The courtship of Brian McGrattan appears ready to be consummated.
Multiple reports out of Prague have the Bruins agreeing in principle to a deal with the rugged forward, who has been in camp with the club on a tryout invitation. A CSNE report states it will be a one-year, two-way deal, though specific terms were not disclosed.
The contract is not expected to be officially signed until Monday, with the delay the result of the Bruins needing to take care of some salary cap issues. Once they officially place injured forwards Marc Savard and Marco Sturm on long-term injured reserve to create some needed cap room, the one-year deal for McGrattan can be finalized.
Signing McGrattan is no surprise. They Bruins would not have brought him to Europe if they had not been suitably impressed with his performance in camp. While he did not drop the gloves in the three preseason games he played, the Bruins don't have any concerns about that facet of his game. He needed to see if he could take a fourth-line shift without being a liability and McGrattan accomplished that while also displaying better skating skills than expected for a man with his size (6-foot-4, 235 pounds) and reputation as an enforcer.
"I've showed people what I can do [as a fighter] for five years," said McGrattan, who has played for Ottawa, Phoenix and Calgary the last five seasons, before leaving for Europe. "I've lost maybe three or four fights in five years, so I think they know I can do that. It's the other things they're looking for, to see if they can trust me to put me out there for 5-7 minutes on a fourth-line shift. Hopefully I was able to show the team that I can do that. Fortunately, they've seen some things that I can do, and maybe that's the reason I'm still around."
The only surprise is that the deal will reportedly be a two-way contract, paying McGrattan one salary, likely close to the NHL minimum of $500,000, if he stays up with the big club, and a lower salary, likely $105,000 or less to keep him exempt from re-entry waivers, if he is assigned to Boston's AHL affiliate in Providence.
When he arrived at camp, McGrattan stated he had spurned two-way offers from other clubs this summer and was interested only in an NHL deal. "I'm here for a one-way," said McGrattan. "There were a couple [two-way offers] but nothing worth settling for."
It's possible that the two-way deal might not be a factor at all, as McGrattan would still have to be exposed to the regular waiver process to be sent down and the Bruins may not want to risk losing him by doing that. A two-way deal only means the Bruins could recall him without putting him through re-entry waivers, which would put them on the hook for half of his NHL salary, both in real money and against their cap, if he was claimed by another club.
Even if he stays with the big club, McGrattan will likely see limited action. But the ice-time he does see could prove very valuable, as he will give the Bruins a true heavyweight to match up with the elite enforcers that have entered the Eastern Conference this year.
Incumbent tough guy Shawn Thornton has done everything asked of him in his three years in Boston, but it might be too much to ask him to regularly take on behemoths like new Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard (6-foot-8, 257 pound), Philadelphia's Jody Shelley (6-foot-3, 230 pounds) and Washington’s D.J. King (6-foot3, 230 pounds), who join an Eastern Conference murderers' row that already included Toronto’s Colton Orr (6-foot-3, 222 pounds), Ottawa’s Matt Carkner (6-foot-4, 231 pounds) and Pittsburgh’s Eric Godard (6-foot-4, 214 pounds). The Bruins would much rather have a heavyweight like McGrattan to counter those guys than see Zdeno Chara or Milan Lucic risk injury by taking them on.
With the deal not expected to be finalized until Monday, McGrattan would not be eligible to play in this weekend's games with Phoenix in Prague. That shouldn't be a concern, as he likely would not have dressed against the Coyotes anyway. Phoenix is not an especially physical team, with no real brawlers outside of Paul Bissonnette, who fought Johnny Boychuk in the only bout in last year's meeting between the clubs.