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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Brutal loss shows Bruins reaching their limit for injuries

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Brutal loss shows Bruins reaching their limit for injuries

BOSTON – It feels like the Bruins might finally be hitting their critical mass with all of the injuries in the first few weeks of the season.

The B’s were down Tuukka Rask, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller and David Krejci as the new injuries Saturday night and clearly missed those players, along with the others currently out with injuries in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden. The Bruins had a three-goal lead in the second period and a two-goal lead in the third but frittered away both while allowing the hapless Sabres to outshoot them 21-6 in the third and overtime.

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Anton Khudobin battled his rebound control for most of the game while facing 42 shots on net but it was the absence of Miller and McQuaid in the D-zone that made it a little too easy for Buffalo to push Boston when it mattered late.

Torey Krug was on the ice for the last three of Buffalo’s goals and was out penalty killing late in the third period in a spot where he would never have been in if the B’s were healthy on the back end.

“That’s where the appreciation comes in for the Kevan Miller’s and the Adam McQuaid’s of the world. They’re not always flashy, but in those instances, they’re money. They get it done. And that’s why they are paid to get it done,” said Bruce Cassidy. “So yes, we miss them. But, last week we missed other players. So the guys that are out there, it’s up to them to get it done, right?

“It didn’t happen tonight, and hopefully we learned from it and can be hungrier the next time. There’s not much else to analyze that. That was it. Someone had to play in that situation. We pick guys who we figure would get the job done, and it didn’t work out for us. Next time, we’ll keep working at it.”

As part of the injury factor, there are also players that are banged-up and back in who are also clearly not back to full strength. Patrice Bergeron (lower body) and David Backes (diverticulitis) are both back from their early-season issues and Krug continues to play with a healing fractured jaw, but all three key players combined for just a single assist and three shots on net in a game that featured nine goals.

Krug was the most noticeable weak link in the loss as he was overwhelmed in the D-zone on the game-tying goal when an Evander Kane shot bounced on him on its way into the goal. Krug was down on his stomach after losing his balance while battling in front of the net. Krug then was out for an extended period in OT before bumping a Sabres player around the crease who fell into Khudobin just as Ryan O’Reilly was pushing the game-winning goal past him.

Krug spoke on Saturday morning about feeling like things were starting to come together for him but he finished a minus-3 against the Sabres with his big, bad teammates out with injuries. He's a startling minus-8 after the first two weeks of the season.

“Obviously we have to do a better job tonight. Two-goal lead in your own building, it’s got to be the hardest place for the opposing team to come in and overcome that. We’ve got to be better,” said Krug. “I thought I had an opportunity to win a battle in the corner on that loose puck. Just trying to swat away and all of a sudden it comes out the other side, and we just couldn’t overcome. That’s survival mode. “Especially when they were able to make changes like they were. We just got to stay calm, composed, and make sure we’re not getting beat one-on-one. We obviously managed it for a while, but we just couldn’t get the puck back.”

It was also clearly about Khudobin, who had a big chance to put the Bruins team on his back with Rask out with a concussion. The Russian netminder made 37 saves and at times looked energetic and ready to battle between the pipes but at other times couldn’t make the clean save that the Bruins needed in order to get a whistle and calm things down. In OT, Khudobin couldn’t make a clean glove save on a Rasmus Ristolainen tester from the high slot that would have allowed the Bruins to get some tired players off the ice in the 3-on-3 OT.

Instead, Krug, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were out on the ice for 2 minutes, 15 seconds and eventually got beaten on O’Reilly’s play that took the puck straight to the Boston net. Cassidy called it an “erratic” night for Khudobin when they needed calmer, more poised play from their goaltender and that was clearly a reflection of the Black and Gold missing Rask.

“[Khudobin] was erratic. He battles. We love that about him. He battled to the end. [He] certainly made his share of saves. We need to be better in front of him,” said Cassidy. “But there were times that, there were fires that needed to be put out [on plays] that shouldn’t have been necessary. But that happens sometimes.

“[There were instances] in the third period, plus overtime, where we needed to calm the game down. Whether it’s a face-off, even right before the overtime goal, we had opportunities to get possession out of that pile. They came out with it. And that’s what I said. They were hungrier than us. Late, they won more pucks. If we win that puck out of that pile, we might not be talking about losing. Maybe we get out of trouble and it goes our way. We’ll never know.”

Maybe things would have gone the Bruins way if they had more of their walking wounded back and contributing. Instead, it feels as if the B’s are being tested with new, damaging injuries with each passing day. A number of those had a direct impact on a brutal loss to the Sabres on Saturday night. One has to wonder if there are more of those coming until the Bruins can start stabilizing their medical situation. 
 

Pastrnak on B's loss: "We kind of stopped playing"

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Pastrnak on B's loss: "We kind of stopped playing"

BOSTON – At the end of the day, it was simply a game where the Bruins allowed themselves to get outworked in the third period and overtime. 

The B’s held a three-goal lead in the second period and still enjoyed a two-goal lead in the third period, but eventually dropped a frustrating, futile 5-4 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden on Saturday night. It was clear to most speaking after the game that the Bruins eased up on the gas pedal once they’d scored their fourth goal of the game in the second period, and simply watched as the Sabres stomped all over them in the game’s second half. 

“I think we might have been a little bit too scared to play [in the third period], you know? We tried to just flip the pucks away, and didn’t make any plays trying to get it in the zone. Instead we should have just kept going like we did in the first two periods,” said David Pastrnak, who scored a pair of goals early in the loss to allow the Bruins to build up the three-goal lead. “Obviously we’re disappointed. We got one point. I think we didn’t play our game in the third period. We kind of stopped playing and they were all over us, and you know, it’s on us. We were the ones that gave them their point, but the first two periods were good. It’s just another learning session.”

To Pastrnak’s point, the Bruins were outshot by a 15-6 margin in the final 20 minutes of regulation and 21-6 overall in the third period and overtime prior to Ryan O’Reilly’s game-winner during 3-on-3 play. It was at this point the Bruins certainly missed stalwart stay-at-home defensemen Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller in the D-zone, and fell short of qualified penalty killers while trying to burn off a Brandon Carlo interference call at the end of the third period. 

All of that caught up to them once the Bruins loosened their grip on the Sabres, but certainly the feeling is that the loss should’ve been avoidable even if some of the circumstances made it difficult for the Black and Gold. It also should have been avoidable against a Sabres hockey club that was dreadful last season, and is again one of the doormats in the Atlantic Division in the early going thus far. 

“Those are the games you can’t lose. We obviously didn’t do the job there in the third and close it out, but we’re going to have to regroup and work on our game and be better for the next one,” said Brad Marchand. “We didn’t play the game we needed to play. We relaxed a bit and we started losing a few battles in the wrong areas, and you know, they just played better than we did.”

It’s mystifying that any team would need a crash-and-born loss like Saturday night in order to learn any lessons moving forward, and it certainly might have been a different story for the Bruins if they weren’t missing a few big defensive pieces. But that’s not how it went down for the Black and Gold as they sagged under rising pressure from the Sabres, and simply stopped working when the chips were on the table late in Saturday night’s game.