Blackhawks Free Agent Target: Brian Boyle

As the Blackhawks prepare for free agency, obviously the first order of business is getting Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane locked-up long term. After the two faces of the franchise, the team will start looking to the future, and there may be a few tough decisions coming.

How the Blackhawks move into the draft, free agency and the summer trade season will all be tied back to keeping Toews and Kane in the Indian head sweater for a long, long time. Thankfully, there are a few options this summer that might help the team and bridge the gap between where the Hawks are today, and when they might have a few top prospects ready to help at the NHL level.

One free agent Stan Bowman might consider is center Brian Boyle.

Boyle 2

Boyle’s size is undoubtedly the first thing that jumps off the page when considering him as a free agent target for the Hawks. Listed at 6-7 and 244 pounds, he’s a physical player who piled up 154 hits last season. While he plays with an edge, he doesn’t see the penalty box very often; he had only 56 penalty minutes during the 2013-14 regular season.

There has to be more than size to the fit between Boyle and the Hawks, though.

Boyle fits many of the characteristics that the Hawks might be looking for this summer. He blocked 54 shots and was credited with 20 takeaways during the regular season while winning 53.6 percent of his 5-on-5 faceoffs this year.

But he skated only 12:45 per game, of which 2:04 came short-handed. He would most likely fit as a fourth line center on the Blackhawks roster, which forces us to compare him to the incumbent in that position, Marcus Kruger.

Let’s look at a few 5-on-5 regular season stats to make that comparison.

Offensive Zone Start Percentage
Boyle – 24.1
Kruger – 20.9

Point Share
Boyle – 66.7
Kruger – 80.6

Shot Share
Boyle – 30.0
Kruger – 20.1

Fenwick Share
Boyle – 29.1
Kruger – 19.5

Faceoff Percentage
Boyle – 53.6
Kruger – 55.4

Quality of Competition TOI %
Boyle – 27.9
Kruger – 28.4

2013-14 Cap Hit
Boyle – $1.700M
Kruger – $1.325M

As you can see, there are some similarities in the deeper numbers between Boyle and Kruger, and many of them (especially shot share and Fenwick share) favor Boyle.

There are a couple other numbers that are important, however.

Boyle will turn 30 on December 18.

Kruger will turned 24 on May 27.

That six year age difference might be a big deal. But there’s another scenario that we have to keep in mind when considering Kruger’s future with the organization.

Kruger will be a restricted free agent in 2015.

So will Joakim Nordstrom.

So will Brandon Saad.

These three players will be in focus for the organization in the coming days because their next contracts – and likely significant pay increases for Kruger and Saad – will kick-in at the same time that Toews and Kane’s next deals begin.

If the Hawks look to be active in the trade market, adding a veteran like Boyle on a shorter (two or three) year deal might buy the team flexibility to consider Kruger as part of a package in a trade for another piece. And adding a bigger, more physical player – and cost-controlled – player in Boyle might be attractive to the Hawks moving forward.

Boyle

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38 Responses to Blackhawks Free Agent Target: Brian Boyle

  1. Mike says:

    I don’t dislike the idea, a bigger grinder on the 4th line would be nice. But have a couple questions.
    Is Boyle’s projected deal going to be significantly less than Kruger’s project deal?

    Since Kruger will be an RFA, is that not a piece of flexibility that SB would like to hold on to for another year?

    Who has the better future potential Nordstrom or Kruger?

    With Kruger you have a know commodity and a solid 4th line guy who can play up when needed. Does the same hold true for either Nordy or Boyle?? I would probably take Kruger over Nordstrom is Kruger signs for 3 yrs at around $1.75mm.

  2. Sr. Brad says:

    I like the idea Tab, but not at the expense of Kruger. Boyle and Kruger are both prototypical 3rd line centres, often playing on the 4th line making their scoring numbers look like they belong there…but both could handle that role on the Hawks. Boyle has the size and strength that we are looking for, but he isn’t known for being a fast skater, while Kruger is. If the Hawks were to sign a player like this, I would feel better if it were with a 2 year deal, not 3.

    But remember, if the Hawks do deal for another veteran forward this offseason, then it comes at the expense of a young player who is ready to play…if Bollig isn’t traded, then Morin would be once again fighting for playing minutes and Nordstrom wouldn’t see the ice…and I really think this isn’t what we should be doing. This is a summer, IMO, for Stan to trust his system and his prospects to make the leap a successful one, both with the forwards and the Defence.

  3. Hereismi me says:

    Exactly the opposite…..this is the year to bolster the bottom two lines with a cheap vet. Last year we kept spaces open for Pirri, Smith, Hayes, Morin to potentially make the team and only Smith made the jump, which was not enough to fill the space left by Bolland, Frolik, Stahlberg. You saw this year the weakness in our depth and inability to ice a competent 4th line. No one at Rockford is ready to step in…..including Teuvo. We need a vet this year, two if you launch Versteeg which they should do, along with Rosie.

  4. Mike the Mook says:

    Boyle would be a solid pick up for all the reasons you mentioned, Hawks really really need “net presence” and not sure for his SIZE Boyle is that type of person. Seems with his size he would OWN that CREASE and I don’t see it often in the CUP. Hawks really need to reorganize their offense if they lead the league in goals the PLAYOFFS are different, too much passing, drifting, waiting, KINGS simple 3 men to the net in unison and with timing is the difference, KINGS make few “highlite reel” goals but will be in the CUP for the future if they stay focused. Hawks make it all too complex and since they dont have SIZE it is easy to STOP in the playoffs.

  5. shamrock says:

    While I’m not opposed to the Boyle idea, mainly because he is a free agent. I would like to see the hawks target a big physical d-man with skill. This would have to be thru a trade as I believe this free agent class is thin on d. This hawks team was a lucky bounce away from the finals and while I do agree we need another true 2nd line center it seems the hawks biggest problem against the kings was our d-men not being able to control the front of our net.

  6. EbonyRaptor says:

    I wouldn’t mind Boyle either because he can play PK and win faceoffs but if Stan acquires a 2C it may come down to pinching pennies for other moves and the $350K difference in Boyle’s/Kruger’s cap hits may be too much to handle.

    I’ve let my imagination run wild the past few off-seasons and TDLs with dreams of a big splash trade or a free agent signing to finally get that 2C, only to fall back to earth after reading confirmation that the Hawks had just signed Andrew Brunette or Michael Handzus or one of several other guys past their prime. But this time seems different – more grounded in reality. This time the stars seem to be aligned for Stan to pull the trigger and I’ll be more surprised if a legitimate 2C isn’t acquired than if one is. Or maybe I’ve allowed myself to be sucked into the dream again. I’ll know in the next three weeks.

  7. morrison says:

    I would rather keep Shazer & Krugs as long as there 2m/yr or less.

    I would add Boyle, for 52, 23 or 32.

    Boyle is good and a fa, but I would rather have Zack Smith for 4th center even though we would have to trade something for him. Smith is a little better at shooting/passing/speed/off./def., Only thing is Boyle a little better at faceoffs (and Smith is good at faceoffs).

  8. morrison says:

    Zack Smith is set for 1.9/yr for 3yrs.

  9. Tab Bamford says:

    Here’s the issue that I think is missing a few folks here, but is central in my thinking in this piece & is likely central to anything Bowman is thinking this summer:

    How much money do the Hawks have committed in 2015-16?

    The buy here is that Boyle is a more-than adequate 3C or 4C who would be a known cost against the cap (assuming a multi-year deal). Kruger is a RFA next summer. The gamble is that you can sign Boyle for less now than Kruger would ask for in 12 months (or could command in an offer sheet). The other gamble is that one of the centers in the system – likely Danault or Nordstrom – is an adequate replacement for Kruger in 2 years.

    re: Morrison proposing potential trades – not sure how a trade makes sense when we’re discussing an unrestricted free agent. No trade necessary.

  10. morrison says:

    Tab I like the idea of trading someone for something we need and signing a fa for free for that/another position.

  11. Tab Bamford says:

    re: Zack Smith’s price tag – a nice number. Ottawa is looking to trade Spezza; not sure moving 2 centers in in their playbook this summer.

  12. morrison says:

    Yea, I was just saying I like Zack Smith better then Boyle and Smith is a known cost at 1.9/3yrs. I understand and think its better to sign a fa for free, then to trade something to get that position/role. I just like Z. Smith.

  13. morrison says:

    I just want us to add a good center (regardless of 2/3/4 line) to what we have now.

  14. morrison says:

    If they do trade Spezza with ANA (and they already got Ryan/good trade partners) I wonder if a center would come back to them. I not sure who ANA would give. The only have Bonino and Perreault. So if its ANA probably not a center coming back.

  15. morrison says:

    ANA does have the 2nd ranked group of prospects.

    I would rather sign a fa for free though.

  16. shaacul says:

    I´m think that Boyle will hit 3 milions as UFA this year, probably 4-5 year contract. There will be teams willing to pay him such amount of money. So, he´s not going to be cheap as a bottom line center.

  17. SouthSideHawkMan says:

    Tab nice insight and maybe Boyle might be a good get but how about the Hawks address the 2nd line center first instead of a 3rd or 4th line guy who we seem to have many of those guys already.

    I think all the Marcus Kruger love on this site is over the top, he is a nice player but with limited offensive touch he will never be more then a 4th line center and ace PK guy and honestly those guys are available in the FA market and in the draft. I sure hope the Hawks focus on their top 6 not their bottom 6.

    Here is a top 6 move Patrick Sharp and a draft pick/minor leaguer for Evander Kane. The disgruntled impact winger needs a new home. Lets make it Chicago! Winnipeg likes X Hawks so lets send the Sharp shooter North for another Kane. Imagine those two on the same line OMG!

  18. Tab Bamford says:

    SSHM: Evander Kane does nothing to address the center ice issue.

    Furthermore, the difference in the Kings series wasn’t the top six, it was the BOTTOM six. The Kings rolled out Jarrett Stoll and Mike Richards as their 3rd & 4th centers. The Hawks rolled out Marcus Kruger and……

  19. Tab Bamford says:

    to shaacul’s contract estimates on Boyle: I honestly can’t remember the last time a team doubled a player’s cap hit after an 18-point season on a multi-year deal that started the season that player turned 30. With that being said, if the Hawks offered a 2-year deal worth $2-2.4M per, Boyle could be here for a couple seasons and still hit UFA again before turning 32.

  20. Sr. Brad says:

    Tab, I am certain the Danault will be ready to play a significant role with the Hawks within 2 years…he might not be flashiest playmaker, but he’s doesn’t have a single weakness in his game…even his finishing, which was atrocious for most of the year in Rockford, came alive once he was given 2 good wingers to play with. The Hawks can bank on Danault as a BOTTOM 6 fixture within that time frame.

  21. morrison says:

    I really like Danault, Ross and Hartman for those yrs and on.

  22. Scottie P says:

    Tab, the hawks gave bickell 5xs his deal after a 23 point season and that year he turned 28…. not exactly your parameters, but a stupid deal nonetheless.

  23. Scottie P says:

    Tab, and on cue Boyle scores a huge SH goal.

  24. mistertuffguy says:

    Nevermind the second line center topic. Hawks depth is fine. Go get a goaltender. Crawford is horrible. Spent an eternity in the minors for a reason. Hawks would have easily beat LA in 5 if it weren’t for Crawford.

  25. Iceman says:

    Fittingly, kings win Stanley cup w/ 4th line on ice. Just like hawks last year. I hope the hierarchy enjoyed watching history repeat itself. If the bottom 6 forwards on the hawks included morin Nordstrom and regin, we would all would have enjoyed the parade later this week. Tx very much SB and Q. Meanwhile, bollig’s agent lining up new clients …

  26. Dickie Dunn says:

    “Go get a goaltender. Crawford is horrible.” – What?/ha, ha, ha, ha, ha…? Way to go – you got me!!

    Boyle’s biggest selling point is his post season facial hair makes him look like Guy Fawkes.

  27. Dickie Dunn says:

    I read something elsewhere (where the moderator was “not at liberty to discuss the player being looked at in Tampa…”) that the Hawks may be dealing(?) – since Stamkos isn’t going anywhere, is that a reference to Alex Killorn? (– the only “other” TB center that would possibly fit the Hawks’ need) Possible? Likely? Opinions?

  28. morrison says:

    DickieDunn,
    yea I read that too. I think he was hinting on Filppula. The Scotty Bowman connection with redwings and Yzerman. That he knows the same style game the Blackhwaks play and is good at it.

    If we do trade for a really good center (Sharpy) then we might get a 4th line center in that deal as well. The one they were talking about with Tampa. Filppula and Thompson?

  29. noonan96 says:

    I like the idea of getting a big guy that will hit, win his share of face offs-Shaw needs to play the wing. Under a reasonable price Boyle is a good fit. Kruger I really like but the Hawks can replace him from within.
    I love that the Hawks are talented, but I would like to see them more physical.

  30. Sr. Brad says:

    Wow, how many times does this need to be said…Bickell’s contract was a good one, and necessary…we NEED MORE Bryan Bickells not less…had Bicks not been signed that day by Bowman, he would have accepted a multi year deal NORTH of $6 million…it was, it is, and it will be a good deal for the Hawks. Bickell was a monster again for the Hawks. His play in the LA series was great, he just didn’t have the #’s because he played against the Kopitar line. These are the best players in the world neutralizing one another.

    As for Crawford? Again, wow, he let in a couple of soft goals, but made a ton of key saves…pretty much most of the goals that went in HE COULDN’T SEE! Do you want Crawford to clear out his own crease for himself? I thought that was the job of the undersized Hawks Defence???

    We don’t need to trade for a 2nd line Centre now…we needed to 4 years ago…why would Bowman trade for a major piece now when Shaw has proven he can do it…the same with Ben Smith, and TT is ready for his shot…if not at the beginning of the year, then maybe part way through. Lots of talk and speculation, but the Hawks should have addressed this position before, and we would have had more than 2 Cups. Doing it now doesn’t make any sense based on previous logic.

  31. Sr. Brad says:

    And if we make ANY deals this summer, keep in mind, it should be for someone who knows how to win, not someone who has been a career “loser”. Knowing how to win is a skill that is learned. The one draw back to Regin was that he has always played on losing teams…he hasn’t ever tasted winning at the highest level and thus they don’t “know” how to win. Players become used to losing for a living and that’s contagious. I have always been very high on Ben Smith because he has won the championship at every level he has played at…these are the kinds of players that we need more of. Taking some 4th liner buried deep in Tampa makes NO SENSE at all…this isn’t Madden Sports where you just plug and play.

  32. wall says:

    Me likes Filppula and don’t know this Killorn- But just checking his stats (Harvard guy)… me likes him too…

    But Filppula would be awesome… + Hawks are adding more and more Swedes/Fins… really could be some Chemistry in the making, TT, Rasmussen, 42, (Arvidsson- Tryout)… I like that rumor.

  33. J.C. says:

    I agree with Tab and a point of Brad’s…sign Boyle so bottom 6 centers are Kruger/Boyle. Promote Danault to fill Kruger’s spot. Money saved on Kruger deal goes to Saad

  34. SouthSideHawkMan says:

    Tab, while you are right trading Sharp doesn’t improve your 2nd line center. Evander Kane would give the Hawks an elite scorer with some size, speed and toughness. I can live with Smitty or Shaw between a Kane & Kane line. Sharp wasn’t even a top 6 forward this playoffs anyways!

  35. Dickie Dunn says:

    Morrison, I didn’t consider Filppula because he has four years left on a five year $25 million deal. Killorn (younger and a little bigger, but not yet the player) has just finished his entry level deal ($875,000). The Scotty Bowman-Yzerman relationship etc. in that (hockeybuzz) smelt like fluff, to me.

  36. Scottie P says:

    40, 48, 25, 28 point totals for bryan bickells career, hasnt played 60 games in each of the last two seasons, was a beast in the playoffs? Please. He was present in the Wild series. Period. He is as overpaid as it gets. IF someone wanted to give him NORTH of 6 mil, we should have let them. He is very average.

  37. robert says:

    with all the possibilities of signing players that are being discussed here, lets not overlook that the western conference is only getting stronger and if the hawks don’t make afew moves, whatever they are, they need size. we are getting pushed around more and more and its not going to get better. we need a 2 center, we need size, and we need to clean up the defense in front of Crawford. if they end trading one of our defensemen to get a deal done, than so be it. keep brookbank cuz hes a solid player what wants to stay and is cheap. hawks need to keep up with the others or find one season full of injuries because of the size differences

  38. henry says:

    Tab, It’s been a while since I posted. I used to be concerned that Mr Kane would never mature both on and off the ice and I stand corrected. I got blasted for proposing a Kane for Getzlaf trade. But that’s in the past. My comment today has to do with Boyle. I agree that he offers a lot as a 4th line contributor, but as much as everyone feels that the Hawks need size, a #2 center etc. IMO they were one lousy 4th line player (Bollig) away from probably winning another cup. Q’s stubbornness is another story. I think for the first 1/2 of next year – continue w/ Shaw at 2c and move the deserving Kruger up to 3C and give McNeill a shot as the 4th line center. He’s not going to be that classic #2C we all had hoped when he was drafted but from all I understand he seems perfectly suited to be a physical 200 ft player with more skill than most 4th liners. I believe they won’t make any substantial moves, but I’m all right with that because the prospects are plentiful and that’s how they can keep the core in tact. This year, Morin, and at some point Teravainen (2C), McNeill, Johns & Clendening should make their way into the lineup. In 2015/16 look for Hartman and possibly Kevin Hayes to force their way in as well. I credit Bowman for drafting extremely well, let’s see what we got. Thanks for letting me back

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