Perhaps most hockey experts would call
New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk a bit of a late bloomer. He is
after all having a career best year at the ripe young age of 31, an age where
most players are expected to be in the middle of their prime already and maybe even trending on a
downward slope. Of course it didn’t exactly help that Boychuk spent the first
five full years of his career on a Boston Bruins team filled with talented
defenseman, including the likes of Dennis Seidenberg, Dougie Hamilton and
former perennial Norris Trophy candidate Zdeno Chara.
One of the positive things about being a
Boston Bruin to start his career is that Boychuk learned how to become a
winner, something that the Islanders franchise hasn’t done a lot of since the
glory days of the 1970s. Of course coming over from Boston with a winning
attitude alone isn’t what gets you a long term contract in the NHL in this
salary cap conscious, analytics focused era in hockey… it takes a lot more than
Normally one would automatically refer to the
box score and point out a defenseman who is going to make an average of $6
million per season for the next seven years as one who can likely light the
lamp on the power play and be his team’s best defenseman on any given night.
Boychuck undoubtedly has the ability to be his team’s best defenseman, but
until he started putting up career numbers this year, he wasn’t exactly
lighting up the lamp or picking up helpers quarterbacking the powerplay.
So what is it exactly that got a guy who,
prior to this season, has never scored more than five goals and 23 points in a
campaign a $42 million deal? He’s steady. Boychuck blocks a ton of shots and
he’s not afraid to throw his body around. He does also have a career high in
goals and points during what was just a little while ago a contract year.
Let the detractors and naysayers say what they
want about players on the cusp of their best years getting paid way too much in
advance of their performance. That’s just the way the game is these days. Only
time will tell whether the Islanders have found themselves a key piece that
will help them build towards making the Islanders a perennial contender once
again, or whether they’ve just signed the next Nathan Horton or David Clarkson.
It’s also important to keep in mind that this isn’t the first time a player has
stayed in a market that most of his colleagues would rather not entertain for
the sake of inking a long-term, big money deal.
As far as Boychuk is concerned however, he’s
obviously okay with the idea of having long-term security while playing for a
franchise that is on the upswing and likely will continue to be just that for
the next seven years.
At the end of the day no matter how
things work out for Boychuk, he’s getting paid what the present day market
allows, and now it’s on him to prove the Isles right for paying him a premium
to stay on Long Island.
Labels: Jack Choros