Thursday, July 14, 2011

Rangers and Boyle re-up for three years

The Rangers got another key restricted done today, re-signing Brian Boyle for three years to avoid salary arbitration. According to Larry Brooks via Twitter, the Blueshirts agreed to bump up Boyle to an average of $1.7 million- rewarding the checking center for a career year that saw the former King shatter marks across the board with 21 goals, 14 assists and 35 points with 74 penalty minutes and four power play goals while playing all 82 games for the first time. He also paced all Ranger forwards with 240 hits.

Boyle's career year came off a disappointing four-goal, two assist Broadway debut in '09-10. Using improved skating due to instruction from a figure skater along with a renewed commitment to diet and fitness, the 26 year-old from Massachusetts stunned Garden Faithful with a strong start, notching 10 of his 21 markers during the first two months. Along with sidekick Brandon Prust and surprise addition Ruslan Fedotenko, the trio formed a reliable checking unit that provided energy, physicality and even chipped in offensively. With Marian Gaborik unable to duplicate his first year success, John Tortorella entrusted them with more responsibility. A welcome change for a coach who's not a fan of rolling four lines. However, on some nights the Boyle line was his best.

In fact, the Blueshirts were pretty successful when Boyle found twine, going 13-5-1 when the former King scored. His career year was not the only development as Steven McDonald Extra Effort winner Prust also had his best season, going 13-16-29 with a club best five shorthanded goals. That production along with key vet Fedotenko, who also reached double figures in goals (10) while netting 25 points, allowed the Rangers to survive Gaborik's struggles. Combined with the success of the Draft Line (Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan) and rookie Derek Stepan, they were able to offset the lack of consistency from their top threat- making the playoffs in miraculous fashion by beating the Devils and then watching Tortorella's ex-team the Lightning end the Canes' season.

For Boyle, he gets a huge raise from $525,000 to $1.7 M, basically tripling his salary. There will be a lot more pressure to prove '10-11 wasn't a fluke where most of the production came in the first half before he cooled, notching only three goals after January, including one in March and none in April. Boyle was scoreless in the club's first round ouster to Washington. Three years is a big commitment for a guy who'd never proven why the Kings tabbed him 26th overall in the famed '03 Draft. Now, he's a Ranger and well liked by coaches and teammates, who have faith in him. That will be tested. Boyle's success reminds of a former player across the Hudson in John Madden, who went from undrafted free agent to unsung hero on two of three Devils' championship teams, including '03 when he replaced Bobby Holik and eventually won a Selke. Boyle still has a lot to prove to reach such lofty status.

Encouraging is that Boyle will center the fourth line due to big fish Brad Richards, while Anisimov anchors the Draft Line and Stepan the third unit. But as was proven last year, there were nights Boyle's line was the best. Tort didn't shy away from using them to change momentum. The Rangers should be a deeper team down the middle. A necessity to compete in today's NHL. Especially in a challenging division that could become the East's best.

With Boyle, Anisimov and Mike Sauer all done, now Glen Sather can turn his attention to key pieces Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan. Can he get either locked up before arbitration. We'll see.

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