To many NHL executives and pro scouts around the NHL, Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney robbed the Minnesota Wild when he acquired Charlie Coyle just ahead of the 2019 NHL trade deadline.
The eventual 2019 Jim Gregory Award (general manager of the year) winner was able to bring the 2010 first round (28th overall) pick and Weymouth, MA native home in exchange for fellow Massachusetts (Scituate, MA) native Ryan Donato and a 2019 fifth-round pick. Charlie Coyle instantly became a versatile middle-six center for the Boston Bruins and played a pivotal role in the team making it to Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final with nine goals and seven assists in 24 playoff games.
“To say that trade was a steal is an understatement,” an NHL executive opined to Boston Hockey Now during the Bruins’ 3-1 win over the team that originally drafted Coyle, the San Jose Sharks. “He’s become so important to this team, and he’s worth every cent of that great contract Donny signed him to.”
Coyle is in the fourth season of a six-year, $31.5 million contract that carries a $5.25 million cap hit. In this cap-strapped NHL, many fans understandably see that as maybe a bit too much for a third line center, given most third line centers are averaging a $3.2 million cap hit. However, most third line centers can’t dominate and increase puck possession the way Coyle does, and many can’t slot in as a second line center when needed like the way the 31-year-old Coyle can and did when Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci were out of the lineup during the first round loss to the Florida Panthers in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“What he did for us while I was out was fantastic,” Bergeron told BHN last spring. “He’s just so versatile and can be so dominant and hard on the puck that he wears the opponent down.”
That was the case this past Thursday when Coyle was asked to drop back down from the 2C slot to his normal 3C slot as head coach Jim Montgomery slotted 19-year-old rookie Matt Poitras between Brad Marchand and Morgan Geekie, looking for more speed and creativity in the top 6. Coyle wound up playing between Trent Frederic and James van Riemsdyk and grabbed the secondary assist on van Riemsdyk’s third goal of the season that put the Bruins up 2-0 at 18:27 of the opening frame.
“I thought (Coyle’s line) had a tremendous impact,” Montgomery told the media after the game. “I thought Charlie was dominant, and I thought that his two linemates owned the middle, and in front of the net and in the middle of the ice. So, I thought that second goal, really, it’s an exclamation mark on what I think that line can be.”
van Riemsdyk echoed his coach’s sentiments.
“He’s definitely a horse in the offensive zone with a puck like that,” he said of Coyle’s game. “He draws the extra guy to him, so there’s lots of open ice out there, and that’s kind of what happened on the goal. I think he had a lot of eyes on him, and we were able to find some soft ice and get a couple extra whacks at it.”
We won’t know until the game-day skate ahead of the Bruins’ tilt with the Kings in Los Angeles on Saturday night, if Montgomery will keep that trio of van Riemsdyk-Coyle-Frederic together, but no matter what, Coyle doesn’t care where he’s playing, as long as he’s helping his team.
“Some people might slate one line here. Some might say the other line’s here. The other line might be here,” Coyle said prior to the game Thursday. “It doesn’t matter where it’s slated, right? It’s a team. It doesn’t matter if you’re slated on the first two lines. It’s how many minutes you’re playing. We all want to play more minutes, right? It doesn’t matter if you’re up here or here or wherever. You just want to play the best you can with whoever you’re playing with, play more minutes, and be the best you can.
I really don’t look at it as, ‘Oh, I’ve got to be the first two on the depth chart right here.’ I just want to play well wherever I am and whoever I’m playing with. And play more minutes.”
That mentality and all he brings on the ice will continue to make him worth his contract and silence his critics.