Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Coyotes swap Mara for Boynton

Well, it may not be as 'sexy' a deal as those we saw over the weekend, but this is still a relatively big swap of No. 2 defencemen for their respective teams. Both Nick Boynton and Paul Mara were high first-round picks in their draft year, and both have struggled somewhat to meet the expectations of them.

Who wins here?

Personally, I like what Mara brings more than Boynton, simply because of how well he played on the power play this season. Mara finished last season ninth in goal scoring among defencemen and put up an impressive 29 power-play points. He's a fantastic skater for a huge guy, and while he still doesn't play much of a physical game for a 6-foot-4, 210-pound blueliner, that's a skill that's been downgraded in terms of importance in this league. Mara was also born and raised in Beantown, and a home-coming could bring out the best in him.

Salary shouldn't be a big issue, although both were restricted free agents in search of deals and, based on last year, Mara clearly has more impressive credentials from which to bargain from. Both made approximately $1.75-million last season, which is about where Boynton will land. (Mara has reportedly signed a deal with Boston for close to $1-million more.)

For the Bruins, they desperately needed an offensive defenceman for much of last year, and now they've got three in Brad Stuart, Mara and (an albeit aging) Brian Leetch. Stuart's another big, puck-moving PP quarterback, and together with Mara should make Boston's power play a heckuva lot better than when it was 25th this season.

As for the Coyotes, I can see why they made the deal they did, given that the team's defence has a lot of the offence-first type of players on the back end (Keith Ballard, Zbynek Michalek and Derek Morris). Boynton gives them a guy to stick as their No. 1 on the penalty kill, which was a spot Mara seldom played (coach Wayne Gretzky used his rookies when they were down a man far more).

What's interesting is that this deal happened more than two weeks before new GM Peter Chiarelli is scheduled to take the reins. You can see the wheels turning among the Bruins brass with this deal (and I like their line of thinking), but you have to wonder who's pulling the trigger here.

What I will say is that the egghead quotient among NHL GMs got a whole lot higher so far this offseason, which is going to make it that much tougher for those who aren't up to speed on the way the game's changed. Boston's one example of a team on the way up. (As for Phoenix, I haven't really liked much of what Mike Barnett's done there in his tenure.)



At 6:45 a.m., June 27, 2006, Blogger Wardo said...

I like Boynton far more.

This guy will go through a wall to win for you, and you can't teach that. His contract squabbles are overblown (it was Boston he was dealing with, remember) and though Mara outpointed him by a wide margin this year, Boynton played hurt for half the season without telling anyone.

Mara is yet another soft big man who can put some points on the board.

I expect, in a full season, Boynton to be good for something like 5-25 while working his butt off on every shift he takes. I was very impressed with his play in Boston.

At 1:53 p.m., June 27, 2006, Blogger Jim Dwyer said...

I can't speak for Mara’s play except to say that his plus-minus has been dreadful, a career minus-82 in his eight seasons with the Lighting and Coyotes (not the greatest teams, however). Hopefully his power play prowess will outshine his presumed defensive liabilities.

Boynton seemed to be B's the vocal on-ice leader, and he's a wear-his-heart-on-his-sleeve type of player. He got off to a bad start (hold-out), took a dumb penalty every once in a while and had significant issues, but he has been a solid defenseman in his tenure with the Bruins (career plus-30).

Gotta wonder who's pulling the trigger on these deals with the awkwardness and prolonged nature of Chiarelli's migration from Ottawa to Boston.

At 5:07 p.m., June 27, 2006, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Two votes for Boynton.

You guys may be right, but the thing is that he was considered (along with Raycroft) one of the 'Thornton guys.' Boston also needs more help on their power play than anything.

At 5:09 p.m., June 27, 2006, Anonymous Paul L. said...

Boynton a -7 last year and he had become prone to making silly mistakes towards the end of the season, often at the worst times. I think with a little direction he'll be great. I'm happy to see Boston purge the pro-Thornton leftovers for both the team and the players. It can be difficult to recover as a group from such a devisive event if there's a lingering negativity and distrust, so it's probably best for everyone. Mara seems like an ideal trade for Boynton, especially since he'll be familiar with Tanabe, who was also acquired from Phoenix. Now if only they'd settle this coaching issue that's been dragging on.

At 12:54 p.m., June 28, 2006, Anonymous Rob said...

evidently i'll be a contrarian here - living near Boston i watch many Bruins games and to be blunt i thought Boynton brought very little to the table last year; this could be a very good deal for the Bruins, even if Mara is merely average. Boynton looked out of place against the faster clubs (esp. Buffalo) and as Jim alluded to above he took some really bad penalties - usually those of the "hulking defenceman" variety.

Frankly, I'm surprised that Bobby Clarke didn't deal for him. ;-)

At 5:26 p.m., June 28, 2006, Anonymous Paul L. said...

Pheonix signed Boynton at $2.95M per, on a 3 year contract. Yeesh, kinda steep! Link: www.tsn.ca/nhl/news_story/?ID=169952

At 1:44 a.m., June 29, 2006, Anonymous Nick said...

Paul Mara wasn't born in Boston, he was born in New Jersey, although he did indeed grow up in Massachusetts. That aside, I will miss Boynton. I wish he hadn't held out at the begining of last year, but alas, what can one do? Now if only they could trade Bergeron, Toivonen and Kessel they would be all set. At least they still have Marty Reasoner to provide some offensive punch.

At 1:15 p.m., June 30, 2006, Blogger DCThrowback said...

Rob, every Bruin looked bad on the ice against Buffalo last year. No special mention needs to be made for Boynton.


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