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BARTKOWSKI JOINS FLAMES ON PTO

The 28-year-old defenceman is looking to take advantage of this opportunity and earn an NHL contract

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GeorgejohnsonCH / CalgaryFlames.com

Forty-seven months later, Matt Bartkowski has joined the Calgary Flames.

That's what's known as a long travel day.

Maybe his itinerary out of Boston that never-to-be-forgotten early spring night back in 2013 took him via, say … Cairo. On a directionally-challenged tramp steamer.

"It is,'' admitted the 28-year-old defenceman, standing in front of the painted Flames backdrop after agreeing to a professional tryout contract, "kind of ironic.

"Ever since that Iginla thing, there were mutterings they wanted me. So it's almost meant to be, that I'm finally here."

Flashback to March 27th, 2013: The trade, of course, was rumoured, thought and reported as consummated: Flames' iconic captain and all-time leading scorer Jarome Iginla to the Boston Bruins in exchange for, among others, Matt Bartkowski.

Only to have then-GM Jay Feaster walk into the Ed Whalen Media Lounge later that night and drop a surprise grenade - Iginla, on the player's call, had instead been shipped to Pittsburgh.

"I remember that day,'' recalls Flames' defenceman Dougie Hamilton, a Boston teammate of Bartkowski's at the time. "We knew what was going on. We were all at the rink and thought it was a done deal.

"Then he's back the next day at practice.

"It was a weird situation."

Following five season in the Boston organization, the Pittsburgh, PA product landed in Vancouver for a year, putting up six goals and 18 points in 80 regular season skates.

Bartkowski has spent the entirety of this campaign in Providence, toiling for the NHL Bruins, Boston's AHL affiliate. Until the Flames put in a call, that is.

Walking into the Calgary room Wednesday wasn't a totally foreign sensation. Along with Hamilton, goaltender Chad Johnson was a Boston teammate for a spell.

More critically, last year one of the assistant coaches during his lone season with the Canucks was, of course, current Flames' boss Glen Gulutzan.

"He brought a lot over, what we did in Vancouver last year,'' said Bartkowski. "So that's easy to step into the systems and just the different things that every coach'll do.

"Having that familiarity will definitely help.

"It good to see some familiar faces in the room. It's easier to become part of the group with someone to kind of bring you in. So it's good to see those guys again."

For anyone on a PTO there are, naturally, no guarantees.

"Skate, play well defensively and bring it on a consistent basis,'' Bartkowski said of his keys to sticking around.

"They've been fighting for a while here to get in the playoffs. A little hiccup the other night with the game against Phoenix but before that they were on quite a roll."

"This is an opportunity. I've just got to take advantage of it.

"At first it was (tough) not being in the NHL (this season). But you've gotta know where you are. I was in the AHL, playing hockey and it was out of my hands - where can I sign, this and that - outside of my play. So I just had to focus on where I was, play my game and hopefully something will happen.

"Sure enough, it did."

Over their tenure together in Beantown, Hamilton was impressed with Bartkowski's game.

"I played with him a couple of times,'' recalled Hamilton. "We weren't regular partners.

"He's a really talented player. It's good to see him. A really good guy. It's kind of weird that he was in the AHL all year but seeing out here he looks like an NHL player.

"The one thing that sticks out to everyone is his skating. He's one of the best skaters I've seen. He can go end-to-end pretty quick."

So 47 months after the done deal wasn't quite so done, Bartkowski has joined the Calgary Flames.

For how long remains up in the air.

"Bart's a real good skater, a real good person,'' Gulutzan critiqued. "Everyone knows how important having enough defencemen is, especially this time of year, moving forward.

"This is someone Tre (GM Brad Treliving) talked about a little bit and obviously this is someone I have some familiarity with.

"We'll see how it goes here in the next couple days."

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