Right wing Brad Boyes played four years for the same junior team, housed by the same family for the first three. He hoped his NHL career would have the same stability.
“My last year, I had new billets,” Boyes said. “That could’ve been foreshadowing the movement I had to do coming up.”
Being a twice-traded first-round pick before playing his second NHL game set the tone for a seven-organization odyssey that finds Boyes with the Panthers on a tryout basis this training camp.
“You want to be somewhere and go through the good and the bad — or the bad and the good,” Boyes said. “But, you look back, as far as the off-ice stuff, you’re still playing hockey. You’re still doing what you like to do. That part’s the best thing. When you’ve got to move the family, that might be the lowest of the off-ice stuff.
“It gets tiring for my wife, having to do that stuff and thinking about new baby-sitters [the Boyeses have a 2-year-old], new areas, finding new things to do around the area, new friends is tough on the wife or spouse. That’s part of the job. We realize that.”
But Boyes essays a different role than the overwhelming majority of suitcase players. Most toil as third- or fourth-line grinders or “energy guys.” In the NHL, where goal scoring’s akin to gold, Boyes could be called an itinerant alchemist.
He put up a 26-goal season with Boston, which traded him to St. Louis. The Blues enjoyed Boyes’ production peak, 76 goals over two seasons from 2007 to 2009. He put up 35 points in 48 games for the Islanders last season while playing setup man for John Tavares.
“Brad’s still under a PTO [professional tryout], that hasn’t changed yet. Those things will sort themselves out in the next week or so,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. “He’s filled many roles, but there’s no question why he’s here: to improve our offensive output.”
When a scorer bounces around, the causes usually fall under “defensively invisible” or “off-ice problem.” Two of Boyes’ plus/minus seasons jump out negatively, a minus-17 in the 62 Boston games in 2006-07 before the Bruins traded him and a minus-20 during his 33-goal season in St. Louis. The rest look like normal plus/minus numbers of a scorer on middle-of-the-pack teams.
“A lot of places I’ve gone, there comes a change in management or coaching,” Boyes said. “Once that change comes through, for whatever reason, it doesn’t work out and I move on and go to the next team. Maybe it’s me not adjusting to the new changes. Sometimes, production might drop off. I don’t know.”
Dineen said he got good references on Boyes after calling around about him.
“Just checking with coaches he’s played for before, they have good things to say about him,” Dineen said. “He’s got a powerful, accurate quality shot. I think the Islanders would’ve been more than willing to have him back. I think he came here because he saw opportunity he wanted to exploit.”
Perhaps Boyes has achieved that unstable medium: Good enough that other general managers see him and think they could use him, but not so integral to keep his general manager from using him as trade bait.
Similar to former Panthers center Mike Sillinger, who played for 12 teams and got dealt to and from the Panthers at trading deadlines, the NHL trade deadline has meant a new home for Boyes four times.
Right now, he would like to just be on a team for next week’s start of the season.
Forward Steven Pinizzotto will miss the start of the preseason after a hip injury suffered last week during the preseason game in Dallas. Dineen said Pinizzotto will be out about four weeks.