Bruins

Haggerty: With money in hand, onus on Pastrnak to deliver

Haggerty: With money in hand, onus on Pastrnak to deliver

BRIGHTON, Mass – At the end of the day, there was no question that David Pastrnak wanted to be a member of the Bruins and that the 21-year-old just wanted to play hockey. When it came time for the on-ice sessions to start up at Bruins training camp, that’s when the urgency finally kicked in for the B’s and Pastrnak’s camp to agree to a six-year, $40 million contract that will pay him an average of $6.667 million each season.

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The deal puts him well ahead of Nashville star forward Filip Forsberg ($6 million per season) and just under Calgary Flames All-Star Johnny Gaudreau ($6.75 million per season), who were both used as comparable contracts in the negotiations. Now, Pastrnak will fly to Boston from the Czech Republic today to sign the paperwork, undergo his fitness testing and potentially get on the ice with his teammates Saturday at Warrior Ice Arena.

Clearly, the six-year commitment from the Bruins is something of a leap of faith with the idea that Pastrnak will continue to trend upward from the game-breaking force who scored 34 goals and 70 points last season. It puts the onus squarely on the hard-working, skilled Pastrnak to earn the contract dollars he’s being paid, and it puts pressure on the Bruins to continue producing young, affordable talent through their draft-and-development pipeline.

Pastrnak has the skill, the confidence and swagger to be Boston’s lead offensive player capable of 40 goals/80 plus point seasons. It's now up to him to become that guy.

“David had a hell of a year and broke out, but we’ve accounted for that going forward. Again, the players themselves have to take advantage of the opportunity and become that type of player,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney. “That remains to be seen whether or not those players will do that. But we’ve put ourselves in a position now we need to make sure we are drafting and developing accordingly, and these guys can play and impact our team. That’s what is most important and that is what starts today.”

Pastrnak is just one in a line of young elite players, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Johansen and Evgeny Kuznetsov, who saw massive pay raises this summer and basically skipped the bridge deals that are supposed to keep salary-cap burdens in check.

Credit Sweeney for holding fast to his ground in negotiations where there was a fair amount of pressure on him to get it done and not potentially bungle another elite young player after Dougie Hamilton, Tyler Seguin and Phil Kessel had all left town the past 10 years. All along, the sense of most reasonable hockey people was that Pastrnak’s value was around $7 million per season rather than the massive eight-year, $68 million handed out to Draisaitl in Edmonton.

Clearly, it feels like the Gaudreau contract was the ceiling for what Boston intended to pay Pastrnak. They were able to slide in comfortably under that number. Now, No. 88 will hit the ice this weekend, work on his chemistry with David Krejci and look forward to producing big offensive numbers while polishing his puck management and overall playmaking ability.

“They speak the same language on the ice, both in the style of play and to be able to communicate," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said of Pastrnak and Krejci. "I think Krejci likes having guys with speed to open up ice for him to draw opposition players to him and dish pucks. David Pasta has become a really high-end shooter, his shot has really grown over the years, and David Krejci has always excelled in getting pucks to those kinds of players. They like to score, they think offense, and guys like that like to play together.”

Nobody is begrudging the players getting their fair market value, of course, and in Pastrnak’s case, he probably could have held out for - and ended up with - $7 million per season if he was willing to dig in his heels. Both sides discussed seven- and eight-year deals, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations, but couldn’t come close in terms of the AAV, which speaks to the Bruins wanting to keep Pastrnak’s cap number below Cup-winning veterans  Patrice Bergeron ($6.875 million per season), Tuukka Rask ($7 million per season) and David Krejci ($7.25 million per season).

Still, these massive contracts for restricted free agents just coming off their entry-level deals are eventually going to be one of the driving forces behind another NHL lockout a few years from now. Sweeney admitted on Thursday there is a signing-bonus component to the contract in the 2020-21 season, which has become known as “lockout-proof” money that will still allow those players to get paid even if the seemingly inevitable work stoppage comes three years from now. The inclusion of that bonus money may have been one of the things that ended up speeding along the signing process once the two sides were talking in earnest on the eve of camp.  

Now, the only real drama has been removed from Bruins camp, and Pastrnak and the B’s can focus on the task at hand of pushing the Black and Gold forward in their journey back toward being a legit contender in the East. 

A return "imminent" for McQuaid after two-month absence

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A return "imminent" for McQuaid after two-month absence

BRIGHTON, Mass – It sounds like the toughness quotient might be going up quite a bit higher for the Bruins in the near future.

Adam McQuaid may be cleared to play as soon as Monday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, or at least later on in the week if it doesn’t happen against the rough-and-tumble, Metro Division Blue Jackets. The 6-foot-5 hard-nosed defender has been out for nearly two months with a broken right fibula, but has been back skating with the Bruins for a couple of weeks.

“I don’t know if Monday he’ll be cleared, but he’s getting close. He’s practicing with us, so it’s imminent for him. I just don’t want to pinpoint an exact day,” said Cassidy of McQuaid, who was one of a handful of players along with Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork, Frank Vatrano, Paul Postma and Anton Khudobin that skated on Sunday at Warrior Ice Arena.

There certainly may be some rust in McQuaid’s game after missing the last 24 cgames dating back to the Oct. 19 injury. Ddding another tough customer and D-zone warrior certainly won't hurt the Bruins. In the short term, the presence of McQuaid could protect some of B's top players like Brad Marchand who has received some questionable hits over the last couple of months. In the long term his presence adds more size, strength and toughness in the defensive zone.

In terms of pairings it would be logical to swing Kevan Miller back over to the left side, and potentially pull rookie puck-mover Matt Grzelcyk out of the lineup once McQuaid is ready to play. But Bruce Cassidy indicated it won’t be that simple, and there may be times when the Bruins roll seven defensemen given their strength in numbers once McQuaid comes back.

“If you take the last guy in, Grzelcyk, [out of the lineup] then you’re back to your four righty [defensemen]. We had mixed levels of success with that, and then it’s a matter of who on the right Is going to come out if he stick with the three lefties,” said Cassidy. “That’s an internal discussion that we’ve already started to have. He will definitely help the penalty kill. It could be a different lineup every night where we go with six D one night, and then go with seven D the next night. It will create good competition.”

McQuaid wants to temper the excitement now that he’s on the verge of a return, and is simply putting in work until he’s given the green light to play. The busy NHL schedule and the lack of quality practice time isn't the perfect scenario for the 31-year-old defenseman to return, so it’s simply a matter of doing what’s best for player and team.

“I’d like to get back as soon as I can obviously. I’ve missed a lot of time, but it’s a process. I just try to approach it like I’m not getting my hopes up too much,” said McQuaid, who had an assist and a minus-3 in the six games he did appear in. “We’ll have a better idea tomorrow. The more and more game-like situations you get in [can help].

“We haven’t gone too far down the road so I don’t know exactly [when I’ll return]. I’m just out there trying to get closer, but I’m excited about where I’m at and the possibility of moving forward. It’s been fun watching the guys, but I can’t wait to get back in there and be part of a winning hockey team again.”

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Morning Skate: Senators kind of a mess right now

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Morning Skate: Senators kind of a mess right now

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while I still remain pretty conflicted about my thoughts on the Last Jedi. See yesterday’s morning skate for the full review.

*Happy Holidays from the Boston Bruins, who all wore spiffy Christmas-inspired suits into TD Garden for Saturday night’s game against the Rangers. The clear winners are Christmas Elf Brad Marchand and bedazzled Patrice Bergeron, but everybody is a winner when they’re in the holiday spirit.

*Here’s a blueprint for all 31 NHL teams to get an outdoor game next season if you’re really looking to run the concept into the ground.

*Everybody loves a goalie fight, and the Providence Bruins had one last night even if it was more like slightly angry hugging than actual fighting.

*This quick snippet from an Ottawa Senators radio broadcast this weekend is one of the oddest things I’ve heard in a while. No idea what took them down that path.

*Speaking of the Senators, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly says he has no idea why the Sens are having such big attendance problems at their arena. I can think of one reason: location, location and location.

*Larry Brooks goes over the Sean Avery memoir just in time for Christmas for all those looking for a stocking stuffer, or just looking for the perfect gift for that hockey rat in your life.

*Hacksaw Jim Duggan dropping the puck for a minor league hockey game is definitely something to brag about. Ho!

*For something completely different: 20 years later, the crazy story of how the blockbuster Titanic ultimately got made.

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