Source: Boychuk deal worth $3.75

LOS ANGELES -- The Boston Bruins on Thursday re-signed Johnny Boychuk to a two-year contract, the team announced. The deal is worth $3.75 million, a source told ESPN.com: $1.75 million next season and $2 million in 2011-2012.

The 26-year-old defenseman emerged as a top four blueliner for the Bruins last season and proved his worth, especially in the playoffs. He would have been an unrestricted free agent as of July 1, and even though he was interested in what that process would be like, staying in Boston proved more important.

"I was thinking about maybe going to free agency and seeing what was out there, but when I looked around the league I knew what kind of position I would be in and just to come back to Boston, with the great coaching staff we have and knowing the guys, made it a lot easier decision," Boychuk said. "That was the main factor that tipped the scale for me."

The 2009-2010 campaign marked Boychuk's first full season in the NHL. He posted five goals and 10 assists for 15 points with a plus-10 rating in 51 games for the Bruins. He added two goals and four assists in 13 playoffs games.

"He's made great strides this year," Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said. "He was patient before he got into the lineup and learned our system. He's got a dimensional shot. He competes and he's got size, but the biggest thing I saw was he's improved from being the defenseman of the year (2008-2009) in the American [Hockey] League to being our seventh defenseman to start the season, and working his way into our lineup patiently. He learned a long the way and we have a very good defensive system and Johnny has picked it up."

Boychuk was a healthy scratch for most the early part of the schedule last season. Due to injuries to other defensemen and his relentless work during practice, Boychuk broke into the lineup and was relied upon heavily.

He was paired with captain Zdeno Chara and the two logged a lot of ice time together, especially in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Even though he played with Chara last season, it's too early to know who Boychuk will be partnered with next season.

"That was out of necessity," Chiarelli said in reference to the Chara-Boychuk pairing. "But he showed he can play at that level and log those minutes and it gives us some flexibility on the back end."

Chara played a big role in Boychuk's development.

"Obviously it's going to help me playing with a Norris Trophy winner," he said. "He's a great leader and a great player and obviously it's going to help me develop my defensive game and offensive game and it gives me a little more confidence to do things when you have a guy like that playing beside you."

There are two distinct aspects to Boychuk's game: a powerful slap shot and physical play. Both entities were on display during the postseason.

"That's a part of his game that stands out," Chiarelli said. "He's always competed and in the past he's run around a bit to be physical, but he has shown us that he's learning the game. The defensive position is a hard position to play and he's gotten better since the American [Hockey] League. He has shown a lot of improvement. He's a good kid and still young and a shot like his is hard to find."

After the Bruins were ousted from the playoffs in an epic collapse, Boychuk said he was hoping he would be back in Boston. He got his wish on Thursday.

"It means quite a lot," he said. "They saw me develop in Providence and they saw me develop when I wasn't playing and it progressed from there. I'm thankful they wanted me back."

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun contributed to this report.