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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Improving Grzelcyk setting up a healthy competition with Krug

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Improving Grzelcyk setting up a healthy competition with Krug

BOSTON – Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy is fond of saying that internal competition brings out the best in everybody on a hockey club, and he’s lived that credo with the way he’s handled the goaltending situation this season.

Cassidy is also seeing that competition paying dividends with the defensemen group now that Matt Grzelcyk is hitting his stride at the NHL level, giving Torey Krug a push as a similarly skilled, left shot, puck-moving defenseman. Krug finished with a couple of assists and a plus-1 rating in 17:55 of ice time in a strong game in the 3-1 win over the Islanders on Saturday night, and Grzelcyk was solid in his 16:47 of ice time as well with an active five shot attempts.

The 23-year-old Grzelcyk is building his comfort level at the NHL level, and has been pretty good with three points and a plus-5 rating in nine games while avoiding any major mistakes with puck management or D-zone play.

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There may be some adjustments for Krug based on Grzelcyk being eligible to play in most of the same situations that No. 47 would regularly hop over the boards for in the past, but Cassidy sees that as something that could ultimately benefit the Bruins.

“I think it will in the long run [it will be a benefit]. [Krug] may lose a shift or two, which will annoy him. Any player with pride will [be annoyed],” said Cassidy. “But once that part is [done] – you digest that and say, well, I don’t want to lose any more shifts, [you say] ‘What do I have to do to earn the coaches trust or get those shifts back.’ Because he has our trust, but earn [the right to] be the first guy over the boards every time in situations. He’s going to push himself, and he should. That’s what we want. And then hopefully we get to a nice balance where we don’t have to overuse one guy in every situation.

“We want Torey to be our 1A in those situations. Charlie [McAvoy] is pushing him too, and now you have Griz [Matt Grzelcyk], so we have three different [offensive] guys. It’s only going to make us better, and I’ll tell you why. Because those guys – we have guys that aren’t pouting there because of that either. There’s a difference between being annoyed and having pride, or having a guy that pouts and shuts it down. We don’t have that. I’m fortunate as a coach that they can wrap their heads around it eventually and just want to outplay the next guy, yet still be happy for his success. It’s a nice problem and you are seeing some of it now bubble up.”

There have been long stretches with the Bruins over the last couple of seasons where Krug was the lone offensive defenseman choice when they needed plays to be made, and it factored into the 5-foot-9 D-man topping 21 minutes of ice time in each of the last two seasons. Krug is down a little averaging 20:33 of ice time per game this season, but he’s under 20 minutes (19:33, to be exact) per game during the month of December coinciding with the arrival of Grzelcyk.

It makes for challenges on the penalty kill when the Bruins have only one real left shot D-man in Chara that’s a defensive stalwart, and it’s too small of a sample size to say that Grzelcyk will keep playing this consistently over the long haul. There’s also the fact that Adam McQuaid will be returning to the mix sooner rather than later, and that will force the Bruins into different configurations at some point down the road.

But for now they’ve got a pretty good thing going with their mix of young and old, puck movers and stay-at-home shutdown guys, and that’s reflected in the healthy, friendly competition going on between Krug and Grzelcyk right now.   

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Morning Skate: Hey ref, let the boys play

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Morning Skate: Hey ref, let the boys play

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while getting in the holiday spirit listening to “Merry Christmas, Baby” from Bruce Springsteen, my favorite holiday song even though I’m not really a Springsteen guy.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t give this Brad Marchand play a second thought as far as supplementary discipline goes. He was whacked with a five minute interference major, which I thought was excessive in the first place, there were no injuries and it ended a contentious shift between Marchand and John Tavares. Let’s not go crazy with the suspensions and hearings, shall we? Let’s keep a little bit of the fun, violence and mayhem in the game, and leave it with what the officials called on the ice at the time. Good call by the Department of Player Safety to leave this one alone despite Marchand’s longtime customer status, and to leave alone the weird head-butting call on David Backes as well.  

David Pastrnak has officially made it in Boston with a profile in the Improper Bostonian. I never knew that Pasta was an amateur artist, or that he now has a Porsche after the new contract. Not too shabby.

The Florida Panthers need a goaltender with Roberto Luongo down and out, and former Bruins goalie farmhand Mike Hutchinson is one of the lead possibilities to help the Panthers out according to recent speculation from many, including Pro Hockey Talk.

The Golden Knights are in the weeds again with another tweet attempting to be funny that angered the Nashville Predators media corps. Was it ill-advised and poorly executed? Certainly if it was taken seriously as something that was meant to be funny, and that is always a potential pitfall when trying to be funny and edgy on twitter. But it’s a little much to think this was going to be damaging to anybody in particular. At least the Golden Knights were adult enough to apologize that they were in the wrong, as opposed to milquetoast Montreal radio personality Connor McKenna, who tried to pull a similar lame stunt with the Bruins media a few years ago.

More thoughts on the body of work that Matthew Tkachuk is putting together this season along with other assorted hockey things in The Athletic notebook.

For something completely different: You’ve got to love the response by some athletes down in Tennessee to a video posted on social media of a sweet little kid getting bullied. This is the way to take a negative and turn it into a positive.

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