The Boston Bruins have very few expiring contracts entering the 2021-22. In fact, among players that appear to be a lock for an NHL roster spot this season, only six will be free agents next summer. Of that group, only two will be unrestricted free agents and just three are set to make over $800K this season. By and large, the Bruins face very little risk of a roster shake-up via free agency next off-season. Yet, amongst this small group of expiring contracts is two of the most important players on the team, captain Patrice Bergeron and young stalwart Charlie McAvoy. Both career Bruins, one represents that remnants of the 2011 Stanley Cup-winning core and the other appears to be the future of the franchise as they look to transition to a new core. Negotiations with each player will be crucial for the Bruins, but the club has not rushed to extend either just yet; and neither seems to care.
Bergeron, 36, is focused on winning another title this year before shifting his focus to what’s next. Speaking to the media, Bergeron said of his next contract, “I’m going to play out this year, and then talk about that after.” GM Don Sweeney stated last month that Bergeron has free reign to sign on for as many more years as he likes in Boston. While the cap-strapped Bruins will need to be more careful about the cost, they are open to whatever term the future Hall of Famer is seeking. Bergeron has been a face of the franchise for many years, establishing himself as arguably the best defensive forward in league history and with a point-per-game campaign could crack 1,000 career points this season. He has earned the right to decide when he wants to retire or otherwise leave Boston, whether that be next year or several years for now. This season really is less about establishing anything more for contract negotiations and instead focusing solely on the pursuit of the Stanley Cup and continuing to build a lasting legacy in Boston. As Amalie Benjamin relays for NHL.com, Bergeron stated the thinks this Bruins group can be “special”, not only this year but even beyond his playing days:
I want to create something special, as I said. We obviously want to work towards winning a Stanley Cup. I know everyone says that, but it’s definitely our goal as a team. And I think we always are competitive to be in that group of teams. So I think that’s where that’s where my focus is at right now… We have some players that have been around for a while and they’re getting older, but also some younger players that are taking a bigger role, whether it’s on the ice or off the ice in the locker room. I think you want to make them understand that it’s going to become their team at some point soon and that they have to take some more responsibilities and whatnot. I’ve always said that I believe in leadership by committee and I think it can’t just be about one or two guys, it has to be a lot of guys.
One of those future leaders is undoubtedly McAvoy. While the Bruins have had an unfortunate recent history of moving on from young players too early, Boston seems to be sold on McAvoy’s complete game, work ethic, and locker room presence. One of the top defensemen in the NHL last season, McAvoy took a major step forward despite the departure of Zdeno Chara and the lack of a consistent pair mate. In an off-season that has been defined by long-term, big-money contracts for top young defensemen, McAvoy has established himself as at least an equal player to those who have already received mammoth new deals. With so many comparable contracts now available, the Bruins easily could have offered McAvoy a similar long-term deal and moved on, but the two sides are taking their time with negotiations; and McAvoy doesn’t mind. According to the Boston Globe’s Matt Porter, McAvoy brushed off any suggestion that he was frustrated to not have a new contract in the books. “Honestly, I don’t have any comment on it,” McAvoy said. “I’m just really excited for the year, just worrying about this summer, being in the best spot to get ready for camp. I think we’re going to have a heck of a team… I just want to get after it.” Unlike Bergeron, McAvoy also stands to gain financially from waiting to agree to a new deal, as another top-notch season could lead to an even bigger deal. His agent, Rick Curran, stated as much:
For Charlie, it’s all about focusing on the season. He wants to go out and have a really good season, and focus on what he can do for the team, really solidify himself as a top D-man in the league. He wants to control what he can control and let the chips fall where they may.
While Bruins fans may want some peace of mind about the futures of Bergeron and McAvoy before or even during the upcoming season, it seems more likely that both will wait until after the season and appear happy to do so. With their sights set on bringing the Stanley Cup back to Boston, the duo have more important things to do that worry about contracts when both are guaranteed to be with the Bruins for as long as they like.