Lightning re-signs defenseman Boyle

Funny thing talking to Dan Boyle late Monday night.

The Lightning's star defenseman had just signed a six-year, $40-million contract, but the tone of his voice was more measured than excited, more contemplative than reactive.

"It feels good," Boyle said, "but it's bittersweet. I want to win, and I almost can't wait to get started. I feel bad celebrating this when our team is sitting in last place. I don't know if that's right. It's just the way I feel."

The signing of the deal, which will pay $6.67-million each season, ended a topsy-turvy day in which it appeared an agreement was close but then was delayed as the team apparently tried to lower the average annual salary.

Lightning general manager Jay Feaster declined to discuss specifics but said the process was part of a long day in which he, could-be owner Oren Koules, coach John Tortorella and player personnel director Bill Barber discussed the direction of the team leading to today's 3 p.m. trade deadline.

"We were juggling multiple balls in the air," said Feaster, who also traded left wing Vinny Prospal to the Flyers for minor-league defenseman Alexandre Picard and spoke of the "ebb and flow" of negotiations.

"Danny's agent was traveling. We toyed with some things. We made some counteroffers. They came back with some counteroffers. As always happens, there's a lot of movement and probing at the end, 'What about this' and 'take a look at that.' But ultimately we were able to settle on a long-term deal we think is fair."

It also prevented the Lightning from trading Boyle at the deadline to ensure it would not lose him during the summer as an unrestricted free agent.

"It is a huge relief," Feaster said. "We approached this all along that retaining Danny was such a critical component for our team."

Boyle, 31, scored 20 goals last season and had a career-high 63 points, fourth among league defensemen. He has played 17 games this season because of two left-wrist surgeries but has three goals, 11 points and is averaging a team-high 27:34 of ice time.

Tortorella has said Boyle, who can carry the puck end-to-end, quarterbacks the power play and sparks the transition game, is the team's offensive catalyst.

He was Tampa Bay's top-scoring defenseman the previous four seasons. He also might have gotten more money, perhaps more than $7-million a season, as a free agent.

But Boyle's agent, George Bazos, said his client, engaged to Amber Esposito of Indian Rocks Beach, wanted to stay in Tampa:

"Whether we left a little on the table, who knows? Maybe on the free-agent market, nobody gives him six years. The only constant is Dan wanted to be in Tampa."

"Tampa is the team that gave me my opportunity to shine, so there's a sense of loyalty there," Boyle said. "I pushed George. I let him know I like it here and we've got something special here."

As for the Lightning, "Changes need to be made, but we're not that far away," Boyle said. "I would not have committed to a six-year deal if I thought we were going to be a basement team."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Lightning re-signs defenseman Boyle 02/25/08 [Last modified: Thursday, March 13, 2008 12:46am]

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