Thursday, January 27, 2011

Could Brian Boyle's Breakout Season Cause Rangers Problems This Summer?

Nick Laham/Getty Images

When training camp started many, including coach Tortorella, wrote off Brian Boyle as a member of the New York Rangers.  What has happened instead is Brian Boyle has turned into arguably the most important player to where the team is right now. Boyle is now the team leader in goals scored with eighteen in 52 games played this season.  His eighteen tallies rank him 25th in the league in goals.  Those eighteen goals for Boyle are not only a career high for a season, but they are six more than his career total coming into this year (107 games).  

Boyle has transformed to the point where the last three games, at different points, he has been put with Marian Gaborik to spark the offense.  If anyone tells you they had imagined that before the season began, they are absolute liars. Beyond the goal scoring alone, so many of the things that Boyle does for this team are why, at the All-Star break, the team would not be in sixth place in the Eastern Conference without him.  The question now is has Boyle’s emergence as a legitimate two-way threat and all the great things it has meant for the Rangers this season made him someone that will cause a problem for the team this summer.

Here you have a 26-year-old center who has finally learned how to use his size and strength to his advantage, can play in all situations and is showing goal scoring touch that is up for a new contract.  On the unrestricted market he easily tops 3 million per season, but what will he get as a restricted free agent this summer?  Can the Rangers afford to keep him?  Can the Rangers afford to let him walk away?

The team will have five get restricted free agents this summer including Boyle.  Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan are due for raises and musts in terms of the foundation of this team.  Artem Anisimov is also due for a raise but given his lack of arbitration rights and his up and down season it will not be for as much as it appeared he was heading for when the year started.  Finally, there is Michael Sauer who is another player that has turned himself from on the outside looking in into a key cog in the Rangers team.  All of these moves have to be considered in the context of whether or not the Rangers will sign Brad Richards and/or buyout Chris Drury.

It is rare that you get a center the size of Boyle who can score 25-30 goals in a season, kill penalties and be a tremendous influence in your locker room.  The question is what price-tag does the combination of things Brian Boyle brings the Rangers merit and where does he rank in terms of priorities this offseason?  He has to be a priority and the Rangers would certainly bring him back if the number can stay at or near what Matt Moulson got after a similar breakout year as a 26-year-old (2.45 million).  Certainly a good problem to have right now, and will once again make the Rangers offseason one to watch.