive game, reaching the top-50 in the NHL in blocked shots over the next two seasons. His skating ability allowed him to not only create but break out of his own end as well as anyone in the league.
In the 2011-12 season, his play seemed to take a decline that included a nine-game pointless slump. It was later revealed that he had a broken foot, and he had 48 points in the other 72 games. Twenty points in 46 games during the condensed 2013 NHL season was a low point-per-game ratio in his career as an everyday player, but he had three goals and five assists in 11 Stanley Cup playoff games.
Then came the hit, just seven games into the 2013-14 NHL season. Maxim Lapierre drove Boyle head-first into the boards, smirking with pleasure as he skated away from his motionless victim. Fortunately the 2004 Stanley Cup champion lost only seven games, but also admitted he returned too early.
How much of a factor that hit was in his play or will be on his future is uncertain. Boyle still managed 12 goals and 24 assists in 75 games, but he was a defensive liability far too often in finishing with a minus-8 rating. He struggled defensively in the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs (0 G, 4 A, -1) and the team decided to move on from the pending free agent.
Someone will pay Boyle more than he is worth to San Jose. The Islanders may have trouble retaining him since he is more likely looking for another chance at a Stanley Cup that is a couple years away for his official current team.
He may also like somewhere closer to Tampa, where his wife is from and the couple had planned to settle in before a change in management sent him to the Sharks in 2008. Even if he does not stay in New York, getting a fifth-round pick for a player that was going to be let go for nothing fewer than four weeks from now is impressive. If Boyle re-signs, that pick will come in the top half of the draft.
Meanwhile, CSN Bay Area Insider Kevin Kurz also reported Thursday that San Jose is working on keeping backup goalie Alex Stalock. He is not alone to speculate that the unrestricted free agent is a potential starter if he remains with the team or moves on. However, Al as he is simply called in the dressing room has expressed appreciation for the way the franchise stood by him through recovery from a career-threatening nerve injury.
If Stalock is re-signed and the coaches feel he is ready to take over, current starter Antti Niemi could fetch high return and free up cap room at the position to either replace Brent Burns up front—moved presumably to replace Boyle—or allow him to stay there instead of moving back to fill the blue-line hole.