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What Brian Boyle Could Bring to Penguins Lineup; No Risk, Big Reward

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Brian Boyle fights New York Islanders Anders Lee

A 36-year-old player who hasn’t played since 2019-20 and never fleet of foot will be in the Pittsburgh Penguins training camp.

Sure, if you put it that way, the Penguins PTO offer to Brian Boyle announced by GM Ron Hextall on Friday may sound like a nothing burger with an extra eye roll, but Boyle isn’t an ordinary player, and this surely seems like more than a courtesy tryout agreement. No, Brian Boyle has a real chance to make the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup and add a few missing elements.

Boyle has been skating with fellow NHL players in the Boston suburbs. Last week, he participated in a charity game with those players and local police to raise money for the Hold the Line Foundation, which supports local first responders. Conor Garland, Ryan Donato, Zach Sanford, and a few other NHL-calibre players skated in the annual charity game.

“They still can’t catch me,” Boyle joked to the Boston Globe. 

The well-mustached Boyle draws heavy praise from around the league as a big player and bigger personality. Boyle has overcome Leukemia in 2017-18 and been a force for every team he’s played, including the skilled Florida Panthers lineup in 2019-20 and before that a short stint with the young skill of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

But let’s not skip the obvious. Boyle is a heavy player. At 6-foot-6, 250-pounds (give or take a few pounds), when he hits, it hurts. He’s also not afraid to drop the mitts when his team needs it.

Boyle’s last time in the Metropolitan Division was with the New Jersey Devils in 2017-18. On Jan. 18, 2018, Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson crunched the diminutive Brian Gibbons with one of Wilson’s notorious full speed hits at center ice. Boyle didn’t waste three seconds before throwing punches.

 

Boyle received an instigator penalty, a fighting major, and a 10-minute game misconduct penalty. And the Devils bench loved it. That night, the Devils beat the eventual Stanley Cup champions in OT to close within four points of the division lead. And New Jersey goalie Keith Kincaid specifically referenced Boyle.

“…Everyone is sacrificing the body and stepping up for each other. Brian Boyle had a big fight out there, and we’re blocking shots. That’s key this time of year,” Kincaid said following the game (quote from NHL.com).

And this sequence in 2019 when Boyle steamrolled New York Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech then fought Islanders captain Anders Lee:

 

A PHN colleague in the Boston area offered this assessment of Boyle.

“…Even if he’s around the kids for just a month, he’s a great influence. A great leader,” our colleague offered.

Boyle played in back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals with the New York Rangers (2014) on the team, including former Penguins Carl Hagelin and Derick Brassard and with the 2015 Tampa Bay Lightning.

Pittsburgh Penguins Training Camp

There’s little downside to bringing Boyle to camp later this month. The Penguins haven’t officially announced a date, but expect it sometime around Sept. 22-23. The Penguins’ first preseason game is Sept. 27.

The Penguins have offered Boyle only an opportunity to make the team, at which point they’ll formalize a contract. And if it seems like PHN is already penciling him into the lineup, it’s because we are.

Evgeni Malkin’s offseason knee surgery means he is unlikely in the lineup to start the season. That absence will elevate Jeff Carter to the second-line center position and Teddy Blueger to the third pivot.

Which leaves the fourth line open.

Boyle has not put up great statistics in a decade. His last 30-point season was in 2010-11 with the New York Rangers. In 2019-20, he scored a respectable 15 points (6-9-15) in 39 games.

And Boyle won more than 50% of his faceoffs for 11 consecutive seasons and counting.

The last hockey Boyle played was the 2021 World Championships in Latvia for Team USA. He scored three points (2-1-3) in 10 games and was the Team USA captain.

Evan Rodrigues could fill the Penguins’ fourth-line spot. In theory, so could Sam Lafferty. But Boyle becomes a big addition and a player who knows how to carry himself in tough times, rough games, and good times.

And as the Metro Division engages in an arms race to combat the Washington Capitals and Tom Wilson, perhaps the Penguins have a little deterrence to the “extra-legal” and illegal physicality which became too prevalent last season. Perhaps they have a fourth-line center as needed and a leader in the room.

It will cost the Penguins nothing to find out.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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ThePenguin71
ThePenguin71
19 days ago

I think your write-up is spot on. Boyle is more than a PTO lottery ticket. He is a big heavy player, a leader, and a winner. I have always liked him on other teams. He seems to be what they call a glue guy for the locker room.

Rob
Rob
19 days ago

He could help solidify the center position. The Penguins are thin at the center position, especially when the injury bug rears its ugly head. If/When the team is fully healthy, i am not sure where he will fit, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it. Right now its a big if as far as if Boyle can still perform on the ice anywhere near what he used to. Especially after taking a year off the ice.

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[…] another on Friday. Five restricted free agents signed; four unrestricted free agents signed, and three professional tryouts and two players signed extensions in the last three days. So now […]

Nicholas
Nicholas
18 days ago

I hope Boyle works out, but I still think Hextall needs to get one more big guy like Gudbranson for instance. Boyle is big and will fight if he has to it but hes not really good at it, for fighting purposes Id rather have a Gudbranson.

trackback

[…] another on Friday. Five restricted free agents signed; four unrestricted free agents signed, and three professional tryouts and two players signed extensions in the last three days. So now […]

Gary Curci
Gary Curci
17 days ago

If money will allow I would love a Gudbranson pick up. I liked him the last time he was here. Burke and Hextal like to talk toughness. Here you go.

Keith T.
Keith T.
17 days ago

No down-side here……… PTO is a good way to test the waters so to speak to see if he has what it takes after such a prolonged absence. In light of the ZERO movement in the lineup during the off season it is kinda sad that a PTO is something to get excited about….. LOL.

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[…] on Friday. Five limited cost-free brokers signed 4 unrestricted cost-free agents signed, and three experienced tryouts and two players signed extensions in the past three times. So now […]

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