New Jersey Devils: Brian Boyle Is An Intriguing Short-Term Option

New Jersey Devils center Brian Boyle (11): (Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports)
New Jersey Devils center Brian Boyle (11): (Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports) /

The New Jersey Devils need to replace Travis Zajac in the faceoff circle while he’s on the COVID-19 protocol list. Brian Boyle is an intriguing available option.

This might be an insane proposition, but the New Jersey Devils should sign Brian Boyle if Travis Zajac is going to be out more than a week. Zajac found himself on the COVID-19 protocol list on Friday morning, and the already shorthanded Devils are now in an even worse position. The Devils did get Jesper Bratt back to help its winger depth, but losing another center with Nico Hischier still out could derail all the excitement that came at the beginning of the season.

On Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers, Lindy Ruff put Yegor Sharangovich at center after moving Pavel Zacha to a more advantageous position of left wing. It was the right move for Zacha, but it was clear Ruff doesn’t trust a line with Sharangovich in the middle. He played 6:25 at 5v5 against the Flyers. That was the lowest on the team.

There’s also Jesper Boqvist sitting on the taxi squad. He was playing well with Zajac and Miles Wood for the first four games. It made his demotion a little strange. However, it’s clear there’s a reason Ruff sent him down. There’s something he isn’t seeing, so expecting him to now put him in Travis Zajac’s position likely won’t happen.

The question is how long it would take to get Boyle in camp. How many tests he has to pass and how long he has to quarantine is up in the air. Even if he has to sit out a week, it’s a worthwhile transaction.

Ruff probably wants a veteran who he can rely on in crucial times to have ice in his veins. Boyle was exactly that when he was with the Devils. Things didn’t go as well outside of New Jersey, but his year and a half in Newark went about as well as possible.

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It’s completely possible that Boyle’s skill just fell off a cliff. He’s 36 years old, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility, but there are other teams interested in bringing in the free agent. The Rangers reached out to Boyle in the offseason, but he said he wanted to come to a team on a standard contract and not a PTO. Well, now the Devils can give him that standard contract.

Boyle also has a history of being pretty good in the faceoff circle, which the Devils are terrible at right now. Michael McLeod has the best faceoff percentage on the team, and he’s at 45%. Zajac is expected to bounce back, but the rest of the team in a major question mark. Boyle won more than 52 percent of his faceoffs last season. He hasn’t won less than half since 2010-11. He doesn’t take as many as he used to (376 last season, 832 in his first season in New Jersey), but he knows he can win faceoffs at a very good clip.

In a usual season, bringing in a veteran like Boyle just to deal with an at-most two-week absence would be idiotic. This isn’t a normal season. The Devils can sign Boyle for under $1 million. When Zajac returns, the Devils can immediately put him on waivers so he can join the taxi squad. The way things are going, the Devils are going to need a veteran to call upon the next time this comes up. Whether it be injury or COVID-related, the Devils will need forwards who can play center.