New York Islanders Sign Eric Boulton Again

What you see is not so much an NHL hockey player as it is a metaphor for one of the oldest debates in the sport. - USA TODAY Sports

Like dark matter, some things can neither be seen nor fully explained, yet strongly hinted at through elaborate theory.

In the category of "news I was not expecting to hear this summer, but particularly not on May 17," we have this:

The New York Islanders announced today that forward Eric Boulton has agreed to terms on a one-year contract.

Boulton played in 15 of a possible 48 regular season games in the 2012-13 season and was never within sniffing distance of the playoff lineup. He ranged from 1:36 to 8:30 of ice time in those 15 games. That amounted to 85:06 of total ice time, or what it takes Andrew MacDonald or John Tavares about four games to eclipse.

But to each his role, right? The Islanders obviously don't see an enforcer as a necessity in the every day lineup, but Boulton's signing affirms they still find it useful to have one around in case of emergency. "The enforcer that you know..." and all that, along with a dose of the timeless "protect our guys" theory that is not exactly supported by empirical evidence, but not exactly fabricated either.

It exists in the realm of theory and sports psychology, like the comfort of a child's teddy bear, with a dose of "our guys feel safer" and a splash of "if we need someone to bring the crazy and get a suspension, we have one." And an 82-game season is a long one, so there.

Hockeyfights.com lists Boulton as conducting four fights this season (and voters gave him the win in three of them, if that matters to you).

With his next game he will catch Darby Hendrickson, Raymond Giroux and Derek Laxdal for all-time games played as an Islander. (Joe Finley too, unless Finley beats him to the lineup.) Like Evgeni Nabokov, Matt Moulson and Mark Streit, Boulton was once a ninth-round pick.

Boulton will be 37 next season. And an Islander.

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