While Pavel Zacha filed for arbitration earlier this month, it appears that there’s a good chance that his case won’t come to a hearing. The center’s agent – Darren Ferris of Quartexx – told Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald (Twitter link) that a new deal for his client “should be completed in short order”.
Boston acquired the 25-year-old from New Jersey just hours before free agency opened up earlier this month in exchange for Erik Haula. Zacha hasn’t been able to live up to his draft billing as the sixth-overall selection in 2015 but he has shown improvement over the last couple of seasons and is coming off a year that saw him collect 15 goals and 21 assists in 70 games with New Jersey; his 36 points were a career-high.
That was good enough for Boston to acquire and qualify him at a $3MM cost although that number is likely going to go higher on his next contract. Zacha is in his final season of RFA eligibility since he already has six seasons of service time under his belt so it stands to reason that the sides are working on a multi-year agreement at this point which would at least give them a bit of depth down the middle.
It would also give them the cost certainty needed to move forward with the rest of their offseason planning. The Bruins have stated their interest in re-signing Patrice Bergeron if the soon-to-be 37-year-old is open to returning for a 19th NHL season. They’ve also been in talks with David Krejci about bringing him back to North America. But until Zacha’s deal gets done, GM Don Sweeney won’t know what exactly he has left in cap space.
Either way, it won’t be much. CapFriendly currently projects Boston to have $4.758MM in cap room, the bulk of which will go to Zacha. Not surprisingly, Sweeney acknowledged earlier this month that if Bergeron and Krejci return, it will need to be on a low-salary deal with performance bonuses. They will likely need to clear out a contract as well, even with several veterans (Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk) likely to start the year on LTIR. Ferris also told Conroy that there’s “lots going on” so a Zacha contract may be the domino that gets things going on the rest of their offseason moves.