The Toronto Maple Leafs are searching for better depth at centre ahead of the trade deadline and the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Brian Boyle could be the ideal player for them.
There have been rumours circulating recently that suggest the Leafs have joined both Edmonton and Columbus as teams potentially interested in acquiring Tampa’s Boyle. The 32-year old is a player that could fit perfectly on the Leafs’ fourth line, having the flexibility to play as both a centre and a winger.
He has averaged 13:46 minutes per game this season, over two minutes longer than the Leafs’ current fourth-line centre, Ben Smith. However, Boyle has contributed offensively far more often this season.
Smith has played 33 games for the Maple Leafs this season, registering two goals and two assists. Boyle, on the other hand, has featured in 51 games for the Lightning and has 13 goals and 21 total points to his name so far.
The Leafs’ fourth line has the potential to be a decent point producer, with the likes of Nikita Soshnikov and Josh Leivo contributing when called upon. Partnering those young wingers with Boyle could see the team get even more production from their bottom forward line.
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Additionally, the Leafs are in need of some help on faceoffs – something that Boyle would give them. While not outstanding, Boyle has won 52.5 percent of the 314 faceoffs he has taken this season.
This record would actually put him second on the Leafs, 4.1 percent less than team-leader Tyler Bozak, but 0.4 percent higher than Smith. Having an extra boost on faceoffs, as well as with offensive production, makes Boyle a player the Leafs should seriously consider making a move for.
Boyle is a veteran of the NHL, with 600 regular season games under his belt, and could be a good influence on the team’s younger players.
The Leafs’ rookies have struggled on faceoffs this season, with Auston Matthews leading the youngsters with just a 46.5 percent success rate. Having the experienced Boyle, who is an alternate captain in Tampa, around the team’s younger players could help them continue developing that side of their game.
Boyle is also a cheap option for the Leafs, with a $2 million cap hit – which only lasts for the remainder of this season. He is an Unrestricted Free Agent this summer and, at his age, is unlikely to command a high-paying contract.
Trading for the Hingham, Massachusetts native and re-signing him to a short one or two-year deal could give the Leafs the veteran leadership and ability that can improve their fourth line and help them in the long-run.
With the Leafs still fighting for a playoff spot this season, adding someone such as Boyle seems to have plenty of benefits to the team.
What do you think? Would Brian Boyle be an ideal addition as the Leafs’ fourth line centre? Are there other players you would like to see the team target? Let us know in the comments!