Brian Boyle aims to help Lightning reach great heights

Brian Boyle, who signed a three-year, $6 million deal with the Lightning, said he passed up more money from Toronto to come to Tampa. [AP photo]
Brian Boyle, who signed a three-year, $6 million deal with the Lightning, said he passed up more money from Toronto to come to Tampa. [AP photo]
Published July 10, 2014

After a Disney World wedding, Brian Boyle was on the tail end of his honeymoon, having gone from Napa Valley to two Hawaiian islands, when the key date of July 1 hit.

The former Rangers center got up at 5 a.m., had some coffee and watched the sun rise on the porch of his Maui hotel with his wife, model Lauren Bedford, knowing the opening day of free agency would be hectic.

Boyle, 29, said he and his wife — who is from Orlando — had always been drawn to Tampa. And when the Rangers didn't give the free agent much of an offer and the Lightning came in, they were excited.

"We jumped at it as quick as we could," Boyle said. "It was kind of a home run."

Boyle, who signed a three-year, $6 million deal with the Lightning, said he passed up more money from the Maple Leafs to come to Tampa. He will replace Nate Thompson, traded to the Ducks last month, as a fourth-line, defensive-minded forward and a strong penalty killer, his "bread and butter." Boyle, at 6 feet 7, 244 pounds, brings much-needed size to a young, small forward group.

"We knew he was going to (be) somebody that's played playoff games, and (played) in a lot of them the last couple years," coach Jon Cooper said. "And it's a position (where) we filled a void when Nate Thompson departed, but we filled a void getting 6 inches taller. And we have a small forward group. Size is something that was a little bit of an urgency for us, and we attained that."

That Boyle's wife — who is being considered for the next Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue cover — is from nearby was just a "cherry on top." Boyle said there is a lot to like about the Lightning organization.

"Just seeing what the team has been able to do a couple years ago and this past year, some are young guys, and in terms of on-ice production, I was really, really excited to try to be a part of it," Boyle said

Boyle said a key resource was former Rangers teammate Ryan Callahan, who was the captain in New York and at last season's trade deadline came to Tampa Bay in the Marty St. Louis trade. Callahan, 29, recently signed a six-year, $34.8 million deal to stay.

"It was his perspective … I really could trust because he's been through the same thing and he's moving down there and he was raving about it," Boyle said. "So obviously I took his word for it."

Boyle, who had six goals and 12 assists in 82 games with the Rangers last season, hopes to bring his experience (58 career playoff games) to a relatively green forward core. He'll be a mainstay on the penalty kill.

"If that was going to be my role, I wanted to do it better than anybody," he said. "I try to be hard to play against, make it difficult as I can for opposing guys, not give them much space."

Boyle, from Hingham, Mass., played four years at Boston College before getting drafted 23rd overall in 2003 by the Kings. Los Angeles wanted Boyle, with his size, to try defense, which he did for 30 games while in the minors, something he said "helped me ultimately with my role as a bottom-six center."

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"He's a very committed player. He always puts in a great effort," said defenseman Anton Stralman, a former Rangers teammate who also signed with Tampa Bay on July 1. "He's got way more skill than most people think. I hope he can show that, because he's got a good shot and is obviously big and strong. When his game is on, he's really, really effective."

Boyle signed just a few hours after Stralman did, saying he was excited and nervous but the scenery in Maui helped calm him.

"It's paradise," he said.

Boyle feels the same about Tampa, saying he knows his large family — he's one of 13 children — is "jacked up" to visit during the cold Northern months.

Quipped Boyle: "I just hope they don't visit every single weekend."

Erne surgery: Forward prospect Adam Erne is scheduled to have left wrist surgery today and is expected to be out eight weeks.