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Of those who are either established in The Show or stand a realistic chance of seeing NHL action in the coming year, four of the Bruins blueliners are fighting for an extended stay.
Andrew Ference is the only returning veteran who is not locked in beyond next summer. In his company are minor league mainstay Matt Bartkowski and two recent free-agent imports in Garnet Exelby and Aaron Johnson.
Bartkowski’s Bruins hourglass is rapidly running short on sand, and his pool has deepened a few feet with the veteran likes of Exelby and Johnson, plus rookie Torey Krug, coming into the equation. While he earned a one-year extension this summer, he will need to make an impression this season more than Caron does if he hopes to one day play a full year in Boston.
One or both of Exelby and Johnson can replenish the seasoning on the Providence blue line previously provided by Andrew Bodnarchuk and Nathan McIver. Their hopes of supplanting Ference for a full-time NHL roster spot, however, are between brittle and nonexistent, which means the best bet has only one of them sticking around beyond 2013.
The greatest threats to Ference’s security are a sprinkling of wild cards, namely the development of Bartkowski and Krug and the possibility of Chiarelli finding an enticing NHL import. But the fact that he is one of only six skaters and two defensemen remaining from Julien’s first season in 2007-08 points to him inking a new contract by the coming winter or spring.