There is more work to do this offseason — including new contracts for entry-level free agents Reilly Smith and Torey Krug — but Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli took care of two pending deals on Tuesday, signing defenseman Matt Bartkowski to a one-year, $1.25 million contract and first-round pick David Pastrnak to an entry-level deal.
The agreement with Bartkowski avoided salary arbitration, which was set for July 30.
Bartkowski, 26, went from sitting in the press box at the start of last season to being a crucial component in the latter half of the season to struggling in the playoffs. He replaced Dennis Seidenberg on the second pairing with Johnny Boychuk and had 18 assists and a plus-22 in 64 games, his first full season in the NHL.
“He’s still relatively young,” Chiarelli said in a statement. “I thought that when Dennis Seidenberg got hurt [Bartkowski] was able to come in and play some real solid minutes. He’s the type of player that can really push the puck well.
“A lot of people remember the couple of blips in the playoffs, but he gave us very good service during the course of the year with Seidenberg out, and it’s a tough position in the league, defense, and there are nuances that he’s still learning and I expect him to continue to improve.”
Said Bartkowski, “I think last year was a good step and being able to show people that, but I think going forward the main thing would be just consistency. Along the way I’d have a stretch of games and then maybe a mix-up here or there, which I think is going to happen to maybe not every player, but every younger player in his career.
“If I can work on the consistency — if you can show you can play every night — then anybody should have a long career doing that.”
The Bruins are stacked defensively with nine NHL-caliber blue liners, as Chiarelli often mentions. That could mean a trade is in the offing. While Boychuk has been a popular name in rumors, given his cap hit ($3.366 million) and unrestricted free agent status at the end of the season, Chiarelli also has been adamant he wants to keep the team’s core together.
That could mean that Bartkowski — who was almost traded in 2013 for Jarome Iginla — could be a subject of trade discussions.
“I don’t really pay too much attention to it,” Bartkowski said. “There’s no real reason to. I think it’s only just a hindrance to worry about where you’re going to end up and all that. You just prepare for what you can and the team you’re on, and if something happens, it happens.”
Pastrnak’s deal came on a deadline of sorts. The Bruins still could have signed him after Tuesday, but they would have had to pay more to the Swedish hockey federation.
Pastrnak, a right-shot right wing, impressed in development camp, and Chiarelli did not rule him out as a candidate for an NHL roster spot, as he has done with other young players in the past. Pastrnak would fill an area of need, though both his age (18) and his size (6 feet, 171 pounds) are concerns for the team.
“He’ll end up coming to camp now, and he’ll get the experience of a training camp and he’ll get some games,” Chiarelli said. “He had a terrific development camp and I know everyone’s talking about him . . . It’s well documented that we’re looking for skill and speed and he fits that bill.
“But let’s not put the cart before the horse with David. I think we’re fortunate to get him where we got him and he had a terrific camp, and we’ll see where it goes from here.”
The Bruins could try Pastrnak out in the NHL in the nine-game window they have before costing them a year of his entry-level deal.
“It’s another step along the way and it’s important that we don’t skip those steps,” Chiarelli said. “And at each step, the level of play, the tempo of play, the strength of the players all increases, so with a young 18-year-old who’s 171 pounds, you have to be careful.
“Now he’s strong, he’s naturally strong, so he’s got that going for him, but we’ll have to see.”
For now, the Bruins have ensured that Pastrnak will be able to take part in training camp, where a roster spot is a possibility, if an outside one.
“Until now, until this moment happened now, I’ve been always just dreaming about it,” Pastrnak told the Bruins website. “But now it came true, but my dreaming isn’t done. I have to still do more things for my dad and for my family. I still have more that I have to do, and I just have to keep working and that can be a good beginning.”
Plus, it means that Pastrnak gets to meet his idol, fellow Czech native and new teammate David Krejci.
“I just hope I’m going to stay alive [from the excitement], if it’s going to happen,” Pastrnak said. “I always said if I get this chance I would do my best and show to the Bruins that they made the right decision.”