After failing to come to terms to a new deal thus far into the off-season, the plans for the next step in the process have been given. The Boston Bruins and defenseman Matt Bartkowski will have a July 30 salary arbitration hearing to settle the terms of a (possible) new contract.
|Off to the hearing: Matt Bartkowski (via metrowestdailynews.com)|
The hearing will be conducted in Toronto, where both the Bruins and Bartkowski will present their respective cases to the arbiter present in arguing what they believe should be a fair number to play for in the upcoming 2014-15 season. The two sides can still come to an agreement before the July 30 date and avoid the hearing all together, but there has yet to be any indication thus far to suggest that will happen. With the Bruins needing to tear apart the couch cushions in search of every last possible penny, they will be looking to keep the number on a new deal as low as humanly possible, something that Bartkowski knows, and something he will be unwilling to do in his search for a decent pay raise.
Bartkowski had a serviceable past season for the Bruins, but his play in the first half of the year was much better than his performance in the latter half. Bartkowski skated in 64 regular season games for the Black and Gold, posting no goals and 18 assists and a rather impressive plus-22 rating. He more than held the fort when skating on the second pairing after Dennis Seidenberg succumbed to his season-ending knee injury back in December. In fact, he played so well that the Bruins were confident in his and the rest of the D core's ability to shoulder the increased workload and pressures of a Stanley Cup playoff run. But his form, as well as the rest of the unit, crumbled beneath them vs the Canadiens in Round 2. Bartkowski and Andrej Meszaros played musical chairs throughout the series, as coach Claude Julien benched both players trying to find the right combination that could fix Boston's defensive issues. None worked.
CSNNE's Joe Haggerty speculates that the magic number for both sides to agree upon settles around the $900,000 to $1 million range. Bartkowski just earned $650,000 skating in his first full season as a pro, just a tick above the NHL minimum, so a slight bump in pay to the million-ish mark would suit Bart rather well. Anything higher than that and the Bruins will be hesitant to agree to on the terms, as they would be paying upwards of a $1 million-plus for a defenseman that may not crack the opening day roster come October, depending on how you project things.
There still remains the chance general manager Peter Chiarelli trades the services of Bartkowski to a team eager to utilize his modest skills as a top-four D man, and in turn look to Providence to fill the spot on the blueline with another body.
With the Bruins having to deal with the pressing issue of re-signing both Torey Krug and Reilly Smith to new deals, re-signing Bartkowski is third on the priorities list for the B's this summer. Boston cannot afford to lose Krug and Smith, and with the money going towards new deals for those two, the money left over to bring back Bartkowski may simply just not be there, forcing the B's to move on and go in another direction.