|Forward Brad Boyes scored a team-high 21 goals in his first season with the Panthers. It was the fourth 20-plus goal campaign of his career (Getty Images).|
Brad Boyes arrived at Panthers training camp in September as a bit of a wild card but finished the season as one of the club’s most consistent offensive players.
After spending the 2012-13 season with the New York Islanders, Boyes, signed a professional try-out with Florida prior to training camp and then promptly earned a one-year contract. Boyes got off to a fast start to the season registering five points in Florida’s first five games (4-1-5) while establishing himself as one of the team’s goal scoring threats.
The 32-year-old winger was an ideal fit for the Panthers this season as his veteran-scoring prowess was an excellent complement to Florida’s young talent, including linemates Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad. The Panthers liked what Boyes brought to the team so much that they locked him up to a two-year contract extension at the trade deadline.
Boyes, whose savvy ice presence and goal scorer’s touch, especially when it comes to the shootout, would have made him a valuable commodity on the free agent market, said the level of comfort he and his family felt in South Florida was a big reason why he decided to stay with the Panthers rather than waiting to test free agency in the offseason.
“The one thing was, I liked the position I was in,” Boyes said. “I’ve been on a number of teams, moved around a lot. To get an opportunity and feel comfortable in a spot. It doesn’t always work out other places.”
The Florida Panthers bright future was another big reason why Boyes decided to stay on board.
“I’m just looking forward to the next couple of years and seeing how far and how much we’re pushing to win here,” he said. “We enjoy it down here, my wife and my kids like it down here, plus the direction of the team and where we’re going.
“There is lot of talk about us really making a push for guys, and they really want a winning team down here.”
The veteran winger experienced Florida’s immense potential firsthand as he spent most of the 2013-14 season playing with the club’s rookie centers; Barkov and Bjugstad. Boyes, who was impressed by Barkov’s two-way game and Bjugstad’s quick release and impressive speed, said the young centers each have their own distinctive style.
“Both of them, they bring different elements but they’re both very effective.” Boyes said on his experience playing with the two centers this season.
With his new two-year deal, Boyes will play an important role in the future for the Panthers both on and off the ice. Boyes, who made his NHL debut in 2004 with San Jose, has spent a lot of time playing in the NHL around the league. He will undoubtedly use this voluminous rolodex of NHL veterans to act as an ambassador for potential free agents.
“I’ve played with a lot of teams, I’ve played with a lot of guys,” Boyes said. “I’ll be talking to guys. If guys have questions or anything, I’m more than happy to help out in any way that I can. For me it’s been a positive experience. It’s great down here. I don’t know why guys wouldn’t want to play here, it’s awesome.”
Last fall, Boyes joined the Panthers as something of an unknown entity. Now he is signed through 2015-16 and will be a key part of Florida’s plans moving forward. Looking forward to next season, Boyes is no longer an unknown. Instead, he is a player who will be counted on to add leadership and a scoring punch to the Panthers roster.
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