The Bruins nearly traded Matt Bartkowski a season ago, and it’s a good thing they didn’t. This season, they shouldn’t come that close.
Boston’s biggest need at the trade deadline is obvious: a left-shot defenseman who could play top-4 minutes. While such a player would be valuable if the B’s want to lessen Zdeno Chara‘s workload in order to keep him fresh for the playoffs, the biggest reason why would be to have a more experienced and dependable option than Bartkowski. That doesn’t mean the B’s should be in a hurry to move Bartkowski for whoever they may acquire.
Right now, Bartkowski is in line to be Boston’s second-pairing left shot defenseman behind Chara. It’s a role that was previously occupied by Andrew Ference in the postseason and one that Dennis Seidenberg may have assumed had he not been lost for the season with a torn ACL.
If Bartkowski ends up playing that role, it won’t be anything new, as he’s been a top-4 guy since Seidenberg went down and he served in the role last postseason against the Rangers. Among the Bruins currently playing, Bartkowski is third on the team behind Chara and Johnny Boychuk with 19:20 of ice time per night, and he has played 22 minutes or more in four of the team’s last six games.
“He’s logging some pretty big minutes now and he continues to get better,” Claude Julien said Tuesday. “I like his poise with the puck, he’s been carrying a lot of pucks out of our own end which has facilitated our breakouts. You know, he’s defending better all the time, he’s getting that confidence as far as being able to battle I the corner and that’s just the young player getting more ice and more experience and feeling more comfortable with the whole situation.”
Even if the Bruins get someone to upgrade his spot, the Bruins would be wise to hold on to Bartkowski. They have a group of young defensemen (David Warsofsky would be a good trade candidate given that Torey Krug serves in the role that Warsofsky figures to play at the NHL level) and could move one of them while keeping Bartkowski.
After all, if it is depth that Peter Chiarelli seeks, a player like Bartkowksi who has proven himself capable of handling the big stage — his only NHL goal remains a rather big one in Game 7 against the Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals last season — is worth keeping around.
“When you sit here today you understand how important it was for [Bartkowski and Krug] to play in that series in New York,” Julien said. “They handled the pressure, they handled the playoff pressure that comes with it very well. I thought they did a great job, they were poised. Torey played a big role in that series, scoring some big goals and Bart did the same thing. We had some young Ds that really excelled in that series and today you feel more comfortable going in to the playoffs with those guys because they’ve been through it.”