With Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci now officially signed, the Boston Bruins are almost complete for the 2022-23 season. Pavel Zacha sits as the team’s only unsigned restricted free agent, with an arbitration date set for Thursday. It appears as though they will not need that hearing after all, as the Bruins have signed Zacha to a one-year, $3.5MM contract.
Because he has already completed six seasons in the NHL, a one-year deal for Zacha would take him directly to unrestricted free agency next summer at the age of 26. The 2015 sixth-overall pick was acquired by the Bruins in a trade for Erik Haula this offseason, after he put up a career-high 36 points in 2021-22.
A $3.5MM cap hit is actually equal to the base salary for both Bergeron and Krejci combined, showing just how team-friendly those bonus-laden deals are, and how strong an arbitration case Zacha had after developing into a consistent two-way presence the last few years. While he never did become the top-six center that many believed he could be when drafted, his versatility, defensive acumen, and size make him a nice piece for the Bruins to move around this year.
While this deal does technically move the Bruins over the salary cap, for the time being, they have plenty of flexibility with several key players injured to start the year. That doesn’t necessarily rule out an offseason move to free up some additional space (the Bruins will receive a short buyout window now that Zacha’s arbitration case has been settled) but it isn’t required, as Charlie McAvoy and Brad Marchand could be moved to long-term injured reserve as they recover from summer surgery.
Marchand’s absence, in particular, could mean a nice opportunity for Zacha, depending on how things play out, as the team’s left wing depth is quite impressive when everyone is healthy. Whether he can reach new offensive heights remains to be seen, but the big forward will at least get the chance to prove he deserves a long-term UFA contract as the Bruins try to contend for the Stanley Cup for at least one more Bergeron-led season.
PuckPedia broke the contract details on Twitter.
Rick from Red Deer
So what’s Zacha’s performance bonus then? $3 mil for playing 3 games?
As I think you know, Zacha isn’t eligible for bonus contract.
But good signings