With August just days away from being over, the time for patience in the David Pastrnak negotiations is beginning to run out.
The Bruins and the 21-year-old right winger had long been stuck in discussions on a contract in the neighborhood of six years, $36 million, but the B’s improved their offer last week to seven years, $42 million according to a report from the Boston Globe’s Kevin Paul DuPont.
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Not surprisingly there is no imminent contract agreement expected between Pastrnak and the B’s, and neither of those offers are close to enough to land the dynamic young Czech Republic winger after exploding for 34 goals and 70 points last season. That’s because a comparable player in Leon Draisaitl signed an eight-year, $68 million contract with the Edmonton Oilers earlier this month, and any offer of $6 million per season is an extremely frugal starting point rather than anything close to an end point for Pastrnak’s camp.
Plain and simple the Boston Bruins need to step up with their offers in the next couple of weeks to begin approaching market value for Pastrnak.
If they don’t then they begin to run the risk of bungling things with another young player as they’ve previously done with Phil Kessel, Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton over the last 10 years. That would piss off the loyal fan base to a degree that would make the Jimmy Hayes debacle look like a Boston hockey fairy tale. It was encouraging to see the Bruins up the term for Pastrnak’s offer to seven years, but Don Sweeney and Co. would have been better off upping their offer to six years, $42 million ($7 million per season) if they actually hoped to start closing the gap between the two sides.
The act of simply adding another contracted year that buys out a season of Pastrnak’s free agency – all while not actually paying him anything higher in terms of salary – doesn’t make a lick of sense from the player’s perspective.
While Pastrnak and his camp might not be looking to break the bank with the same $8.5 million per season that Edmonton ponied up for Draisaitl, it’s beyond fair for the young right winger to seek the $7.5 million per season Vladimir Tarasenko is making in St. Louis. It’s time for the Bruins to capitulate on any notions they had of maintaining an internal salary structure where a fourth-year player in Pastrnak would be making less than Stanley Cup-winning veterans like Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Krejci.
Certainly, Pastrnak needs to make gains in decision-making with the puck and has to cut down on the turnovers while continuing to gain his NHL strength, and is by no means a finished product despite a brilliant season as a 20-year-old.
Hitting it big in free agency is often about entering the market at just the right time, and Pastrnak’s timing was impeccable after young, elite forwards in Connor McDavid, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Ryan Johansen and Draisaitl got paid this summer. Now it’s up to the Bruins to recognize that they’re low-balling one of the most important players for the long term future of their franchise. They need to make the necessary adjustment rather than further digging in their heels.
It’s ridiculous to paint a picture of Pastrnak being in any danger of receiving an offer sheet from another team. It simply doesn’t happen in the NHL for a multitude of reasons and the Bruins have roughly $10 million in salary cap space to easily match any futile attempt to raid Boston for their best young forward. But the mere fact that the Bruins and Pastrnak are this far apart just weeks away from the start of NHL training camp is a major concern.
It may be that both sides need to scrap plans for a long-term deal and instead settle on a three-year bridge deal that pays Pastrnak in the $7 million range. If the start of training comes and goes with no done deal for No. 88 then that might just be the best plan of action while putting off the 21-year-old’s inevitably massive payday for a few more years.
What the Bruins can’t afford is an acrimonious holdout that builds up bitter feelings between Pastrnak and the B’s. That kind of thing could help derail this season if it rolls into the regular season, and would send a damning message to Charlie McAvoy and the raft of other Bruins prospects that Boston won’t pay the going rate when the time comes.
Internal salary structure and contracts signed in past years should be out the window for the Bruins when it comes to Pastrnak. It’s this simple: The B’s need to step up their currently modest offers for the 21-year-old, or risk ruining another one of their best young products at a time when they can’t afford to be taking any more steps backward. It may not be fair or desirable that the RFA market blew up on them or that players are looking for lockout-proof bonus money this summer, but that’s the cost of doing business in the NHL if the Bruins want to again hang with the big boys someday.
Otherwise, they can nickel and dime their best talent, and wallow in middle-ish mediocrity while their best and brightest look for the first opportunity to go somewhere where they will get paid what they deserve. If that happens with Pastrnak and a Bruins team devoid of dynamic, game-breaking forwards in their prospect pipeline right now, then the bean counters on Causeway Street deserve exactly what they get.