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Haggerty: Bruins in good position as Pastrnak sits in RFA market

Haggerty: Bruins in good position as Pastrnak sits in RFA market

While the Bruins are still on the lookout for a left shot, top-four defenseman and a possible left-wing candidate for David Krejci’s line, their biggest priority of the offseason is very clearly a new contract for David Pastrnak.

The restricted free agent is up for renewal and, as of July 1, can receive offer sheets from other teams, though we all know that hostile takeover offers for RFA’s simply don’t happen that often in the NHL.

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Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed Saturday that the B’s would be matching any offer sheets that do come in for the 21-year-old, ultra-skilled, game-breaking right winger, and that Boston has roughly $13 million in cap space to protect their coveted young asset.

“We’re in really good position in that way,” Sweeney said in reference to the cap situation and possible offer sheets. “We’re having really good dialogue; we just haven’t found [an agreement]. In a perfect world, yeah, [we'd have] buttoned that up, but it just hasn’t happened to this point in time. I don’t comment on where things are at, other than we’re committed to the player and we’d like to find a long-term deal.”

Sources with knowledge of the negotiations say that Pastrnak is tracking toward a deal slightly less than Brad Marchand’s eight-year, $49 million contract extension signed last fall, both in terms of AAV (Average Annual Value) and the length of the contract. So, the parameters could be something in the neighborhood of six years, $36 million for Pastrnak, but both sides have indicated that a deal isn’t even done even though the “dialogue” and “progress” have been very good to this point.

Likewise, there doesn’t appear to be any inclination whatsoever for Pastrnak to want to test the offer-sheet market or show any kind of restricted free-agent curiosity to see what other teams could be offering. 

Instead, it would seem some of the hold-up is a wait-and-see approach with the contract resolutions with other similarly elite restricted free agents such as Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. McDavid agreed to an eight-year, $100 million extension on Wednesday that has an AAV of $12.5 million per year. Draisaitl, Edmonton’s No. 2 center, probably won’t be too far behind that, thanks to his combination of explosiveness, production and skill. With Evgeny Kuznetsov signing a deal with Washington that pays him almost $8 million per season and Carey Price now getting paid more than $10 million per season on an eight-year deal with the Canadiens, it would appear that elite players are getting a pretty massive bump in pay across the league.

The concern is that kind of trend could blow up Pastrnak’s number, severely alter Boston’s interior salary structure, and force the B's to spend the kind of money they don’t really want to spend. But Pastrnak, still approaching the limits of his potential, had 34 goals and 70 points last year and joined an elite group of players -- Bergeron, Jonathan Toews, Anze Kopitar, Evgeni Malkin, Sean Monahan, Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, Jeff Skinner and Sidney Crosby -- who, since the salary cap was instituted in 2005, totaled 30 goals and 60 points in a season prior to turning 21.

There are still plenty of comparable contracts to Pastrnak that come in around the $6 million AAV, which makes the B’s feel comfortable about their place in negotiations. That would be something similar to the longer-term contracts signed by similar 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.

On the shorter term, both Nikita Kucherov (three years, $14.3 million) and Artemi Panarin (two years, $12 million) would fit into the comparable category as well if both sides can’t end up agreeing on a longer-term contract.

There’s no doubt Pastrnak’s camp could begin to use contracts such as McDavid's and Tarasenko's as high-end comparable deals if they don’t get exactly what they want, and that’s something Sweeney was ready to face head on.

“Is [McDavid] a comparable? Sure, in their minds, I’m sure he is," Sweeney said. "I don’t know if I’d draw a direct line in terms . . . there are a lot of guys that have signed. It doesn’t make the other guys irrelevant that have signed that you’re comparing that player to. There are internal caps, internal structures on everybody’s individual team. I’m not going to talk about any other players. I’m going to talk about my own players in terms of when we go into contract negotiations. There will be plenty of comps, we’re not just going to use one.”

Whatever the case, everybody involved has to hope that their forward progress helps them cross the finish line with a new, long-term Pastrnak deal well before training camp. Any potential holdout could negatively impact what should be a dominant fourth season for the fun-loving Czech kid they call “Pasta.”

Talking Points: Signs point to Pastrnak busting out of mini-slump

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Talking Points: Signs point to Pastrnak busting out of mini-slump

GOLD STAR: David Pastrnak netted the game-winner in the third period after getting freed up for a breakaway chance, and then throwing a double-move at Matt Murray before tucking one under his glove hand. It was the first goal in six games for Pastrnak, and it capped off a day when he topped 22 minutes of ice time, had a team-high five shots on net and battled through some physical play from the Penguins to get toward his offense. The 21-year-old continues to set the pace for the Bruins offensively, and has shown all the signs in the last couple of games that he’s busting out of whatever mini-slump was holding him down. Everybody knows that Pasta isn’t good for Thanksgiving, but it is certainly good for Black Friday.

BLACK EYE: A tough afternoon for former Boston College standout Brian Dumoulin, who got rocked by a couple of heavy Noel Acciari hits later in the game, finishing with a minus-2 rating while sitting on the ice for a couple of goals against. Dumoulin finished with three giveaways in 20:03 of ice time, managed only a single shot on net and was one of the weaker links on the ice for Pittsburgh in a game where they didn’t play too badly in the final 40 minutes. Dumoulin seems to struggle a bit when he comes back to Boston, and Black Friday afternoon was no exception.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins were outplayed in the second period despite outshooting the Penguins by a 14-8 margin, and they watched as Pittsburgh pressed them for three goals in the middle 20 minutes. But in what turned out to be a very important play in the game, Matt Grzelcyk finished off a broken play in front of the net to score his first NHL goal on the Garden ice where he grew up skating. That goal allowed the Bruins to move into the second intermission with a tied hockey game, and set things up for the third period heroics where David Pastrnak scored the game-winner on a breakaway strike.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jake DeBrusk put together another strong performance, and his line played a giant role in the Bruins jumping out to a 2-0 lead after the first period. He set up the David Krejci goal that got the Bruins up and rolling in the first period, and then he also fed Krejci again in the second period on a shot attempt he fanned on in the slot. The puck drifted over to Matt Grzelcyk for Boston’s third goal, and it capped off a day where the rookie winger topped 18 minutes of ice time, had two assists and a plus-1 rating, finished with four shots on net and had a couple of hits in there for good measure.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 – the placement the Bruins now have in the Atlantic Division after winning four games in a row, which puts them back into a playoff spot on the day after Thanksgiving. What a stunning turnaround it’s been over the last couple of weeks.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “it’s exciting. You’re on NBC, you’re playing against the Stanley Cup Champions, everyone is watching, let’s put our best foot forward. I know it’s one of 82, but it’s a bigger one of 82 the way I look at it, and I think they felt the same way coming out [in the first period].” –Bruce Cassidy, on the strong start from the Black and Gold. 

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Pastrnak's third-period goal gives Bruins their fourth straight victory, 4-3 over Pens

Pastrnak's third-period goal gives Bruins their fourth straight victory, 4-3 over Pens

BOSTON – The Bruins always hope to give their fans something good in their annual matinee on the day after Thanksgiving, and that was the case Friday.

They got off on the right foot with a great first period, then finished with an electric breakaway from David Pastrnak in the third period, and posted an entertaining, solid 4-3 win over the back-to-back Stanley Cup champ Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden.

Pastrnak’s 11th goal of the season was the game-winner. The Penguins had battled back from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits and tied the score, then Pastrnak was freed up by a brilliant neutral-zone pass from Riley Nash. He sped in all alone and flipped the puck over Matt Murray’s glove hand at 5:06 of the third.

David Krejci and Sean Kuraly had opened things up with goals in the first period, as the B's outshot the Penguins by a 14-4 margin. But Sidney Crosby and the Pens answered back in the second with three goals of their own, including a controversial game-tying score from Sid the Kid after Boston had moved ahead 3-1 on a goal from Charlestown native Matt Grzelcyk.

The Crosby goal came after it appeared the refs had called play dead with a whistle as the puck sat on Anton Khudobin’s waist in the crease. It also appeared to have been goalie interference, as Crosby’s stick had made contact with Khudobin while the puck was in mid-air. But on replay the officials overturned the call of no-goal on the ice, and the score was tied 3-3 after two.

That set things up for Pastrnak, who snapped a five-game goal-scoring stretch, and handed the red-hot Bruins their season-high fourth win in a row.