It appears the New York Rangers, who had been rumored to be looking to add some defensive depth, have found their man, signing defenseman Matt Bartkowski to a PTO for the upcoming preseason, according to CapFriendly. The addition is a smart, cost-effective way for the team to add a veteran into the mix in the preseason, insure themselves in case of any injuries to those above him on the depth chart, and give an added level of competition to the third-pair, left-defense battle that appears to be between Libor Hajek and youngster Zachary Jones. The Rangers have not yet confirmed the transaction.
Bartkowski comes to the Rangers as an experienced journeyman, dressing for four NHL teams and three AHL teams over his 12-year professional career. A seventh-round pick of the Boston Bruins in 2008, the defenseman got his start with the Lincoln Stars of the USHL, where he spent two years prior to joining The Ohio State University for a pair of seasons. Bartkowski turned pro at the start of the 2010-11 season, primarily suiting up for the AHL’s Providence Bruins, but did see a handful of games in the NHL with Boston. His main NHL action came between 2013 and 2016, where he suited up for 191 games between Boston and the Vancouver Canucks.
The veteran received a PTO offer last offseason as well, joining the Pittsburgh Penguins for camp. While it didn’t result in an NHL offer, he was able to play a key role over a full season on the backend for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Penguins. Now 34, the defenseman is likely to use this opportunity to prove he still belongs in the NHL and push for time on the Rangers’ third-pairing, which appears to be welcoming competition.
Right now, the Rangers project to already have seven defenseman under contract and bound for the NHL roster, however two of those players, Jones and Braden Schneider, are relatively young and inexperienced. Presumably the team would like to roll with those two, but with the possibility of having them paired together and for the sake of testing their competitiveness with several veterans in camp, players like Bartkowski, Hajek, and Andy Welinski, who the club signed back in July, could prove valuable in the roles they serve.