SAN JOSE, Calif. – Although Dan Boyle felt betrayed when the Tampa Bay Lightning decided to trade him, the standout defenceman is feeling much better about it after landing with the San Jose Sharks.
The Sharks acquired Boyle from Tampa Bay in a four-player deal Friday, trading deafens Matt Carle and top prospect Ty Wishart to the Lightning to add their second star defenceman in two days.
The Sharks also picked up veteran defenceman Brad Lukowich, one of Boyle’s closest friends, while giving up a first-round pick in 2009 and a fourth-round choice in 2010. San Jose then made room for its new talent and replenished its draft stock by trading defenceman Craig Rivet to Buffalo for two second-round picks.
San Jose lost defenceman Brian Campbell to Chicago on Tuesday in a lavish free-agent deal, but the Sharks quickly compensated by adding three proven winners to their blue line. After signing longtime Los Angeles Kings bruiser Rob Blake to a one-year, US$5-million free-agent contract Thursday, the Sharks fought off several suitors to land Boyle, one of the NHL’s top puck-moving defencemen.
“It’s pretty rare when a player like Dan becomes available,” Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said. “He’s one of the elite players in this league. He’s won a Stanley Cup. … He’ll be the quarterback of our power play for a long time.”
Boyle, who turns 32 next weekend, went on a premature honeymoon to Hawaii shortly after the Lightning’s awful season ended. He got married just two weeks ago, never realizing he was about to change teams after signing a six-year, $40-million deal with Tampa Bay in February.
The Lightning’s new ownership group was eager to rid itself of Boyle’s large contract, but he only found out this week after flying home for Canada Day festivities.
“I don’t have the nicest things to say about what happened, but I don’t want to dwell on this,” Boyle said in a phone interview from his Ontario cottage. “I was misled and disrespected, and it was really not the right way to do a lot of things. I don’t have anything good to say about how all this went down.”
Boyle, who had a no-trade clause in his deal, looked at several possible destinations and quickly chose San Jose, which finished last season with the NHL’s second-best regular season record and a Pacific Division title before losing in the playoffs’ second round for the third straight season, leading to rookie coach Todd McLellan replacing Ron Wilson.
“San Jose was obviously the top team I wanted to go to,” said Boyle, who has suited up for Canada alongside Sharks stars Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Blake.
“The second I hung up with Doug, I just felt good,” said Boyle, who also played with San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov in the minors. “I heard Blakie was excited about having me go there, and that just made me feel great. I’m the type of player that’s had to prove myself my whole career, and this is just another chapter in my book. I’m just absolutely pumped to prove what I can do. This team is just a couple of pieces away from winning, and hopefully we’re the right guys.”
After starting his career as an undrafted free agent with the Florida Panthers, Boyle blossomed into one of the NHL’s best defencemen over the past five seasons with Tampa Bay. He missed the first half of last season with a wrist injury from a freak locker-room accident with a skate, but returned to score 25 points in 37 games.
While keeping their talented mix of forwards largely intact during free agency, the Sharks have refurbished a defence that sometimes got pushed around in the post-season.
“We’ve got a group of our key guys coming into their prime … (but) we didn’t play well in the playoffs,” Wilson said. “We were not going to sit back and just hope things are going to change. We had to go out and make change. Getting people who have been there and won it and played at very high levels is very important.”
Boyle, Blake and Lukowich all have championships on their resume. Boyle and Lukowich were defensive partners on Tampa Bay’s only Stanley Cup title team in 2004, and Lukowich also won a ring as a rookie with Dallas in 1999.
Lukowich, a 10-year NHL veteran joining his fifth team, had one goal and six assists during 59 games in his return to Tampa Bay. Wilson emphasized the importance of getting the hard-nosed, shot-blocking specialist in the deal.
“The West is a little bit more rough and tough, so I think it’s good fit for me,” Lukowich said. “Being on different (championship) teams and seeing how it’s done, it just gives you more awareness of what it takes to win. If I can bring that knowledge from getting passed around the league to get (San Jose) over that little bubble, that’s a start for me.”
Carle had two goals and 13 assists in 62 games last season while frequently getting benched. He won the Hobey Baker Award at Denver University as the NCAA’s top hockey player, but hasn’t yet starred in the NHL.
The deal’s most painful component for the Sharks is the loss of Wishart, a first-round draft pick two years ago. He finished up his junior hockey career last spring and played five games with the Sharks’ top minor-league affiliate.