There is still 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 Matt Bartkowski to a one-year, $1.25 million contract and David Pastrnak to an entry-level deal.
The agreement with Bartkowski means the two sides avoided salary arbitration, which was set for July 30.
The 26-year-old Bartkowski went from sitting in the press box at the start of the season to being a crucial component in the latter half of the season due to injuries 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 he 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, though, are well-stacked defensively, with nine NHL-caliber defensemen, as Chiarelli keeps mentioning. That could mean trades are in the offing. While Boychuk has been a popular one to toss around, given his cap hit ($3.366 million) and unrestricted free agent status at the end of the season, Chiarelli has also been adamant that 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 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.”
The deal with Pastrnak will allow the team’s first-round draft choice to attend training camp in September, and came on a deadline of sorts. The team could still have signed him after Tuesday, but would have needed to pay more to the Swedish hockey federation to do so.
Pastrnak, a right-shot right wing, impressed in 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 and his size (6 foot, 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.”
It is possible that the Bruins could also try Pastrnak out in NHL in the nine-game window they have before burning a year of that 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 spot in the NHL is a possibility, if a distant one.
“Until now, until this moment happened now, I’ve been always just dreaming about it,” Pastrnak told the Bruins web site. “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, David Krejci.
“I just hope I’m going to stay alive after [from 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.”