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Ties Between Bruins, Panthers Run Deep

Sunday, 04.21.2013 / 9:51 AM / Features
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Ties Between Bruins, Panthers Run Deep

BostonBruins.com - Gregory Campbell was heading out the door for a round of golf when he heard the news.

The 26-year-old forward had just completed his seventh year in the Florida Panthers organization, and he was set to enter restricted free agency following the 2010 season. With a new general manager in place and a new era of Panthers hockey on the horizon, he had no plans to leave the only team he had ever played for.

“I was fully expecting to re-sign with Florida,” Campbell said. “I was a restricted free agent at the time, and [newly hired Panthers general manager Dale Tallon] gave me the call and said they wanted to get something done with me.”

But the NHL is a business, and when the right offer comes along, general managers have to make a move—and that’s exactly what happened on this day in June.

The Panthers shipped Campbell and longtime teammate Nathan Horton up to Boston in exchange for Dennis Wideman, the No. 15 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft and a third-round pick in the 2011 draft.

Although Campbell initially had no desire to leave Florida, the change was a welcome one.

“[Florida] is the first organization that gave me an opportunity, so you always have a soft spot for that,” Campbell said. “I’ve always been a fan of the game and I’ve always really appreciated the hockey atmosphere, the hockey market, and I knew that Boston was just that. Not only a hockey city but a sports city…one that’s built around winning. That’s the expectation here.”

Horton was the centerpiece of the deal, bringing the physical scoring-punch the Bruins had sought for so long. But Campbell proved every bit as valuable in his own way, providing a versatile, durable, and gritty player who helped round out the Merlot Line.

Both immediately responded to the challenge of playing under Boston’s microscope and became integral pieces of the Bruins’ Stanley Cup team. Campbell played in 80 regular season games—second to only Zdeno Chara and Mark Recchi—and Horton provided an offensive spark throughout the playoffs by registering eight goals and nine assists in 21 games.

Ties between the Panthers and the Bruins’ 2011 championship squad don’t end there, though.

Just months earlier, at the 2010 trade deadline, Boston sent Byron Bitz and Craig Weller to Florida in exchange for Dennis Seidenberg and Matt Bartkowski.

Seidenberg immediately became a mainstay on the Bruins’ blue line. The shot-blocking specialist recorded a career-high 32 points during the 2010-11 season and tacked on 11 more in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“It’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” Seidenberg said. “You can’t ask for more than to get traded to an Original Six team with a lot of history and a good fan base.

“There’s also a lot more pressure put on by us and also by the media, but it’s something you want to be a part of.”

Even Matt Bartkowski, a little-known seventh-round draft pick from Ohio State, is now growing into a valuable member of the Bruins’ defensive corps. He has skated in 11 games this season, providing a stable and reliable presence for Boston’s injury-riddled roster.

The Boston-Florida Pipeline has obviously proven fruitful for the B’s, but the Panthers have also used these deals to stock up on young players.

Florida turned Boston’s draft picks into defensive cornerstone Dmitry Kulikov (231 games played since 2009) and budding University of Minnesota forward Kyle Rau. The Cats also flipped Dennis Wideman for a 2011 third-round draft pick, which they used to select promising defenseman Jonathan Racine, who made his professional debut this season.

Despite their differences, the Panthers and Bruins have quietly developed a mutually beneficial partnership that has both franchises moving in the right direction.

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