The Bruins have some interesting negotiations ahead of them with their restricted free agents.
B’s defenseman Matt Bartkowski filed for salary arbitration over the weekend, which means that the Bruins and Bartkowski’s agent have until the arbitration hearings to work out terms on a new contract. The 26-year-old Bartkowski is coming off his best NHL season where he amassed 18 assists and a plus-22 in 64 games while averaging 19:32 of ice time per game, and stepped up when stalwart defenseman Dennis Seidenberg went down in December with a right knee injury.
Bartkowski played eight games for the Black and Gold in the playoffs while averaging more than 20 minutes of ice time per game. While Bartkowski has eye-popping skating speed and the requisite size and strength to battle at the point of attack in the defensive zone, he will still fall victim to occasional poor decision-making and inconsistency in his play.
Those drawbacks have kept him from pushing his way to a permanent role in the top six for the Black and Gold, but it’s clear he’s due for a raise from the $650,000 he made last year one his first one-way contract.
That will be the point of discussion should the Bruins and Bartkowski get to arbitration, but it’s likely his solid 2013-14 season should see him go over the $1 million mark for next season.
Arbitration hearings will be held in Toronto between July 20 and Aug. 4 but the two sides are free to reach an agreement before the hearings. The process calls for each side to submit a salary figure and the arbitrator decides on the salary. Teams are permitted to walk away from a ruling but, in that case, the player becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Interestingly enough, the other two RFAs on the docket for Boston this summer are Torey Krug and Reilly Smith. Most assumed those two players would be in for big raises in the neighborhood of the 3-year, $9 million Tampa Bay Lightning deals signed by Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson, a pair of breakout rookies for the Bolts.
But there’s a wrinkle to the cases of both Krug and Smith. Because they burned a year of their pro entry level contracts to sign early out of college, both don’t have the full rights of a restricted free agent.
Instead Krug and Smith are entry level restricted free agents, which means each player can’t sign offer sheets with other NHL teams and have no arbitration rights. Essentially they have no leverage in contract negotiations, and are fully under control of the Boston Bruins.
So both Krug and Smith may be in store for a modest, team-friendly contract that won’t break the bank for a Bruins team with little salary cap space. There were rumors over the weekend that Montreal might come after Smith with an offer sheet to stick it to their Original Six rivals, but that simply can’t happen.
“We’ll get them signed. You know, like Torey [Krug] and Reilly [Smith] -- they’re not restricted free agents. They’re called entry-level free agents, so they don’t really have anywhere to go,” said Peter Chiarelli. “They can’t talk to other teams. It may be that they have to play on a one-year deal, and we’ll find money for them at some point.
“They deserve raises at some point. But [the salary cap] is tighter. I mean, in general, I think a lot of teams thought it would be a million bucks more [at $70 million rather than the $69 million for the 2014-15 season], so it’s not that much different.”
So both Krug and Smith will get richer deals in the future if they continue to perform at last year’s levels, but it sounds like they won’t be getting their big second contracts this time around.
Instead it sounds like it may be modest contracts all around for all of Boston’s restricted free agents in Bartkowski, Krug and Smith, but that’s what happens when a team is temporarily in salary cap jail, and didn’t pass “Go” or collect $200.