As the Jackets prepare to open their exhibition schedule, the last bit of news we expected to hear was that Jared Boll was inking a new contract. To say that reactions to the news were quite mixed is an understatement, especially when the three year term and $5.1 million dollar pricetag came to light.
I'll say here what I said on twitter earlier today. I have no problem with Jared Boll the person. I love his heart, I love his dedication, and I truly respect that he wants to spend his career here. I've been impressed with his resolve ever since he pushed his way onto the roster straight out of Junior hockey. He's taken a lot of abuse for this team and just keeps answering the bell. I cannot help but respect that.
But with that said, I think we have to admit that while his fighting skills have arguably improved in the - ye gods - seven years he's spent in Union Blue, his hockey skills plateaued quite some time ago. In fact, statistically, he's been on a decline since the 2010-2011 season.
We've asked for the last several years if Boll was really a good use of an NHL roster spot. Even if you argue that his roll as a fighter and a dressing room leader outweighs his lack of scoring and defensive play, the fact remains that he's used in soft minutes and specific situations. Even then, there's evidence that his fighting actually hurts the team's chances of being scored on!
Yet Jarmo and the front office have decided to give Boller roughly a 50% pay raise and guarantee he'll be a Blue Jacket into his early 30s, and bring a cap hit that, while relatively low, especially if the cap goes up, is still a lot to give to a guy in his role.
Using Capgeek's comparable salaries tool. $1.7 million (Boll's new cap hit) lines him up against Jiri Tlusty, Nate Thompson, Gregory Campbell, Ryan Jones, Maxime Talbot, Eric Fehr, and Brian Boyle. Most of those guys are in roughly the same age group, but none of them are really an "enforcer" player, and quite a few of them have broken the 20 goal plateau in the NHL at least once. Several of them are regarded as defensively skilled players, and many of them are well regarded as penalty killers. (Also, in the case of Talbot and Campbell, they've got a Stanley Cup or two on their resume.)
Boll's best season, offensively, was the 2008-2009 campaign, where he whipped up 14 points, 10 of them assists. His best goal scoring season was 2010-2011, where he potted seven to go with his 182 PIMs. Not exactly in the same category. He's usually only put on the PK in cases of extreme emergency (or to send a message to the other club), and he's never seen on the ice for key defensive draws.
Even if, again, you say the intangibles and his voice in the locker room makes up some of that difference, you also have to look at the very nature of his job. Boll goes out, and every shift he has a pretty decent chance of getting hurt. Not just the bruises or cuts that most players collect during a game, but eye injuries, concussions, and broken bones have all cut short his playing time in the past.
His career high for games played in a season is 75, a mark he hasn't reached since his sophomore year. The more damage he takes, the more unlikely it is that he's going to hit that level again. Also, frankly, because he is a very nice guy, I also worry about the toll that his fighting may take on him both during this contract and the long term. The more we learn about CTE and post-concussion syndrome, the less I like seeing anyone drop the gloves.
All in all, you have a guy who has been a long tenured player for the team being rewarded for his service, and probably given more money and term than most players in his role at this point in his career as a result. It's a decision that shows the organization's loyalty to their players, which I appreciate, but it doesn't really make a lot of sense to someone on the outside looking in, and I'm still not sure it works for me on the inside, either.