The New York Rangers re-signed breakout center Brian Boyle Thursday afternoon to a three-year, $5.1 million contract, avoiding arbitration and making him the third of their five integral free agents to be signed this offseason.
The 26-year-old exploded onto the scene with the Rangers last season, recording 21 goals and 14 assists -- both career highs. Coach John Tortorella did not expect him to make the team of of training camp, but Boyle impressed with an improved skating ability, a concerted effort to use his body more and a return of his college/AHL scoring touch. Even though he played in 71 games two years ago, Boyle only had six assists, and was often just a big, 6-foot-7, 244-pound body that was taking up space, rather than using his body to his advantage. Last year, he led the team in hits and constantly blocked shots.
With his improved play, came what every player wants: more ice time. If you don't play responsible two-way hockey for Tortorella, you will ride the pine, and Boyle parlayed his great defensive efforts into a prominent role on the penalty kill unit (as well as also being used on the power play). His ice time nearly doubled last season from a year a go to 15:44.
Boyle made $550,000 last season. It remains to be seen where Boyle will fit in with so many centers (Artem Anisimov, Derek Stepan, Brad Richards, Erik Christensen, Mike Rupp) in the fold, but Boyle will certainly be a key contributor.