By Matt Calamia
The opportunity to play in an Original Six market doesn’t come around often, so defenseman Dan Boyle did not want to pass it up when he became a free agent on July 1.
“That’s where I wanted to go,” Boyle — who signed with the Rangers on July 1 — said of coming to New York after spending six seasons with the San Jose Sharks. “That’s the simplest way I could put it. Once I found out I was done in San Jose, that’s the team that kind of jumped out. That’s the team I’ve always been curious about.”
Boyle, 37, has played 15 seasons in the NHL, posting 561 points in 954 games, and while he’s had success wherever he’s gone — Florida, Tampa Bay and San Jose — he’s never played in what many would consider a traditional hockey market. The opportunity to call one home — let alone one of the League’s oldest franchises — played a big role in his decision to come east to the Big Apple.
“I’ve played in Florida and California, two non-traditional hockey markets, so I wanted to — and those places were great — but I just wanted to experience something different,” Boyle said. “An Original Six team and New York was just where I wanted to go.”
Also contributing to Boyle’s decision to sign with the Rangers were several familiar faces, including long-time friend and fellow 2004 Stanley Cup champion Martin St. Louis.
“It was a big factor,” Boyle said of having the chance to be teammates with St. Louis again for the first time in six seasons. Boyle said the two spoke during the playoffs following the death of St. Louis’ mother in May. “Marty was definitely a big reason. Him and I have had very similar careers, and it’ll be a great opportunity to play with him here again.”
Neither Boyle or St. Louis were drafted into the NHL.
With the loss of both Brad Richards and Anton Stralman this season, the Rangers had two holes to fill: a right-handed defenseman to pair with Marc Staal, and someone who could run the power play. The responsibility of filling both now rests on the shoulders of Boyle, who said he’s ready for the challenge.
“I enjoy the pressure,” Boyle stated. “You have to be prepared for that. I’ve already been forewarned. I’ve been in pressure situations before in the Stanley Cup Final and the Olympic Gold Medal games, and I actually thrive on it.”
The Ottawa, Ont.-native has 66 power play goals to go along with 215 assists, making him the ideal man to quarterback the power play. Boyle has 70 points in 107 postseason games, and he had a goal and five assists for Team Canada in 2010, en route to a Gold Medal.
Boyle denounces the critics who feel age has caught up to him, especially last season. The veteran said he got off to a “rough” start following an early-season concussion, but said down the stretch “I was back to myself.”
Even at this point in his career, Boyle led the Sharks in ice time, averaging 21:16 per game. In New York, though, the Rangers posses minute-eating monsters in Ryan McDonagh (24:49/game) and Dan Girardi (23:07/game). Boyle said he must earn his ice time, and added the ultimate goal is winning hockey games, not seeing who skates the most.
“At the end of the day, I’m going to have to go out there and be the best I can be,” Boyle said. “It’ll be a competition I guess sort of, but at the end of the day, we want to win hockey games.”