Earlier this off-season, the Panthers’ buyout of Brad Boyes caught the hockey world off guard. It wasn’t that Boyes was irreplaceable in Florida, but his steady production and decent price tag made him a quality contributor in the Cats’ top-six. But Florida’s decision has turned into Toronto’s gain, as the Maple Leafs have inked the former 40-goal scorer to a one-year deal.
After going through the entire off-season without a contract, Boyes came to Toronto’s training camp on a professional tryout before signing a deal with the Maple Leafs for the 2015-16 campaign. Boyes’ deal will pay him $700,000, which is a healthy dropoff from the $2.5 million he was set to earn had he remained with the Panthers.
With the Maple Leafs, Boyes won’t automatically slide into a top-six role, but he could very well play himself into minutes on the top two lines should he outperform either of Joffrey Lupul or P-A Parenteau. Boyes has spent the past two seasons on a Florida team that was one of the most offensively stunted in the entire NHL, yet still managed 21-goal, 36-point and 14-goal, 38-point campaigns in the Sunshine State.
By signing a one-year contract at such a reasonable cap hit could make Boyes a very important piece of the Maple Leafs’ short-term plans. If he exceeds expectations and has a big season, he could become a valuable commodity at the trade deadline.
With Toronto in the early stages of a rebuild, stockpiling draft picks will be important to the Maple Leafs’ future, and Boyes could be a nice, cheap addition for a team heading into the post-season. His play, however, will determine what kind of value the Maple Leafs will seek in return. And should Boyes perform admirably and the Maple Leafs seek to retain the veteran winger, Toronto will control his rights until July 1.
During the prime years of his career, Boyes was an incredible offensive threat. In back-to-back seasons with St. Louis in 2007-08 and 2008-09, he eclipsed the 30-goal plateau and set a career-high with 43 goals in 2007-08. But more than half a decade later, the now 33-year-old Boyes hasn’t managed consecutive 15-goal seasons since his two big years with the Blues.
A native of Mississauga, Ont., signing with the Maple Leafs is a homecoming in more ways than one for Boyes. Apart from playing for his “hometown” team, Boyes will be skating for the team that drafted him. He was a first-round selection, 24th overall, of the Maple Leafs in 2000, yet he didn’t play a single game for the franchise. Instead, Boyes was used a trade chip in Toronto’s acquisition of Owen Nolan from the San Jose Sharks in 2003, and subsequently bounced around the league.