By Sean Hartnett
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Dan Boyle knew exactly where he wanted to play his hockey after San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson announced on May 15 that the veteran two-way defenseman would not be re-signed.
His eyes were always on the Rangers.
"Even before they went on their run last year to the Cup Final, this is where I wanted to be," Boyle said Friday.
On July 1, the first day of free agency, Boyle got his wish. While hanging out with San Francisco rockers Faith No More, Boyle signed a two-year, $9 million deal with the Rangers.
"When I signed with New York, I was actually in London with them," Boyle said. "They were my favorite band growing up, and I got to meet them. I've seen them four or five times now. There will be more. They're putting out a new album in a couple more months. I'm pretty excited about it."
The free agent signing period tends to be a nervous time or most professional hockey players. But that wasn't the case for Boyle, who was enjoying his summer of music and touring in Europe. Even though he had a number of more lucrative options on the table, Boyle had his mind made up that he wanted to be a Ranger.
After taking part in his first practice under new head coach Alain Vigneault on Friday, Boyle spoke of his desire to remain at the top his game and deliver in New York.
"I want it to be clear that I'm not here to just kind of fade away into the sunset," Boyle said. "I'm here to win. I'm here to work, and play, and make a difference on the ice."
At 38 and coming off a down season with the Sharks, Boyle's ability has been questioned. He finished the regular season with 12 goals and 24 assists, numbers that were a significant drop-off from the usual 50-point seasons he had become accustomed to producing.
Boyle is the second-oldest player on the Rangers' roster behind 39-year-old winger Martin St. Louis. Boyle was St. Louis' teammates from 2002-08 in Tampa Bay. Together, the close friends, under the tutelage of head coach John Tortorella, led the Lightning to the Stanley Cup championship.
"He's a remarkable story," Boyle said of St. Louis. "For us to find each other this late in our careers is pretty special."
Boyle said his attributes as a mobile defenseman fit right in with head coach Alain Vigneault's up-tempo, offensive-leaning system.
"This team likes to play an offensive-type game," Boyle said. "That's exactly what I want to do -- get the puck out of our zone as quick as we can and spend as much time in the other zone as possible."
Boyle will be expected to jump-start a Rangers' power play that finished 15th overall last season. While Boyle said he understands the pressure being placed on him, he's also well aware that it takes a five-man unit to run a successful power play.
"That's one of the reasons why I'm here," Boyle said. "Again, it takes five guys. One guy is not going to come in and change everything all together. Everybody is going to have to buy in to the same thing. Hopefully, I'll bring some fresh ideas and possibly new ways to look at things. Everybody that's out there is going to have to be accountable to turn it around."
STAAL LIKELY TO BE BOYLE'S DEFENSIVE PARTNER
Boyle was paired with Rangers alternate captain Marc Staal during Friday's on-ice session. It is expected that the duo will form the Rangers' second pairing when the regular season begins.
Staal described Boyle as "a very skilled, very smart player" who "can move the puck and has a great sense of the game."
The 27-year-old defenseman formed a rock-solid paring with Anton Stralman last season, but now that Stralman has joined the Lightning, Staal is hopeful that he and Boyle will strike up a similar understanding.
"With more scrimmages and the more time that we put in together, the more natural it will come," Staal said.
Rangers fans will get their first look at Boyle in action on Monday night at Madison Square Garden when the Blueshirts face the Devils in their 7 p.m. preseason opener.
STAAL REMAINS HOPEFUL ON NEW CONTRACT
The Rangers' alternate captain described contract talks as an open dialogue.
"We'll play it by ear and see how it goes," Staal said.
Staal said the talks will not become a distraction or change his focus during training camp.
"I don't think it changes anything for me," Staal said. "I approach training camp the same way I always have. I'm going to work hard and try to help my team be successful again. To me that won't change anything. I'm excited and optimistic for the start of the season."
Last season, talks on a long-term extension for Henrik Lundqvist dragged on and the veteran goalie struggled on the ice initially. Staal said he wants to avoid prolonged negotiations that drag into the regular season.
"Obviously, you want to avoid that type of situation," Staal said. "I don't think it's helpful to anyone when it goes that far. Hopefully, that won't happen and we'll find some common ground and move on."
On Thursday, Vigneault said he wouldn't make a decision on the Rangers' captaincy until the end of the preseason. Ryan McDonagh is the frontrunner, while St. Louis, Staal, Dan Girardi and Rick Nash are also in the mix.
"You want to be a captain and a leader," Staal said. "I think with the guys we have in the room, there's not going to be a bad decision made, whichever way they go. As far as the contract goes, that's not a question for me. Obviously, that's out of my hands."
Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey
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