The good news is, the David Pastrnak contract negotiations are headed in the right direction.
Bruins GM Don Sweeney said as much more than a week ago at the NHL scouting combine, where he updated reporters on contract talks with the impending restricted free agent. Pastrnak is looking at a major raise in pay in his second deal.
“[Pastrnak’s agent] J.P. [Barry] and I have sat down, we’ve had some good discussions,” Sweeney said to reporters in Buffalo at the combine. “It’s moving in the right direction. Timeline, I don’t have. But we expect to complete a deal and for him to be a longtime member of the Boston Bruins. That’s our intention.”
Pastrnak, 21, exploded for 34 goals and 70 points in 75 games in his third NHL season, along with a plus-11 rating, while essentially playing as a top-6 trigger man for either Patrice Bergeron or David Krejci. Pastrnak joined an elite group of players -- Bergeron, Jonathan Toews, Anze Kopitar, Evgeni Malkin, Sean Monahan, Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, Jeff Skinner and Sidney Crosby -- with 30 goals and 60 points in a season prior to turning 21 since the salary cap was instituted in 2005.
The feeling is that Pastrnak is just scratching the surface of his potential, and could be an NHL superstar on par with some of those names in another couple of seasons.
He struggled a bit, understandably, late in the season as opponents keyed on both him and Brad Marchand as Boston’s biggest offensive cogs. But he continued to show that he is every bit as important to the B’s future as fellow gifted youngster Charlie McAvoy.
Watching them hook up for a power-play goal in the the playoffs, one couldn’t help but picture them doing that again and again over the next decade. For that to happen, of course, Sweeney and Barry need to hammer out a deal that’s likely to be long-term and for big money, which has become the norm for elite young players coming out of their entry-level deals.
On the one end of the spectrum is the super team-friendly three-year, $14.3 million deal that Nikita Kucherov signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning prior to the 2016-17 season, after which he went out and had a Hart Trophy-worthy year. This would be the absolute best-case scenario and Kucherov is absolutely a comparable to Pastrnak after he posted 30 goals and 66 points in his final entry-level season.
More likely than the Kucherov deal for Boston’s right-wing phenom would be something similar to Artemi Panarin (two years, $12 million) if a bridge deal was the approach. But the belief at this address is both the Bruins and Pastrnak’s camp are looking at one of the bigger second contracts, something in the five-to-six year range and perhaps beyond, as the B’s clearly want to build around a player who bought into the team’s program last summer, got bigger and stronger and has dedicated himself to being a complete, game-breaking player at the NHL level.
That would be something similar to the longer-term contracts signed by comparable players at the same point in their NHL careers. Johnny Gaudreau signed a six-year contract for $40.5 million ($6.75 million per season) with the Flames late this past preseason. Sean Monahan agreed to a seven-year, $44.6 million contract ($6.38 million per season) recently. Mark Scheifele (eight years, $49 million), Filip Forsberg (six years, $36 million), and Vladimir Tarasenko (eight years, $60 million) would round out the comparable players in negotiations.
The raft of recent RFA contracts puts Pastrnak’s value squarely in the $6-7 million per season range in a deal that would buy out some of the right winger’s free-agent years but also give him a big chunk of dollars up front while he’s still restricted and fully under team control.
The big question at this point is whether or not Pastrnak is headed for a possible training-camp holdout, as Kucherov and Gaudreau were last season. The circumstance was a bit unique last fall because both of those players were still getting their work in at the World Cup of Hockey rather than sitting at home, and that might have ultimately added to the slow-moving negotiation process.
For those worried this could turn contentious, as it did with guys like Phil Kessel and Dougie Hamilton and led to their departures, the bottom line is this: There are no issues or reservations in Pastrnak's mind when it comes to the team, the coach or the city.
Pastrnak wants to be in Boston with the Bruins. The B’s value the player and his bright future. And a deal is going to get done.