But thanks to injuries, specifically a torn wrist tendon suffered by fellow rear guard Dennis Seidenberg, Boychuk got the chance to prove he deserved a regular spot. And that’s just what he did; scoring six points in 15 playoff games as he played on the top pairing alongside Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.
As a result, Boychuk’s stock rose and, if he wanted to, he might have been able to score a nice contract as an unrestricted free agent had he chosen to become one on July 1. But realizing that he finally found a niche in the Bruins lineup, and being familiar with the Bruins system and his teammates, proved to be more valuable for the 26-year-old that had only five NHL games under his belt prior to the 2009-10 season.
"I was thinking about maybe going to free agency and seeing what was out there, but when I looked around the league, I knew what kind of position I’d be in," Boychuk said. "Just to come back to Boston to a great coaching staff that we have there and I know a lot of the guys. It made it a lot easier decision knowing that we would have all these people back in Boston, so that was the main factor that tipped the scale for me."
The fact that the Bruins dealt away another defenseman in Dennis Wideman Tuesday also made Boychuk realize he will see plenty of playing minutes in 2010-11 as well.
"When they moved Dennis, obviously it maybe makes an opening for me to maybe jump into the top four and play a little bit more minutes than being a five or six guy," Boychuk said. "When they moved him, it kind of just maybe sent a message to me saying 'You’d better be ready to be a top four guy.' And even if I’m not, I want to play like I am."
Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli credited Boychuk for his patience and diligence as he waited for a regular spot in the lineup.
"He made great strides this year," Chiarelli said. "He was patient before he got into the lineup, he learned our system, he’s got a dimensional shot, he competes, he’s got size, but the biggest thing that I saw was that he improved from being the defenseman of the year in the [AHL] to being maybe our seventh [defenseman] to start [while] patiently waiting to learn along the way. We have a very good defensive system and Johnny has picked it up and showed improvement while he is in the lineup. He’s a good kid and he’s still young."