Surreal would probably be the best way to describe the 12 hours from noon until midnight on Wednesday for 24-year-old Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski. The Bruins’ blueliner signed a one-year contract extension with the Bruins and then found himself as a healthy scratch that night against the Montreal Canadiens with a trade about to go down with Calgary for Jarome Iginla.
Calgary Flames assistant GM John Weisbrod was formerly in the Bruins front office, and had actually played a major role in scouting Bartkowski before he was included along with Dennis Seidenberg as part of a trade with the Florida Panthers. So the Bruins defenseman was targeted specifically as a part of the package for Iginla by the Calgary brass, and assumed he was a goner for Western Canadian pastures.
“It’s a pretty cool feeling to know that [Calgary] thought I had the potential to be a pretty good player in the future,” said Bartkowski. “Right around 12:30 at night it came out that the Pens had picked him and I was pretty relieved to hear it.
“But Peter [Chiarelli] reiterated to me today that it was Calgary that really wanted me. It wasn’t that Boston wanted to give me up.”
Bartkowski said that Torey Krug sent him a text around midnight letting him know that Iginla was instead going to Pittsburgh, and the defenseman was back at practice on Friday at Ristuccia Arena. He knows that his name might just pop up in other trade discussions prior to the April 3 deadline, and still admits it might be the best thing for a chance to establish himself as an NHL defenseman.
For the time being he’s played his best in any of his NHL stints over the two games this season while averaging 14:20 of ice time skating in a pairing with Dennis Seidenberg. He just wants to build on that foundation.
“I really can’t control it, so I’m not worried about it or watching rumors. It was pretty hard to not be aware of it the other night,” said Bartkowski. “But I don’t really pay attention to any of it. I don’t read blogs or have a Twitter account, so it’s really easy to keep my mind off it.
“I feel good in practice and I felt good in the last game I played. I feel like I’m ready to play in the league now. Before I had some things that I needed to work on, but now I feel ready mentally and physically.”
Either way Bartkowski doesn’t expect anything over the next week to be quite as strange as feeling like he was ¾ of the way out the door to becoming a Calgary Flame, only for everything to be a big “never mind” the very next day. He seemed to be handling it all remarkably well, and that probably speaks to his maturity as a player that’s been building over the last couple of years after leaving Ohio State for the pros.
Bruins coach Claude Julien felt it wasn’t even necessary to address anything with Bartkowski, and that there wouldn’t be any fallout from the botched trade.
“Players know, just like coaches, that we’re expendable and it's part of the business. I look at it in a different way where somebody wants you and you’re considered,” said Claude Julien. “I wouldn’t consider it an insult. To get that kind of player [in Iginla] you had to give up something good. That’s what [Bartkowski] is…he’s a good player.”
So now Bartkowski will go back to showing that he can be a good player in the NHL when he gets his chance this weekend, and the Bruins will find an alternate pathway to fill their trade deadline needs with Iginla leading to a dead end.