The Dan Boyle experience
If there was any question about how much Dan Boyle means to this team, you only had to watch the nine games since he came back from two surgeries to repair the damaged tendons in his left wrist, but especially Thursday's 5-3 victory over the Flyers.
Boyle played a season-high 31:37, had a goal and an assist and was terrific bringing the puck out of the defensive zone and getting involved in the offense. He wasn't bad defensively either.
Here is coach John Tortorella after the game:
"As I've always said, everybody always talks about the three guys,'' he said of Vinny Lecavalier, Brad Richards and Dan Boyle. "But there is no one more important to our team than Danny Boyle. He is our transition key.''
"Our best trap-breaker is: 'Danny Boyle, get the puck and go.' Power play breaker: 'Danny, take the puck and go.' ... Nothing gets going until it comes from the back end, and that's where Danny Boyle is.''
That Boyle is playing so well after so long on the bench is a credit to what a talent he really is. That he is doing this as the Feb. 26 trade deadline approaches, and that Tampa Bay is still in the playoff race is probably making the decisions regarding his future very difficult. And please spare us the tired complaints about his defense. Considering his offense and how hard he competes in the defensive zone, the points are moot
How would you like to try and solve this equation: The Lightning is a different team with Boyle. But the defenseman could be an unrestricted free agent after the season. There are negotiations going on right now between the team and Boyle's agent to determine if Tampa Bay can sign him (it is believed Boyle will start by asking for $7-million). If not, Boyle likely will be traded, a deal that could net the Lightning a haul.
Perhaps Boyle, who wants to make the Tampa Bay area, perhaps even St. Petersburg, his long-term home, takes a little less to stay, though he already did that in his current contract of three-years, $10-million. Much could depend on what the Lightning wants to be. Does it want to compete next season under would-be owner Oren Koules, or does it want to take some steps back now to take more forward later. The answer to that riddle may be the key to getting a new contract done.