Sunday: In an inevitable move, the Boston Bruins have announced today that veteran defenseman Steven Kampfer has been placed on waivers. The team hopes that he will clear waivers and can be reassigned to AHL Providence, but the team is taking a risk by exposing the ten-year pro. Kampfer has been held scoreless in four games so far this year, but recorded six points in 35 games with Boston last year and added another point in three playoff games.
The decision to waive Kampfer was inevitable not due to his play, but due to the roster crunch in Boston. Kampfer, who began his career with the Bruins back in 2010, returned to the team before last season as part of the return from the New York Rangers in exchange for Adam McQuaid. Kampfer was seen by many as a throw-in, but ended up playing a crucial role in 2018-19. Beginning the year as the team’s eighth defenseman, Kampfer was the only one of that eight who did not miss time due to injury in a season that featured 12 different defensemen for Boston. Kampfer was also the only one of those 12 who was not under team control beyond the end of the year. That changed in June, when the Bruins first move after the Stanley Cup Final was to re-sign Kampfer to a two-year, $1.6MM deal. The length and non-minimum value of the deal was a nice reward and promise of commitment for Kampfer’s hard work that season.
However, the contract was likely also created with impending waiver exposure in mind. The Bruins knew that with seven bona fide NHL defenders under contract – Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, John Moore, Matt Grzelcyk, and Kevan Miller – and the emergence of Connor Clifton as an NHL option, the odds that Kampfer could stick on the NHL roster all year was slim. They hoped that the extended term or slightly higher cap hit could dissuade teams from claiming Kampfer to serve in that same valuable depth role. Last week, when Clifton lost his waiver exemption and Moore returned from injury, it became clear that this theory would soon be tested.
With Miller still working toward a return to health, top defensive prospect Urho Vaakanainen playing well in a recent NHL stint, and veteran Alexander Petrovic excelling in Providence, the Bruins could survive the loss of Kampfer if he was to be claimed. However, the team could potentially need him more next year, after the likely free agent departures of Miller and Petrovic and possible retirement of Chara. Kampfer’s hard-working style and defensive awareness paired with considerable experience makes him a valuable asset, even if he is not getting regular ice time. For that reason, more than a few teams will entertain making a claim, especially contenders with depth concerns on the blue line. The Bruins can only hope that the other 30 teams decide he is not worthy of an NHL roster spot, even though the defending Eastern Conference champs proved otherwise last year.