The club signed its final restricted free agent on Thursday, locking up defenseman Matt Bartkowski to a one-year, two-way deal. Bartkowski will earn $660,000 in the NHL and $62,500 if he is assigned to the AHL.
As has been the case throughout general manager Peter Chiarelli's tenure in Boston, there will be no holdouts or unresolved contract issues heading into the season. That's a marked departure from previous regimes. The lone exception to that trend was the Phil Kessel situation in 2009, and even that worked out well for the Bruins when Chiarelli traded the restricted free agent forward's rights to Toronto for the drafts picks used to select Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton and Jared Knight.
Bartkowski has spent the bulk of his first two pro seasons with the Bruins' AHL affiliate in Providence, but has seen time in Boston in both seasons. He actually broke camp with the big club both years. He accompanied the Bruins to Europe two years ago when Boston opened the season in Prague, but did not play in either of those games and was sent to Providence after the club returned to North America.
The Pittsburgh native did end up playing six games with Boston that season, the first three of which all came against his hometown Penguins. He played another three games last year after earning a spot in camp, but was assigned to Providence on Oct. 20 and remained there the rest of the season. Overall, he has no points, nine hits and four penalty minutes and is a minus-3 in nine career NHL games.
He'll have a chance to make the big squad again in this year's camp. The Bruins' top six on defense appears set with Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, Andrew Ference and Adam McQuaid returning and 2011 first-round pick Hamilton expected to claim the final spot.
But there is still room for a seventh defenseman. Torey Krug could have the inside track for that job after finishing last season in Boston when he was signed out of Michigan State, but Bartkowski and newly signed veteran Garnet Exelby will provide competition. The Bruins could also add another veteran for that role through free agency.
Bartkowski, 24, brings some size (6-foot-1, 203 pounds) and a willingness to throw his weight around, but struggled at times with his positioning and turnovers in his brief NHL appearances. He's been more productive in the AHL, posting 3-19-22 totals with 38 penalty minutes in 50 games last year and 5-18-23 totals with 42 penalty minutes in his first pro season in 2010-11.
Bartkowski was originally drafted in the seventh round in 2008 by Florida, and the Ohio State product came to the Bruins as part of the deal that brought Seidenberg to Boston from Florida at the trade deadline in 2010.
Photo via Flickr/Dan4th