Dan Boyle has led his team in ice time per game for 11 straight seasons. Those days should be over for the soon-to-be 38-year-old, which might be why ice time was low on Boyle's list of reasons for signing a two-year, $9 million contract with the New York Rangers on July 1.
Playing for the Eastern Conference champions, with former and now again current teammate Martin St. Louis, for an Original Six team, in New York, and at Madison Square Garden all came ahead of ice time for Boyle.
They all apparently came ahead of money too.
Boyle indicated Monday that he could have made more than $4.5 million per season if he signed elsewhere, most notably with the New York Islanders, who acquired his negotiating rights in a trade with from the San Jose Sharks on June 5. Had he signed with the Islanders, he instantly would have become the favorite to challenge Travis Hamonic as the team's ice-time leader.
Defense - NYR
GOALS: 12 | ASST: 24 | PTS: 36
SOG: 154 | +/-: -8
Boyle, though, said he's always been intrigued with the Rangers and MSG, so when the opportunity presented itself the intrigue of ice time and making as much money as he possibly could make didn't factor in his decision.
"I've played in Florida and California, two non-traditional hockey markets and those places were great, but I wanted to experience something different," Boyle said. "It's an Original Six team and New York is somewhere I wanted to go. You can make more money elsewhere, but at the end of the day you've gotta be happy and that's why I chose to go there."
Boyle joins the Rangers as the replacement for Anton Stralman, who signed a five-year, $22.5 million contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Boyle, like Stralman, is a righty, so he should fit perfectly next to Ryan McDonagh or Marc Staal. But Stralman, who is more than 10 years Boyle's junior, averaged 19:24 in ice time per game. Boyle led the San Jose Sharks last season at 21:16; it was a 12-season low for him.
However, unlike Stralman, coach Alain Vigneault is expected to count on Boyle to run the Rangers' power play from the point. Forget about how much he plays, the power play is where Boyle is expected to make the biggest impact for the Rangers.
Brad Richards was the power-play quarterback last season, when the Rangers finished 15th in the regular season (18.2 percent), but operated at a 12.6-percent clip in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, including a 0-for-36 stretch bridging the Eastern Conference First Round and Second Round.
The Sharks were actually worse than the Rangers last season (17.2 percent in the regular season, 12.5 percent in the playoffs), but history is on Boyle's side here considering the Sharks' power play was better than 20 percent in each of Boyle's first five seasons in San Jose.
Approximately 50-percent of Boyle's career points have come on the power play (281 of 561 in 954 games). He had 136 points on the power play in six seasons with the Sharks, including 18 last season, which was 17th among defensemen.
"The power play is one of the spots where I hope to come in and help," Boyle said. "It's something I've been doing for many years now and hopefully I can help out and maybe improve it."
His power-play ice time with the Rangers should stay the same or perhaps go up from 3:38 he played last season (12th among defensemen in the NHL), but it won't be good for the Rangers if Boyle is leading them in overall ice time per game.
And that's not a knock on Boyle.
If all goes to plan, McDonagh will be the Rangers' ice-time leader. He was 12th among blue-liners in ice time per game last season (24:49); Boyle was 65th (21:16). McDonagh was second behind Richards in power-play ice time per game (2:52).
If McDonagh doesn't lead the Rangers in ice time again it'll mean one of two negative things: he has regressed or he is injured.
Nobody has to tell Boyle this.
"Even though you have the accolades doesn't mean you deserve to play in front of somebody that is up and coming," Boyle said.
Depending on how Vigneault deploys his defense pairs, Boyle might be in line to be third or fourth in ice time. Dan Girardi was 38th among defensemen last season at 23:07, including 1:31 on the power play, an average that should go down with Boyle's presence. Staal averaged 20:31.
"I'm going to go out there, be the best I can be, and hopefully that will be enough to earn me the ice time that I want," Boyle said. "It'll be a competition I guess, but at the end of the day we want to win hockey games. If I have to play less in certain cases, then so be it. Certain games will dictate whether I'm playing less or more, but I'm not a selfish person. I want to win hockey games and I'll do what I've gotta do, but ice time has got to be earned so we'll see what happens."
Boyle seems determined not to let age be a factor in how much he plays. He turns 38 on Saturday.
"I led the team in ice time last year. I have no problem with playing minutes. That's why you keep yourself in shape and put yourself in shape, to be able to go through that," Boyle said. "I'm not looking to kind of go out as a guy playing in and out, playing a few minutes. I'm not going to go out like that. I'm going in to make a difference. I'm one of those guys that wants the puck, that wants to make plays, that wants to play, and that's what I'm hoping for. Obviously helping younger guys that just goes with the territory and I'd be happy to help, but I'm there to win hockey games and obviously the ultimate goal is to win the Cup. That's what I'm there for."