Roster review: Bruins cut down to 23; Seguin’s still in the mix

Seguin/By S. Bradley

With their assigning of Matt Bartkowski to Providence (AHL) today, the Bruins met the NHL deadline for trimming their roster to 23 players and being compliant with the league’s salary cap.

As expected, No. 2 overall pick Tyler Seguin remains with Boston over in Prague. Seguin has enjoyed a hot hand with three goals in the two exhibition games in Europe and has settled in, for now, as the club’s third-line center with the likes of Daniel Paille and Michael Ryder flanking him.

So the clock now begins to tick on Seguin’s nine-game audition to be a full-time NHLer. Seguin can be returned to his junior team in Plymouth (OHL) anytime, but after he plays 10 NHL games the first year of his NHL contract kicks in. If he hits the 40-game mark, the clock begins to tick on his free-agent status down the road.

Here’s a thumbnail look at the Bruins’ 23 remaining players, minus unsigned tryout Brian McGrattan, who could still sign and crack the lineup between now and Saturday.

Goaltenders

Tuukka Rask

Plus: With just a couple bumps along the road, Rask has accomplished every goal put in front of him and should be ready to emerge as one of the league’s top three goaltenders this season.

Minus: If Tim Thomas cannot serve as an adequate back-up, we don’t know if Rask could handle a workload of 60, 65 NHL games.

Tim Thomas

Plus: If he’s healthy and on top of his game, the Bruins are the favorites for the Jennings Trophy because they won’t suffer much drop-off when Rask gets a night off.

Minus: If he doesn’t get off to a solid start to the season — and it’s going to be tough to work in a start or two early — the fan base will turn on him and his teammates might even begin to let doubt creep in.

Nolan Schaefer

Plus: Should serve as a perfect veteran mentor to one or two of the Bruins’ prospects in Providence once he returns from Europe.

Minus: If for any reason he’s forced into action at the NHL level, that means the Bruins are having trouble in the one area — goaltending — that’s not supposed to be a concern for the club.

Defensemen

Johnny Boychuk

Plus: Seems to be grounded in his second season and focused on improving after his breakout stretch run and playoff performance last season.

Minus: No longer an unknown quantity, Boychuk will be challenged more by opponents and has to perfect his positioning to make up for less-than-fleet feet.

Zdeno Chara

Plus: No one probably took last spring’s defeat harder than the captain, who knows he has to regain his Norris-worthy form and usually accomplishes the tasks he sets out for himself. Chara should have his edge back with a better supporting cast around this season.

Minus: The contract extension his agent is working on might linger into the regular season and distract the routine-obsessed defenseman.

Andrew Ference

Plus: Healthy again, Ference holds down a top-four job and serves as that puck-mover Boston really needs to succeed as a team.

Minus: We don’t know how Ference’s game will hold up over the course of 75, 80 games. The rigors of a full NHL season can take their toll on even the most experienced veteran’s decision-making.

Matt Hunwick

Plus: Playing third-pair minutes on a healthy team could allow Hunwick to slowly regain his confidence and show the two-way ability he produced in spurts as a rookie in ’08-09.

Minus: Hunwick might be best served by a change of scenery as he continues to lack confidence and smarts and fails to fit into the system.

Adam McQuaid

Plus: Gritty defenseman proved last year he can be ready at the drop of a hat (or an injured blueliner) even after long stretches of not playing in gamesĀ  last season. He might have carved out his niche as the perfect sixth or seventh blueliner at the game’s highest level.

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