Andrew Ference/By S. Bradley

Ultimately, Andrew Ference will be graded on how smart he makes the Bruins look for signing him to a three-year contract extension worth $2.25 million per season some two months before hernia surgery and four months before unrestricted free agency.

All we have to assess him on now is another injury-plagued year that saw him emerge as no better than a third-pair defenseman who, based on his salary and experience, is going to be counted on to play in the top four for the rest of his stay in Boston.

Ference’s point total was sliced in half from last season to this, despite playing in four more games, and he had a hard time in his own end far too often for a guy playing third-pair minutes. While you can’t punish a guy for injuries, you can criticize him for poor play when healthy.

Stats: 51 GP, 0-8-8, 16 PIM, minus-7

Season highlight: While it was a great feat that Ference was able to get back healthy for the playoffs and make it through all 13 games, he had too many hiccups with the puck against Buffalo and Philadelphia to be lauded for his efforts. The highlight of his season really was signing that extension, which still has most scratching their heads based on the amount, length and effect it has on the Bruins’ options for upgrading their team.

Season low-light: Early January should’ve been just when Ference would hit his stride after working his way back to full strength following last summer’s groin/hernia surgery. Instead he was hit by Ottawa’s Chris Phillips and suffered a groin injury on the other side, which would nag him throughout the rest of the season and send him under the knife again shortly after Boston’s collapse against Philly.

Final grade: C
Despite his best efforts to be strong with his upper body, play a sound positional game and keep his feet moving, Ference struggled against aggressive forechecks and bigger forwards. He also added nothing to the Bruins’ weak attack. Now that he has a multi-million-dollar contract to live up to, the 31-year-old Ference better make the most of his summer rehab and come back ready to be an effective second-pair player.

The crystal ball says … Ference will live up to general manager Peter Chiarelli’s expectations by starting his contract extension with a season that sees him score a goal, record 10 points and be around even in plus/minus … and he gets injury and skates in just 60 games.