Bruins

Haggerty: It's time for the Bruins to pay up with Pastrnak

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Haggerty: It's time for the Bruins to pay up with Pastrnak

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. 

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Takeaways from the Bruins' 6-1 blowout loss to the Canucks

Takeaways from the Bruins' 6-1 blowout loss to the Canucks

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins Saturday night 6-1 drubbing at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Centre. 

1)  The young players for the Bruins are responding very differently while knowing they’re front and center in trade rumors going on this month. It’s a funny time of year when the rumors and the whispers kick up to high gear in the final weeks ahead of the NHL trade deadline, and it’s no different this season with the Bruins heavily involved with the deadline little more than a week away. Brandon Carlo has been mentioned early and often as a young D-man that’s drawn interest around the league, and it’s no surprise given that the 6-foot-5 defenseman has been a constant top-4 guy during his two seasons. He’s accomplished plenty at 21 years old and holds plenty of value around the league even if he’s never going to be a puck-moving demon like fellow youngster Charlie McAvoy. All that being said, Carlo responded to hearing and seeing his name kicked around by having one of his worst games of the season. Loui Eriksson basically backed him into the front of the Boston net on Vancouver’s first goal against the Bruins, and Carlo was an adventure with both defensive zone coverage and gap control all night. He finished a minus-4 in the blowout loss, and he was every bit that bad. Conversely, Jake DeBrusk has seen his name come up recently in the Ryan McDonagh rumors, and it’s clear other teams would hold him in high esteem given his solid NHL debut as a 21-year-old rookie this season. DeBrusk responded to the rumors by enjoying one of his best games of the season even if he didn’t end up on the score sheet. DeBrusk finished with four shots on net, hit a post in the first period on a nasty shot from the high slot and was turning pucks over while playing active, engaged hockey all night. DeBrusk was Boston’s best player, and that’s impressive given the circumstances. But then again, DeBrusk has shown early in his career that he responds in a very good way when he’s challenged by the circumstances around him. That kind of character is one of the reasons I wouldn’t want to give him up in a trade if I were Don Sweeney. Either way, it’s interesting to see how both of these young players are responding under the microscope. 

2)  Leave it to Loui Eriksson to pick his spot against the Bruins. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the years covering Eriksson, it’s that the Swedish winger can be a very good NHL player when he really wants to be. Like when he’s playing for a big contract in his final year with Boston, and posted 30 goals and 63 points while playing grittier and tougher than he ever had in his previous two seasons with the Bruins. After signing a huge six year deal with the Canucks, he responded with 11 goals and 24 points last season and is once again just “meh” this season as a minus player that’s pacing for much less than 30 goals and 60 points. But he rose to the occasion against his old Bruins team and scored a pair of goals while attacking the Boston net, and generally playing with an urgent approach that I’m pretty sure Vancouver hasn’t seen much of over the last two seasons. One of the best things that Don Sweeney did was take a pass on the passive, play-when-the-mood-strikes Eriksson, and instead replace him with a bigger, tougher and more consistent – if not quite as offensively gifted – winger in David Backes. Good luck with four more years of Eriksson, Vancouver. Yikes. 

3)  Once again Thomas Vanek gave Bruins fans a reminder that he is a certified Bruins killer and that perhaps they could use a player like Vanek at the trade deadline. Vanek didn’t even have a shot on net during the game, but it was his play attacking the Boston net that freed up Daniel Sedin for a wide open goal during the four-goal, first period onslaught against the Bruins. The 34-year-old Vanek has 16 goals and 40 points this season along with a minus-13 rating, and definitely stands as one of those second tier wingers that could be available to Boston if they strike out on Rick Nash as the top rental winger that’s going to be available at the deadline. It’s interesting that both Vanek and Patrick Maroon, who are both on Boston’s trade radar, will be available to the Black and Gold if they want them after tormenting the Bruins pretty much every time they play against them. The current tally: 33 goals and 68 career points in 63 games, and a plus-21 mark against the Black and Gold. That is some serious damage against the Bruins over the years, so maybe it bodes well for what he could do if the notoriously streaky forward donned the Black and Gold.  

PLUS

*Loui Eriksson – Credit where it’s due to the Swedish winger that stepped up and probably had his best game of the season against the Bruins scoring a couple of goals and doing some of the things that allowed to put up a massive final season in Boston. The two goals and constant pressure around the net were a big factor in the win for Vancouver. 

*Jake DeBrusk – The Bruins rookie winger didn’t end up scoring any goals, but he was all around the net with four shots and one post on a Grade-A chance from the high slot. It was an impressive performance in an otherwise gross effort from the Bruins, and it also came in front of his dad, Louie DeBrusk, who was working the color analyst gig between the benches for Hockey Night in Canada’s crew covering the Canucks/Bruins game. 

*Anders Nilsson made 44 saves, so credit where it’s due in the victory over the Bruins. But the backup goalie was shaky throughout while not making any clean glove saves, so the best thing the Bruins ever did for him was fall way behind early in the first period. That took the pressure off Nilsson, and he was able to keep it simple with a big cushion and ride that to victory. 

 

MINUS

*The minus-4 for Brandon Carlo was literally and figuratively the biggest minus for the Bruins in defeat. Carlo wasn’t nearly tough enough in front of the net early in the game, had some coverage issues in the defensive zone and really was a liability with Torey Krug as a pairing. Credit Carlo for stepping up and dropping the gloves with Darren Archibald after a big hit on David Pastrnak, and in doing so displaying a little toughness midway through the game. But it was too little, too late at that point.

*One shot on net and a minus-1 rating in 20:03 of ice time for Brad Marchand, who was clobbered early with a high stick that went uncalled and remained pretty silent in the game after that despite logging over 20 minutes of ice time. Marchand has had some pretty eventful games in Vancouver during his NHL career. This was not one of them. 

*The defense was dreadful in front of Tuukka Rask, but he also gave up four goals on nine shots before getting pulled after the first period. His rebound control was poor while he was in there in the first period and the Bruins only gave up a couple more goals the rest of the way, so it certainly feels like it was a combination of a bad night for the B’s and their goalie when they’ve both been so brilliant this season.

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Morning Skate: Blackhawks fans ejected for racist chants

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Morning Skate: Blackhawks fans ejected for racist chants

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while blown away at the amount of money that Black Panther is going to make this weekend. 

 

*An ugly incident in Chicago where Blackhawks fans were chanting racist garbage at Devante Smith-Pelly as he served out a penalty during the Caps visit to Chicago. Hockey fans are better than this. Everybody should be better than this. Here’s the statement from the NHL released on Sunday morning, and I sure hope those four fans ejected are never allowed into the United Center again after embarrassing their NHL team, and their city: 

 "Last night in Chicago, individuals directed racial taunts and abuse at Washington Capitals player Devante Smith-Pelly," said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. "The National Hockey League condemns this unacceptable and reprehensible behavior. The League fully supports the actions taken by the United Center and the Blackhawks to eject the offenders and would expect the same response to any similarly unacceptable behavior at any of our arenas.

"While this incident was isolated in nature, no player, coach, official or fan should ever have to endure such abuse at one of our games. The League will take steps to have our clubs remind all stakeholders that they are entitled to enjoy a positive environment - free from unacceptable, inappropriate, disruptive, inconsiderate or unruly behaviors or actions and may not engage in conduct deemed detrimental to that experience."

 

*The Hockey Night in Canada crew goes over the latest in rumors, including the NHL expansion into Seattle and the unclear situation still developing with Erik Karlsson in Ottawa. 

 

*Eric Staal deserves plenty of credit for the success of the Minnesota Wild after he’s been reborn as a player since going to Minnesota a couple of years ago. 

 

*Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray wants the prices to come down for potential deadline deals, and certainly they will to some degree ahead of the Feb. 26 trade deadline. 

 

*The Dallas media is certainly getting worked up about Tyler Seguin, as they’re starting to call him Mike Modano 2.0 as they enter the playoff picture. My prediction: Seguin is on his best behavior this season in his first year under Ken Hitchcock, but a leopard doesn’t truly change his spots. The talent is obviously there in huge amounts if he really wants it, but let’s see what Seguin does when things truly get nasty in the playoffs. 

 

For something completely different: As I mentioned above, it looks like Black Panther is going to break all kinds of box office records this weekend. Good stuff.

 

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