Bruins sign young defensemen Bartkowski, Casto

Bruins sign young defensemen Bartkowski, Casto
March 26, 2013, 12:30 pm
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Bruins have bolstered their organizational depth and given 24-year-old Matt Bartkowski a vote of confidence all in one fell swoop. The Bruins announced on Tuesday that they’ve signed undrafted University of Minnesota-Duluth sophomore defenseman Chris Casto to an entry level contract, and extended Bartkowski with a one-year, one-way deal for the 2013-14 NHL season.

That means Bartkowski is likely in the plans for either the Bruins or another NHL destination after playing solidly in the last two games filling in for Johnny Boychuk, and could get more playing time down the stretch for the Black and Gold.

Bartkowski has averaged 14:19 of ice time in the last two games since his emergency call-up and has 11 total NHL games under his belt for the Bruins over the last three seasons. He had appeared in 56 games for Providence this year and registered three goals and 21 assists for 24 points with 56 penalty minutes while admitting that his game has matured this year.

“I’ve progressed a lot as a player. I feel like I’m ready now whereas I might not have been a couple of years ago,” said Bartkowski in Toronto over the weekend. “I think it’s definitely maturity as a player. Defensively I’m more responsible and more consistent every single night. It’s all different areas of the game.

“I don’t think I ever questioned myself, but I think maybe others question me about my game a little. Now if something goes wrong I can turn it around on the very next shift.”

There’s also the very real possibility that Bartkowski’s contract could be a precursor to the young defenseman getting traded to another NHL destination as part of a package that will net Boston any of a number of desired targets: Jarome Iginla, Marty St. Louis, Jaromir Jagr or perhaps Daniel Briere if he can return quickly enough from a recent concussion.

Casto will join the Bruins organization from the UMD (WCHA), where the defenseman skated in 36 games this year, tallying three goals and six assists. The 6-foot-3, stay-at-home defenseman’s nine points ranked third among Bulldogs blueliners, but he’s known more for his size and strength around the net. In his two seasons at UMD, Casto skated in 77 games and tallied five goals, 17 assists and 30 penalty minutes. Casto was a member of the Bruins development camp this summer where he caught the eye of Black and Gold talent evaluators.