The negotiations between the Boston Bruins and 21-year-old superstar David Pastrnak have dominated the headlines in recent weeks, despite the fact that there has been little substance to the actual news. Pastrnak is a restricted free agent coming off of a break-out 70-point campaign and is looking for a long-term contract. The Bruins would like to provide him with one and reportedly made an offer of six or seven years worth $6MM per season earlier this summer, after which there has not been much of a response. While that does seem to be somewhat below market value, especially in light of Leon Draisaitl’s new deal in Edmonton, any report that Pastrnak’s side is unhappy with the offer or unwilling to deal with GM Don Sweeney or President Cam Neely is nothing more than speculation.
Well, it seems that some clarity – and perhaps a conclusion – could soon be on the way. Pastrnak’s agent, J.P. Barry, arrived in Boston yesterday to meet with the Bruins’ brass to discuss the situation. By all accounts, this is the first in-person discussion that the two sides have had this summer, perhaps lending to the idea that the delay in the new contract could be due more to scheduling than anything else. The Bruins still appear certain that they will be able to come to terms on a new deal with Pastrnak, with Neely telling Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald that “David has expressed that he loves it here and wants to play here. We want him here for as long as it makes sense for us.” If Pastrnak continues to produce like he did in 2016-17, what “makes sense” for the Bruins is to keep him as long as possible. With that in mind, they should be flexible to an extent on the salary demands. On the other hand, Neely points out that, outside of the deals signed by former Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli in Edmonton, the market has not changed all that much and their offer to Pastrnak is within reason compared to contracts signed by similar players in recent years. There seems to be a mutual interest between both sides on getting a new deal done and a resolution could be reached in the coming days, finally putting to end a news cycle of fear mongering regarding Boston and their top young scorer.
- Once Pastrnak is signed, Bruins fans can turn their frustration and anxiety to a new target, which will more than likely be Matt Beleskey. With Jimmy Hayes gone, Beleksey will now face the full ire of the Boston fan base some training camp. Admittedly, Beleksey is fresh off of a very disappointing season. The veteran winger was plagued by injury and ineffectiveness in 2016-17, playing in just 49 games and recording only eight points. While his $3.8MM cap hit is manageable, more is expected at that price tag. However, many are quick to forget that Beleskey’s first season in Boston, 2015-16, was the best of his career. The big forward set a career high with 22 assists and 37 points and skated in a career best 15:51 minutes per game. Beleskey’s 260 hits were also tops on the team, helping to make up for the loss of Milan Lucic, a fan-favorite. In fact, Beleskey had “new fan-favorite” written all over him heading into last season, but that has surely changed. Yet, Beleskey told CSNNE’s Joe Haggerty that he plans to stick to his game this season. Beleskey has spent much of the off-season training in Boston and working to improve his speed, but has no intention of cutting back on any of his trademark physicality. If he is fully healthy and re-focused, as Haggerty sited a “touch of complacency” last season, then bringing that physical edge back to the Boston lineup would be a welcome addition. Yes, Beleskey faces stiff competition this fall for a top-nine spot from Frank Vatrano, UFA add Kenny Agostino, and promising prospects Anders Bjork, Jake DeBrusk, Peter Cehlarik, and Danton Heinen, but his size and strength match up with the historical preference in line mates of second-line center David Krejci, who played his best hockey alongside Lucic and Nathan Horton years ago. If Beleskey really can return to form, he will certainly be given a shot at a scoring role and could find a good fit alongside Krejci and David Backes.
- The two themes of the Bruins’ summer have been 1) the team wants to give the kids a chance to make the team this season and 2) the off-season priority is an extension for Pastrnak. That combination has led to speculation that the Bruins would have interest in a late-summer signing or PTO for veteran wingers, after Pastrnak had signed and the up-and-coming forwards had gotten a look. Until recently, Drew Stafford, who performed well in Boston at the end of last season and kept in touch with the team all summer, and Thomas Vanek, whose career has pitted him against Boston many times, were considered two of the top candidates. Now, both have signed with other teams for the coming season and the Bruins’ options are getting thin. Between the aforementioned Bjork, DeBrusk, Cehlark, and Heinen on the left side and top forward prospect Zach Senyshyn on the right, as well as center Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson potentially pushing Ryan Spooner to the wing or sliding outside himself, the Bruins could easily plug their holes internally. However, if they think that those young players need more seasoning, Beleskey, Vatrano, Agostino, Spooner, and Riley Nash are a group that could use some more competition for top-nine spots. The last thing the team needs is to push natural checking line players, like Noel Acciari and Tim Schaller, into the top nine like they did last year. Depth on the right side is more concerning and the likes of Alex Chiasson or Teddy Purcell could be intriguing PTO candidates, while a high-ceiling scorer like P.A. Parenteau or Jiri Hudler may also be worth a look. With the recent influx of PTO agreements, the Bruins may need to enter the fray before the Pastrnak negotions are over, or else risk missing out on a closer look at one of these options.