On a day when most NHL general managers were throwing money around like George Steinbrenner reincarnate, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli opted for a bargain.

The Bruins signed former Montreal winger Benoit Pouliot to a one-year deal as the most notable of their three signings today.

Their other moves were mostly done for their Providence (AHL) farm club, as center Trent Whitfield and goaltender Anton Khudobin were re-signed to two-year deals. Khudobin, who will be Boston’s No. 3 netminder behind Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask, is on a two-way deal this season and a one-way in 2012-13.

Chiarelli’s only marquee move was swapping out Michael Ryder, who left for the riches of Dallas ($7 million over two years) for Pouliot — one ex-Habs enigma for another. The chance to get a 6-foot-3, former No. 4 overall pick for just $1.1 million for one year was too low-risk for Chiarelli to pass up. After all, if for some reason Pouliot doesn’t live up to what the Bruins believe he can be in terms of character and work ethic — not to mention production — it’s easy enough to waive a guy making $1.1 million and move on.

It might be difficult for Bruins fans to root on a Habs player whose season highlights from last season included beating the snot out of David Krejci in a fight and throwing a cheap shot at Johnny Boychuk in the Boston-Montreal playoff series. But like Ryder and Steve Begin before him, the Garden faithful could be converted if Pouliot makes some contributions to the attempted repeat.

Chiarelli said he has no concern about Pouliot fitting into the Bruins’ dressing room because the 24-year-old was well-liked in the Canadiens’ room.

Chiarelli noted liking Pouliot’s size, skill and age. If there’s one red flag, it was what Chiarelli said about Pouliot compared to other high draft picks that haven’t lived up to expectations.

“He has to be pushed,” said the GM. “And I think we have a strong group that can push him. And I told Benoit that. So he’s only [24], he’s still relatively young. So we hope that he can buy into what we’re selling. And I like his size, I like his skating, I like his shot.”

We’re already making excuses for him not playing hard by saying that he needs to be pushed?

Well, it doesn’t really matter. Even with Ryder gone, the Bruins are playing with house money in the aftermath of the Stanley Cup championship. There should be enough young talent to fill into the top nine, and Pouliot could just as easily work out and turn from hated Hab to hero in Boston.

If not, well, the Bruins can just cut their losses.