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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.”

Bruins announce that Patrice Bergeron will not play in Game 4

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File Photo

Bruins announce that Patrice Bergeron will not play in Game 4

TORONTO – The Bruins will need to take a pivotal Game 4 without their best player as Patrice Bergeron is out for Thursday night’s playoff game at the Air Canada Centre with an upper body injury. Bergeron will be day-to-day moving forward, but that’s not going to help the B’s as they lose one piece of a forward line that’s dominated the Maple Leafs through the first three games of the series.

It’s really not a great sign when the Bruins had two days off in Toronto between Game 3 and Game 4, and Bergeron still wasn’t able to give it a go on Thursday night. Instead it will be Riley Nash centering the top line between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, and Tommy Wingels entering back into the lineup with No. 37 out of the lineup. There was a faint sign that something might be up with Bergeron when Riley Nash took some turns in his place at practice on Wednesday afternoon at Air Canada Centre, but no signal whatsoever that something was serious enough to keep him out of the lineup.

It goes without saying that the Bruins might be in big trouble if this Bergeron injury proves to be something that could cause him to miss multiple games in a best-of-seven series where the B’s currently hold a 2-1 lead. Bergeron had five assists and was a plus-4 rating in the first three games of the series with his line amassing 20 points in the first two games of the series.   

Here are the Bruins line combos and D-pairings vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 4 based on pregame warm-ups at the Air Canada Centre:

 

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Nash

Heinen-Kuraly-Backes

Schaller-Acciari-Wingels

 

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Miller

Grzelcyk-McQuaid

 

Rask

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Grzelcyk looks "good to go"; Rooney one of refs for Game 4

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File Photo

Grzelcyk looks "good to go"; Rooney one of refs for Game 4

TORONTO – It looks like Matt Grzelcyk will be making his return to the Bruins lineup after a one-game absence with a lower body injury.

The Bruins rookie D-man took part in an optional skate at the Air Canada Centre for the Black and Gold on Thursday morning, and will be playing provided he gets through the pregame warm-ups without any hitches. A healthy Grzelcyk will replace Nick Holden in the B’s lineup and give Boston that puck-moving, fast-skating D-man that can be pretty effective counteracting a speedy, aggressive Toronto fourth line that’s been pretty good in the series thus far.

“He’s out there [skating] now, so he should be good to go. Obviously, it will be warm-ups and a game-time decision, but I anticipate he’ll go in,” said Bruce Cassidy. “He’s complemented well by his partner, who is usually [Adam] McQuaid or [Kevan] Miller. So you get a duo where he’s able to transition the puck very well by himself, and get out of some piles with the D-zone coverage and make a good first pass.

“He can track down pucks before defenses get set or during a line change, he’s good at getting it up [the ice] and seeing who is available. He’s very low risk generally in his game, and he does some very good things at the O-zone blue line to keep plays alive for us.”

The return of Grzelcyk appears to be the only change to the Bruins lineup ahead of a pivotal Game 4 made a little more intriguing by the NHL’s selection of South Boston native Chris Rooney as one of tonight’s referees (along with Gord Dwyer). Rooney has always carried the well-worn reputation of a referee that goes extra-hard on the Bruins to prove there isn’t a bias toward the hometown team, and the Bruins have a 7-9 record over the last three seasons in games officiated by Rooney. It’s not a main reason for the Bruins to either win or lose the game, but certainly something to keep an eye on as things unfold tonight in Toronto.

Here are the Bruins projected line combos and D-pairings vs. the Maple Leafs in Game 4 based on morning skate:  

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Nash

Heinen-Nash-Backes

Schaller-Kuraly-Acciari

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Miller

Grzelcyk-McQuaid

Rask

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE