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.)