The Islanders made a splash in the first hours of the free agent signing period Sunday, agreeing to terms with forward Brad Boyes on a one-year contract.
The veteran forward brings 558 games of NHL experience to a young Islanders core. Boyes, a Mississauga, ON native, said that deciding which team was the best fit for him in free agency wasn’t a hard choice.
“I think it’s going to be a good opportunity; a good change of scenery for me,” Boyes said. “I know a couple of guys there. I definitely thought about it and felt that this was the best fit for me.”
Last season in Buffalo, Boyes scored 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) in 65 games – a departure from the offensive production that defined his early NHL career. With the Sabres, he felt lost in the shuffle, playing only 13 minutes every game. With the Islanders, Boyes hopes to follow the path of forwards like Matt Moulson and Michael Grabner, players who were not seeing top minutes with their previous teams, but thrived in a top-6 role on the island.
“I think last year was a tough situation,” Boyes said. “In Buffalo, there were a lot of guys on that team with similar styles to me. Now, coming in to New York, I think it’s going to be a better situation for me, a better fit. I think this year is going to be one of those years where I have something to prove. I’m looking to get back to the way that I know I can play and produce.”
Islanders General Manager Garth Snow believes Boyes can fill an important role on a club with several playmakers.
“We’re extremely excited to add a player of Brad’s caliber to our team,” Snow said. “He’s a gifted offensive player who will add a scoring touch to our lineup.”
Boyes was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round (24th overall) of the 2000 NHL Draft. Upon finishing his junior hockey career with the Erie Otters in 2002, he played in the American Hockey League for the majority of three seasons, making his NHL debut with the San Jose Sharks during the 2003-04 campaign. Boyes made it to the NHL full-time in 2005 with the Boston Bruins and then was dealt to the St. Louis Blues at the 2007 trade deadline.
Boyes displayed an uncanny scoring touch during his first two seasons with the Blues, scoring 65 points (43 goals, 22 assists) in 2007-08 and 72 points (33 goals, 39 assists) in 2008-09. It was there that Boyes made a lasting impression on teammate Doug Weight, now the Islanders Senior Advisor to the General Manager and an assistant coach.
“I watched Brad score 43 and 33 goals in consecutive years,” Weight said. “I don’t care if you played in 1920 or 2012, 43 goals in this league is amazing. He was our best player in those two years in St. Louis.”
Weight added that off the ice, Boyes’ attitude should have a positive effect in the locker room.
“He’s a real good kid – prepared, professional and committed,” Weight said. “And you want to have good character people that are going to have the work ethic and the professionalism that we want to start building within here.”
Now 30 years old, Boyes is looking forward to being more of a leader, especially to the young core that the Islanders have put together in recent years.
“As a guy who’s played some years in this league, I definitely want to help this team’s transition with the things I’ve learned,” Boyes said. “When I was younger, coming up, I was taught pretty well by the older guys. I just want to pass that along. I just want to help the same way. If guys have questions or need anything, I want to be a good teammate, help out and support them.”
Boyes isn’t just coming to Long Island to mentor the Islanders young core. He’s here to play and produce with them. He explained that the prospect of being on the ice with talented players like John Tavares and Matt Moulson was a big draw.
“One of the big reasons I chose the Islanders was the potential opportunity to play with those guys,” Boyes said. “John is one of the top players in the league and with the way Matt has scored goals over the years has been impressive, so I’m looking forward to it. I hope I get a chance to play with those two.”
Training camp opens in a couple months, so Boyes won’t have to wait much longer to hop on the ice with Tavares, Moulson and the rest of his new team. With his sights set once again on playing top-6 minutes, it may not be long before everyone learns if Snow found another diamond in the rough.