WILMINGTON, Mass. — The Bruins took care of signing Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara to extensions and welcomed rookies Tyler Seguin and Jordan Caron into the NHL while in Europe, but one final piece of business had to wait until they returned to Boston.
On Monday, the Bruins officially signed tough guy Brian McGrattan to a one-year deal after he had earned a roster spot as a tryout in camp. On Wednesday, McGrattan took part in his first practice as a full-fledged member of the team.
"It feels great," said McGrattan after the workout at Ristuccia Arena. "It was a long summer and it took a lot of hard work to achieve what I've gotten so far, and I'm just really happy they gave me the opportunity to come here and gave me a look. I'm really fortunate things have worked out and I've just got to keep going on the same straight line here, keep doing what I do to stay here and be a part of this team."
What McGrattan does best is protect his teammates and pound any opponents who dare to take liberties with them. When the gloves hit the ice, few in the NHL are better than McGrattan. But before he could get a chance to do that for the Bruins, he had to prove he could also handle a regular shift with the gloves on.
"We all know what he is capable of doing as far as his role is concerned," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "He's a tough player who's really respected around the league. But at the same time we've always felt like those kind of guys need to be able to play hockey as well. We kind of kept an eye on him and watched how he conducted himself on the ice and played the game. He seemed very willing to learn and he played a pretty decent game. He just makes us a bigger, stronger and obviously tougher team."
Julien also praised McGrattan for what he brings to the team off the ice, where he has already become a popular personality in the locker room.
"His teammates really like him a lot," said Julien. "He's got a real nice personality. He likes to keep things loose, but he knows when to keep things loose and when it's time to put your game face on. Players like that have a tough enough role to play, so whenever they can add that element in the dressing room to their job description it's great.
"It just shows that with those guys, what you see on the ice and what you see away from the ice is kind of a dual personality," added Julien. "Most of those guys that I've known are usually pretty good guys."
McGrattan recognizes that while his ice-time may be limited, he can still contribute to the club in other ways.
"Just be a good guy on the team, be a positive influence in the room," said McGrattan when asked what he wanted to bring to the Bruins. "And when I get my shot to play, just show them what I can do."
McGrattan initially came to camp seeking a one-way deal, which would pay him the same salary whether he was with the big club or sent to the minors. Instead, he had to settle for a two-way deal, which will pay him $515,000 in the NHL and $105,000 in the AHL. Accepting a two-way deal didn't prove a sticking point in negotiations, however.
"No, an NHL contract is an NHL contract," said McGrattan. "So I think if I do what I need to do and they're happy with it, I'll be here. One-way or two-way, it doesn't change my approach coming to the rink every day."
McGrattan did make one change on Wednesday, ditching the No. 87 he had worn throughout camp and donning No. 10 instead. That's the same number he wore in Calgary last year, as the No. 16 he wore in prior NHL stops in Ottawa and Phoenix already belongs to Marco Sturm.
"I wore it last year in Calgary," said McGrattan. "I wore 16 in Ottawa and Phoenix, but it's no big deal. I like 10."
The main thing was getting out of that 87 sweater, which McGrattan feared was causing a little too much confusion with a certain star in Pittsburgh.
"I didn't want to look too quick," joked McGrattan. "I had some flashes of [Sidney] Crosby in training camp."