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Matt Hunwick now has nothing between him and a fun time on Friday night. The former restricted free agent canceled his salary arbitration hearing set for this Friday by re-signing with the Boston Bruins to a two-year deal reportedly worth $2.9 million.
Hunwick, a 24-year-old blue-liner, filed for arbitration – the only Bruin to do so – at the filing deadline after a season in which he scored six goals and tallied 21 assists in 53 regular season games for the Bruins last season. Those 27 points were third amongst Bruins defensemen and tied for first amongst rookie defensemen in the entire NHL. Hunwick’s time in the playoffs was limited to only one game by a ruptured spleen, which required emergency season-ending surgery. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli later stated that the absence of Hunwick’s puck-moving ability was one of the reasons the Bruins were upset in the second round of the playoffs by the Carolina Hurricanes.
For a team whose regulation loss count nearly doubled without Hunwick (15 losses without him in the line-up, compared to eight when he plays), re-signing him was viewed as an absolute necessity by the front office on Causeway Street and by the Bruins faithful. While there are still some concerns about the effects of the spleen-removal surgery, Hunwick, who actually played six games as a forward last season, has resumed normal workouts and is expected to be at full-strength by mid-September.
As a result of Hunwick’s re-signing, Phil Kessel remains the lone restricted free agent left to either be re-signed by the Bruins, traded, or submitted an offer sheet by another organization. According to recent reports, talks between Kessel, who scored 36 goals last season, and the Bruins have broken-down, if they were even occurring. Rumors that the Bruins submitted at least a qualifying offer (75% of last season’s $2.2 million salary), which would amount to $1.65 million, have abounded, but both camps are refusing to comment. Kessel, who underwent shoulder surgery after the playoffs, is worth plenty more than that, but, no team has offered him a deal. As a result, that means Kessel might have to choose between taking the $2.85 million the Bruins have remaing in the cap or not playing in the NHL for a season. He’ll choose to play.