The Bruins do not lack for defensive prospects.
Connor Clifton played in 18 of Boston’s 24 playoff games. Urho Vaakanainen practiced with the team during the Stanley Cup Final. Jeremy Lauzon and Jakub Zboril are former first-round picks who aren’t too far away.
But of those players, Clifton is the graybeard. He is 24 and has played in 19 regular-season games.
That’s part of the reason why the Bruins, who went into last year carrying eight defensemen to protect against injuries and wound up using 12, extended Steven Kampfer on Monday.
The club on Tuesday announced a two-year deal with a cap hit of $800,000 per season, reasonable dough for a player with a defined role.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) June 25, 2019
The Bruins, who have a projected $12 million in cap space according to CapFriendly, are getting tight in the belt. They have yet to sign restricted free agent defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo, RFA forward Danton Heinen, or unrestricted free agents Marcus Johansson and Noel Acciari. Without other transactions, it is highly unlikely all will return.
Kampfer, who turns 31 on Sept. 24, has 201 games under his belt, including 35 last season. He was a stable performer in three playoff appearances, and scored the opening goal of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final against Carolina.
The right-shot veteran is used to sitting for long stretches without playing, which is what the Bruins would prefer Vaakanainen, Lauzon and Zboril not do. The pups might push Kampfer out of a job in September training camp, or they could continue to ripen in Providence until ready for extended varsity minutes.
Great goal by Steven Kampfer but look at Johansson tip this away at the blue line and then set Kampfer up.
Don Sweeney is smiling pic.twitter.com/k860pWtmoN
— Evan Marinofsky (@emarinofsky) May 10, 2019
Kampfer could start the year in the blue line six pack. Kevan Miller will be recovering from knee surgery, John Moore from an operation on his busted shoulder. Clifton ended the year as Matt Grzelcyk’s right-side partner on the third pair, but there’s no guarantee he’ll start next season there.
Like many of his teammates at the Bruins’ end-of-season locker cleanout on June 14, Kampfer hadn’t thought too far ahead.
“It’s a tough thing to say,’’ he said of his future in Boston. “The back end is a logjam. But I love the organization. I love the players on this team. We’ll see what comes around July 1. If it’s back here, if it’s somewhere else, it’s a situation that’s going to fit best for myself and the hockey team going forward.’’