Maple Leafs Acquire Brian Boyle

Brian Boyle will be the new 4th line center for Toronto (Photo by Mike Carlson via Getty Images)

Brian Boyle will be the new 4th line center for Toronto (Photo by Mike Carlson via Getty Images)

All data courtesy of Corsica, hockey-reference, and stats.hockeyanalysis.com

Per reports from Bob McKenzie, the Maple Leafs acquired center, Brian Boyle, from the Tampa bay Lightning. For the first time in a long time, the Maple Leafs are buyers instead of sellers at the deadline. In fact, they are one of the few teams to make a move before the March 1st deadline. The final deal, per the Leafs PR, was Boyle for Toronto Marlies center and prospect, Byron Froese and the highest of their 2nd round draft picks in 2017.

The biggest reason for this trade is simple; they desperately needed an upgrade for 4th line center. The 4th line with Ben Smith at the pivot was a horror. The 4th line was consistently killed at 5v5, shot and goal-wise. Smith, in particular seemed to be the biggest problem. He was among the bottom 10 in CF% at just above 42% and a CF% REL TM at a miserable -7.9. Those shot rates are even worse considering the maple Leafs are one of the stronger Corsi teams in the league.

Smith wasn’t a very good defensive center and he was even worse offensively so it makes a ton of sense to give the spot up for Boyle. Coach Mike Babcock mainly used him as a faceoff “specialist” but at a 50.8% clip and not much else to offer, it was clear that he didn’t fit.

How Ben Smith and Brian Boyle compare (data via Corsica)

How Ben Smith and Brian Boyle compare (data via Corsica)

Boyle on the other hand has much better metrics than Smith. Boyle comes in with a CF% of 53.4% and a CF% REL TM of 3.6. All of a sudden, the Leafs 4th line doesn’t look like too much of a black hole. Sure, Boyle isn’t the faceoff “wizard” that Smith is but anyone will take the infinitely better shot rates and only getting about 1% worse on the faceoff dot. The former Ranger also can kick in offensively, too as he’s good for around 15 goals per year.

Boyle brings a ton of playoff experience to Toronto, something the front office felt was necessary to add for a potential playoff run. Boyle’s playoff chops include 100 career games, including two trips to the Stanley Cup finals. The 4th line center’s experience during the playoffs will hopefully help out the young team.

Lastly, the price for Boyle wasn’t all that bad. While I’m not too keen on paying replacement level players (like a Matt Martin), I’m okay with Boyle since he’s just a rental. Giving up Froese, who’s an AHLer, and a 2nd rounder is more than reasonable. Froese is a fringe NHLer, who was having a tough time cracking the parent club, and the 2nd rounder was a good piece to bring in Boyle, as they already have plenty of picks. Overall, this would a good deal for Toronto.

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