Pastrnak on looming RFA status: 'I obviously love it here'

Pastrnak on looming RFA status: 'I obviously love it here'

David Pastrnak will be a better player for some of his struggles in his first Stanley Cup playoff experience over the last couple of weeks.

The 20-year-old right winger might even be a better player from the experience for Team Czech Republic when he joins them next month for the world championships in Europe. Pastrnak did have a couple of goals in the six game series against the Ottawa Senators and it wasn’t a complete disaster for the youngster the first time around, but he also wasn’t quite up to the lofty standards he set this season when he posted 34 goals and 70 points.

“It was different, but to be honest I loved it. It hurt [to lose] but every win felt unbelievable,” said Pastrnak. “It was a great experience for me, and hopefully in the coming years I get to taste that feeling a lot more times. You always want to be the player that makes a difference, but at the NHL level it’s a good feeling no matter who the hero is.  

“Every year is a learning lesson especially for a young player like me. I’m pretty sure I’m going to come back stronger and get better every year. Obviously the year ended sooner than we wanted, but I did get that first taste of the playoffs after missing out in the first couple of years. It’s another experience and hopefully I get better every year.”

He had just a combined five shots on net in five of the six postseason games, and really only let loose with a big performance in the Game 5 double-overtime win. Otherwise it was sloppy turnovers with the puck against the 1-3-1 trap, a passive role in the offense where he missed the net far too often with the shots he did take and then an ill-timed penalty in overtime in Game 5 that led to the goal that ended their season.

The Bruins didn't shy away from the fact that Pastrnak looked like a first timer in his playoff experience, and expect the third year pro to be better for it the next time around. Clearly the banged-up status of David Krejci throughout the first round also had an impact on Pastrnak’s production and effectiveness as well.

“I think our playoffs, several players went through [the playoffs] for the first time and no matter what you say, until you have experience you don’t get it anywhere else, you’ve got to go through it. Hopefully we’ll be better off as a result of it,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney. “Sitting with David Pastrnak [on Wednesday], that’s the first time he’s played an NHL playoff game. He’ll hopefully be a better player as a result of it. He had a tremendous regular season, but it’s the next level, it’s a new challenge. I thought the vast majority of our players really did a nice job.”

There’s the other situation facing Pastrnak and the Bruins with his entry level contract up after this season, and negotiations set to get underway between his agent and GM Don Sweeney on a second contract. A complete breakdown of the looming negotiations will be a different story for a different day with Pastrnak, but suffice it say that a 20-year-old is going to get paid after dropping 34 goals and 70 points in just his third NHL season.

On the short end of the spectrum one could have a comparable like Chicago’s Artemi Panarin with his two-year, $12 million deal if the two sides come together on a bridge deal, and a contract like Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau (six-year, $40.5 million for a $6.75 million cap hit) if both sides are amenable to a longer deal that buys out some of the young Pastrnak’s unrestricted free agent years.

That leaves a lot of room in between to negotiate and a lot of time before the two sides would have to start worrying about offer sheets around July 1, or about a potential holdout next fall if things don’t go smoothly. Either way, pending restricted free agent Pastrnak left no doubt that he wants to remain a member of the Bruins and continue developing as one of the most exciting young offensive players in the NHL.

“100 percent. I obviously love it here. This is where they gave me the opportunity to be in the NHL. It’s not something I was focusing on all season, so I’m not really going to think about it now,” said Pastrnak, when asked about a deal getting done with the Bruins. “It’s not in my hands. It’s in the hands of management and my agent. Both sides have seen these situations a million times, so I’ll let them handle it.”

Pure skill players don’t come along all that often for the Bruins and now they’ve got one starting to become battle-hardened following his less-than-perfect playoff experience this spring. Now all they’ve got to do is find a way to sign him, and that’s a lot easier said than done as they continue to also try and improve the current NHL roster at the same time. 

Injuries opening up path for Donato to show what he can do

Injuries opening up path for Donato to show what he can do

In an ideal world the Bruins could have signed highly regarded prospect Ryan Donato to a two-year entry level contract, watched him develop his game deliberately at the AHL level and received two full years of service before the forward hit restricted free agency. 

But that doesn’t take into account the current injury situation for the Boston Bruins with a few weeks to go in the regular season, and it didn’t factor in Donato’s leverage as an NCAA player that could have chosen free agency, or going back to Harvard for his senior year, if he didn’t get what he was looking for in negotiations with the Black and Gold. Clearly it never got to anything approaching a hard ball level between the Bruins and a young player with plenty of B’s background in Donato, and now he’ll get to suit up for Boston and most likely make his NHL debut on Monday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets. 

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Once he plays for the Bruins that will burn the first year on his two-year entry level contract, and it will also prohibit him from heading to Providence and playing for the P-Bruins through the rest of the hockey season. It’s the exact same situation Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson found himself in last spring when it was pretty clear after one game in Boston that he wasn’t quite ready for the NHL level. 

After Donato makes his debut it will be up to him and how NHL-ready he looks when he jumps into the Boston lineup, but it’s pretty clear they need some more dynamic top-6 bodies with Patrice Bergeron, David Backes, Jake DeBrusk all out of the lineup, and Anders Bjork done for the season as well as what could have been a good reserve option at the AHL level. 

None of those players are expected to return in the next couple of games or even in the next week most likely, so there may be an opening for Donato to dazzle if he's prepared to seize the opportunity. 

“Once [Harvard’s season] was over with I had an opportunity to speak with his family advisor and with the family and with Ryan himself. We just worked through what looked like the opportunity he was looking for and we were happy to provide that,” said Bruins general manager Don Sweeney. “We have some injuries and we’re at the point in the season where every game has a lot on the line. I think his being able to go over and have success at the Olympics this year really started to jumpstart his thought process that he was ready for the next challenge.

“I think Ryan might have looked at [the injuries on the NHL roster] as an even bigger opportunity for him to go in and possibly play as early as [Monday night]. From our standpoint, we had always been committed to providing the opportunity to Ryan if and when he decided to leave school. I think the two things just kind of lined up accordingly. We definitely are cognizant that the injuries are there, and they’ve mounted a little bit here coming down the stretch. It’s a testament to the group of players that we have [that led to the Tampa] win after losing [David] Backes early in the game and guys really playing well.”

Clearly Donato was ready for the next level after dominating college hockey to the tune of 26 goals in 29 games for the Crimson this season, and serving as one of Team USA’s best players in last month’s Olympic hockey tournament. Donato has a high hockey IQ that usually comes along with being the son of an NHL player, has a nose for the net for a young player that isn’t the biggest or strongest guy on the ice and has become a dangerous sniper with his NHL-level shot and release. The question now is whether all of those skills are “plug and play” at the NHL level, or if he’s more in the mold of similar NCAA players like Anders Bjork or Danton Heinen that needed some development time at the minor league level. 

“He’s a kid that’s got a confidence about himself, a talent level, and he’s got some details that he’s going to have to work on. All young players do, more importantly the inexperience part of it, but he’s a kid that has hard skill,” said Sweeney. “So we’re looking forward to having him join our team, get immersed, and get a taste, and then it’s up to him. He’ll take it with however far he can run with it, but he is welcomed to the opportunity.

“We’re not going to put any pressure on him to say ‘You have to produce.’ It’s like every player; he’s going to be another player that the coach will have an opportunity to play in situations, and the player himself will dictate how much time and circumstances they play in. We feel that, if we get healthy, we’re going to have a deep group. He’s going to add to that group. Then it’s up to him.”

It would be unfair to expect Donato to have an impact on this Bruins team like Craig Janney did coming out of college thirty years ago, but that’s what many are going to equate it to based on the circumstances. Instead it should be looked at as another talented young player that the Bruins are going to add to their embarrassment of young hockey talent riches, and a player that could possibly help them get through a current tough stretch of injuries and attrition. If Donato does anything more than that then it’s another great story in a Boston Bruins season that’s been chock full of them from beginning to end.


Backes 'will be out for a couple of games' with right leg laceration

File Photo

Backes 'will be out for a couple of games' with right leg laceration

The late season attrition continues for the Boston Bruins as David Backes will miss some time with the laceration on his right leg caused by an errant skate blade in Saturday night’s win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

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It took roughly 18 stitches to close a wound that was gushing blood as Backes quickly exited the ice in the first period, and now it looks like it’s going to force him to miss a handful of games here late in the season. Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed that Backes isn’t “day-to-day” as they wait for nature to take its and heal a significant gash that could have been much worse for the 33-year-old power forward. 

“David Backes returned late [Saturday] night with the team. He did meet with our doctors, and they reevaluated the cut. They did some work on it. Obviously, you’ve got great medical care down in Tampa; we’re thankful for that, but our guys wanted their own hands and eyes on it,” said Sweeney. “A timetable hasn’t been set for him. 

“You can imagine it was a pretty significant cut, and now that it’s been, sort of, re-cleaned and addressed accordingly, we’ll just let nature take its course, let it heal. I don’t have a definitive timetable on that one, certainly not day to day. I would suspect he’ll be out for a couple games, and then we’ll reevaluate.”

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The biggest concern for the Bruins with a cut of that nature is the chance of infection, so that’s something the Bruins medical staff will be monitoring closely as Backes heals over the next week or two. It’s too bad for both the B’s and Backes as the Bruins forward was knocked out in the first period against both Florida and Tampa after serving a three-game suspension, and has had his share of freak injuries and illness this season with first diverticulitis that ended with colon surgery, and now the skate blade incident. 

The good news is that it doesn’t sound like Backes is in any danger of being ready for the playoffs, and that’s truly matters as the Bruins continue to win games with so many good players injured and removed from the lineup. Sweeney also gave updates on Patrice Bergeron, who may join the Bruins on their next extended road trip following Monday night’s game vs. Columbus, and Jake DeBrusk, who it doesn’t sound like is all that close to returning to the lineup with his upper body injury.