Tampa Bay Lightning free agency: Yes on Boyle, no on Shattenkirk

The Tampa Bay Lightning need to make bringing back Brian Boyle a priority.
The Tampa Bay Lightning need to make bringing back Brian Boyle a priority. /

 The Tampa Bay Lightning have some well-earned breathing room under the NHL’s salary cap. There are certain needs to address and certain ways the money shouldn’t be spent.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and general manager Steve Yzerman have some work to this offseason in order to put a competitive team on the ice come October. Among those tasks are re-signing restricted free agents like Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Jake Dotchin, and Slater Koekkoek.

But in addition to restocking the cupboard with ingredients we’ve not quite run out of yet, Yzerman must also secure some defensive talent and wrangle some unrestricted free agents, like the recently re-signed Yanni Gourde.

One player who fits both descriptions is Kevin Shattenkirk, who was traded as a rental last year for Washington’s failed Cup run. Another free agent on the Bolts’ radar has to be veteran forward and former Tampa Bay Lightning fave Brian Boyle.

The Lightning brass has apparently reached out to Shattenkirk’s camp and is “kicking the tires” on the veteran blue-liner. He’s expected to be the top defensive free agent this summer, making him a costly way to round out the Lightning’s defensive Top 4. That is a waste of time.

Bolts fans may remember talk of dealing for Shattenkirk in a prospective trade-and-sign scenario during the last season. It’s a well-known fact that Stevie Y doesn’t want rental players, and a trade for Shattenkirk would have been contingent on agreeing to an extension.

The talk at the time was a deal involving Shattenkirk for fiery winger and current Montreal Canadien Jonathan Drouin. For whatever reason, Shattenkirk, who did not have an active no-trade clause, essentially spiked the deal by refusing to sign an extension.

Why pursue a costly D-man who’s already made it clear he wasn’t interested in playing for the Bolts long-term? There are better ways to spend the Lightning’s free agency money, one of which is bringing back Brian Boyle.

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Among one of the simpler reasons Boyle is worth looking at over Shattenkirk is the fact that he wants to be here. I mean, he never wanted to leave. But the Bolts traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs for center Byron Froese and a second round pick in one of Yzerman’s patented salary dumps. That doesn’t mean the locker room, fans, or management ever really wanted to see him go. By all accounts, no one did.

Boyle, newly-minted father of two, told the Tampa Bay Times that returning to the Tampa Bay Lightning is a “huge option” for his family.

"“We love Tampa,” Boyle told the Times. “If Tampa wanted to work out a deal, that’s definitely a huge option for us. That’s something that I’ve kind of always thought about. I haven’t closed the door on anything.”"

Boyle would bring proven leadership abilities and a huge net-front presence to the Tampa Bay power play. The versatile veteran forward was doubtless a big presence in the Lightning locker room while captain Steven Stamkos and alternate Ryan Callahan were both out with injury. He’ll also likely take a team-friendly deal to return to the team, given the glorious tax benefits of living in Florida.

Plus, he’s clearly a good person, as witnessed on his Twitter feed.

So, to recap: Bring Back Boyle. Kicking Shattenkirk’s tires? Kick that idea to the curb.