Tuesday: The Bruins have officially announced the contract, confirming the duration and salary reported by Seravalli.
Monday: Defensive depth proved to be key for a Boston Bruins team that struggled with injuries on the blue line throughout the regular season and into the postseason. All but one the 12 different defenseman that took the ice for the Bruins this season were under team control moving forward, either under contract or as restricted free agents. But the team has worked quickly to rectify the situation with that lone outlying unrestricted free agent. TSN’s Frank Seravalli reports that Boston has re-signed Steven Kampfer to a two-year deal worth $800K annually.
Kampfer, 30, began his second stint with the Bruins last summer, when he was traded by the New York Rangers in the deal that landed Adam McQuaid. Kampfer began the year as Boston’s eighth defenseman, but as a bevy of injuries plagued the team all year, particularly fellow veteran righty Kevan Miller, Kampfer ended up playing in 35 games and was the only Bruins defenseman who began the year on the NHL roster that did not miss time due to injury. Kampfer proved to be an optimal extra man, as his experience and sound defensive play made him a great plug-and-play option. While not much of an offensive contributor, Kampfer is valued for his ability to step in and play a smart, safe defensive game, rarely looking out of place when he filled in.
The two-year term on Kampfer’s new contract is telling for multiple reasons. First, it means that the Bruins see Kampfer as more than just a year-to-year investment and the future of the team’s blue line is far less certain beyond next season. Two of Boston’s biggest injury concerns on defense, 41-year-old Zdeno Chara and accident-prone Kevan Miller, are also not signed beyond next year. So while the team is very deep on the back end next year, there is a chance that they could lose some of that depth a year from now and Kampfer could be even more important then than he is next season. Additionally, Seravalli reports that there has been interest in Kampfer from other teams. That news plus the two-year term makes it a safe assumption that this is a one-way deal for Kampfer. Such a contract won’t be as appealing on waivers if the Bruins do need to move Kampfer to the minor leagues. Although John Moore will not be ready to start the season due to recent major surgery, at some point during the year the team could hypothetically have Kampfer, Moore, Chara, Miller, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Torey Krug, and Matt Grzelcyk all healthy, which could make Kampfer the odd man out if there is a roster crunch.
A team-friendly contract for a familiar and reliable player on a cap-strapped team would seem to be good news all around for the Bruins. However, barring a trade or another year of rampant injuries, Kampfer’s extension does not bode well for promising prospects like Connor Clifton, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, and Jeremy Lauzon. All four got into the Bruins’ lineup this season, but the odds of a return appearance just took a hit. The circumstances are especially troubling for Clifton, who played in 19 regular season games and 18 playoff games this year and looked ready to take on Boston’s first man up role next year. After getting so close to a Stanley Cup title this year, Kampfer’s extension is clearly a sign of a team focused on winning now, even if that means burying their budding prospects for another year or two.