Bruins

Pastrnak and Bruins seem headed for happier ending than Butler and Pats

Pastrnak and Bruins seem headed for happier ending than Butler and Pats

Malcolm Butler isn’t the only local star whose restricted free-agent status has Boston fans biting their nails.

At the end of the current NHL season, David Pastrnak, fresh off what will be the best season by a Bruin on his first contract since Patrice Bergeron scored 31 goals in 2005-06, will see his entry-level deal expire. He will be due for a big raise and the Bruins want to give it to him.

Yet to do that, Don Sweeney will need to strike a deal with super agent J.P. Barry, who also represents Dougie Hamilton and Loui Eriksson, both of whom left Boston after contract negotiations. 

Yet before you go lamenting another potential departure, take a deep breath. For their past struggles to find common ground, it seems the talks thus far have gone well. And, really, they should. This sounds like it should be an easy negotiation. 

The Bruins don't have designs on losing Pastrnak the way they did with Hamilton. He’s a top-six fixture who could one day surpass Brad Marchand as the team’s best scorer. Still just 20, Pastrnak has 28 goals through 62 games and could conceivably end up hitting 35 on the season. 

Both sides are interested in a long-term deal rather than a bridge contract. The best news of all for the Bruins is that Pastrnak’s camp is not insisting on Vladimir Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year deal worth $7.5 million annually after his entry level deal, as a comparable. 

Rather, they feel the most accurate comps are Filip Forsberg, Sean Monahan and Mark Scheifele, all of whom signed new contracts off their entry level deals last offseason. Here’s what they got: 

Forsberg: Six years, $36 million ($6 million cap hit; 8.22% of cap in year 1)
Monahan:  Seven years, $44.625 million ($6.35 million cap hit; 8.73% of cap in year 1)
Scheifele: Eight years, $49 million ($6.12 million cap hit; 8.39% of cap in year 1)

All three of those players had at least one 25-goal season during their entry-level deal, as Pastrnak has. From a goal-scoring standpoint, Monahan was the most consistent with 22, 31 and 27.

This is Pastrnak’s first full season after playing 46 and 51 NHL games in his first and second pro seasons, respectively, but he’s currently on pace to score more goals this season than any of the aforementioned trio did in a single season on their first deals. 

Because of his age, a longterm deal would also give Pastrnak the best of both worlds. He'd get a payday now and still be young enough at his next contract's expiration (depending on length of a six-plus year deal, he'd be between 27 and 29 at its conclusion) to still cash in another huge contract. 

So these are fair comps and all three of those players got relatively similar deals -- at least six years with a cap hit of between 8.22 percent and 8.73 percent of the cap in the deal’s first year. What could possibly make this easier? 

That the Bruins might not even have to do math.

It’s been reported that the cap won’t go up much, if at all, from the $73 million it is this season. That means that the Bruins could conceivably start with one of these contracts and perhaps not be far off from the one that could keep Pastrnak in Boston. 

We know what’s happened between Barry and Sweeney in past negotiations, but this one should have a happy ending.

Bruins know they 'have to be better defensively' to close out Leafs

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File photo

Bruins know they 'have to be better defensively' to close out Leafs

TORONTO – The Bruins have scored less than three goals exactly once in their playoff series with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Offense really hasn’t been an issue against a Toronto team that can’t consistently stop the Black and Gold. No, it’s much more about defense and slowing down the Maple Leafs while keeping preventable goals out of the back of their net. 

Some of it is about effectively cutting down the transition, stretch passes that Toronto likes to use to kick-start their offense, and that’s about minimizing the risk-taking offensively while also taking care not to allow leaking, sneaking opponents behind their defense. Some of it is just about good, fundamental defense as the Bruins simply didn’t play 2-on-2 situations very well on rushes from the Toronto forwards in their Game 5 loss at TD Garden. 

All of it is about holding players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Nazem Kadri in check as the Bruins have done for long stretches of the series with a steady diet of Zdeno Chara greeting the Leafs franchise center wherever he goes.

“In games like that we have to be a little better defensively,” said Brad Marchand, referring to Game 5’s defeat where they scored three goals. “We can’t expect to score five goals every game, so we can’t be giving up four [goals]. If we’re a little bit better there and continue to pepper away with the shots, hopefully things will work in our favor.”

Bruce Cassidy went through each of the first three goals allowed by the Bruins in their Game 5 loss last weekend, and each of them needed better “rush defense” executed by the Bruins. The first was a simple one-man rush into the zone by Matthews, the second was Andreas Johnsson getting behind the Bruins defense before connecting with Kadri on a perfect pass, and the third was a backbreaking Tyler Bozak score from the slot after the Bruins had just scored and grabbed momentum in the game. All of them arrived via Toronto’s speed and aggressive mindset entering the offensive zone, and that’s something Boston has stifled to a much more effective degree until Saturday night.  

“They make a play up the wall where we’re normally there to contest that, slide and have the appropriate adjustment between the forward and the ‘D.’ We didn’t slide until the rush. That will be addressed and was addressed. That’s what we need to do against Toronto when we have the numbers and we didn’t do it,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Then they won a puck at the net where we’re generally good there, but they got it to the net. Give them credit, they got it there. They got it to the net and won a battle by going to the dirty areas. 

“The second goal was a 2-on-2 and a good play, but still a 2-on-2. We need to defend it better from our end. From their end, it’s a nice play. The third goal was a quick up, we were a little late trying to kill it. … We were a little late in every area, we needed a save there and we didn’t get it. So those are the three goals I look at, and I look at the rush defense that could have been better.”

Given that the Bruins have scored 20 goals in the five playoff games vs. Toronto and hit the 40 shots on net three different times in the best-of-seven series, it’s about holding the Leafs down a little more effectively as they’ve done in their three wins. If the Bruins can play sound defense and once again slow down the Maple Leafs track meet on the ice, then it’s highly doubtful this series will be going back to Boston for a Game 7. 

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Bruce Cassidy looking to 'tinker' with Bruins lineup for Game 6

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

Bruce Cassidy looking to 'tinker' with Bruins lineup for Game 6

TORONTO – After failing to close out the Maple Leafs on home ice in Game 5 and not getting off to a great start in the game either, Bruce Cassidy may end up making a change to the lineup for Monday night’s Game 6 at the Air Canada Centre. 

Cassidy didn’t really elaborate while speaking to the media after Monday’s morning skate other than to say the coaching staff is “deliberating” over the 12 forwards and six D-men, and that they may “tinker” with the lineup. 

“Right now it looks like everybody is at our disposal [from a health perspective],” said Cassidy, referencing the team’s health entering Monday night’s close-out game for the Bruins. “We’re deliberating. Everybody is healthy, so there won’t be anybody out because of health as far as I’m aware of. But we may tinker with the lineup tonight…yes.”

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The best guess here is that rookie winger Danton Heinen may be coming out of the lineup after going scoreless in the first five games (a minus-1 with just four shots on net) of this playoff series, and that it might be time for another appearance from highly skilled Ryan Donato on the third line. Certainly Donato could add a little bit more of an offensive dimension to the third line and would become an option for Cassidy to insert into the Bruins power play as well. 

Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairings against the Maple Leafs in Game 6 based on the morning skate:  

 

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Nash

Donato-Nash-Backes

Schaller-Kuraly-Acciari

 

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-McQuaid

Grzelcyk-Miller

 

Rask