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.


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. 

Banged up B's 'look forward to the challenge' vs Tampa team they're chasing

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Banged up B's 'look forward to the challenge' vs Tampa team they're chasing

TAMPA BAY – It certainly might not be the shape they envisioned themselves being in when these late season games arrived against the President’s Trophy favorites in Tampa Bay, but the Bruins are bracing for a showdown with the high-powered Lightning either way. 

The Bruins stand just four points behind the Bolts with one game in hand, and mathematically they absolutely have a shot of catching and surpassing the Lightning for the NHL’s top spot with three games remaining against them in the season’s final month. But realistically it’s got to be considered a long shot at this point with Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Charlie McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk all out for Saturday night’s meeting with Tampa, and Bergeron and McAvoy expected to potentially miss all three of their divisional scraps. 

Coming off a 3-0 shutout loss at the hands of the Florida Panthers and at the end of a week-long, four-game road trip, the Bruins know they’re going to need to tighten things up against a Lightning team they can’t match firepower with in their weakened state. 

“I think we’ve done a pretty good job of just playing the game in front of us, and not getting too far ahead, too high or too low. We’ve got the best team in the National Hockey League, arguably, at home and rested [in front of us],” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “We look forward to the challenge. They’re a high-scoring team, so we talked about that with our goaltenders and our ‘D’ today. We better be ‘on’ because they’ll be coming. Our forwards are going to have to help out in that area and make sure we’re reloading well, and keep getting pucks at the net. 

“We didn’t finish [against Florida] but it wasn’t because of lack of effort or lack of pucks at the net. That part of our game is trending pretty well offensively. I think you’re going to have score to a certain extent against this team because you’re not going to shut them down completely. That’s our game plan for whoever is going to be in the lineup. They’ve got to be ready for it because that’s how it works, and that’s how it’s worked all year long for us. We need the guys in there to do their part and do it well.”

Certainly the Bruins could still do some offensive damage with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak still intact on their top line, and David Krejci and Rick Nash also still developing their chemistry on the second line. Torey Krug also came through feeling healthy at practice on Friday after soaking up 26 plus minutes of ice time in the loss to Florida, so they’ll also have some puck-moving and offensive pop on the back end as well.

But it may come down to the Chara-less defense and Tuukka Rask to step up and go into shutdown mode against the Lightning if they’re looking to really push up on the Lightning, and make this a horse race for the Atlantic Division down the stretch. Not to mention, it would be a psychological swing for both teams if the Bruins could take down a rested, relatively healthy Tampa Bay hockey club with their undermanned, injury-ravaged bunch. 

That in and of itself should be plenty of motivation for a Bruins team that’s got their sights and set on bigger and better things this spring with the Lightning expected to be one of the big obstacles standing in their way.


Morning Skate: Tavares or Seguin?

NBC Sports Boston Photo

Morning Skate: Tavares or Seguin?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while jacked and pumped about that Infinity War trailer. Wow. 


*Credit here for something outside the box and clear hockey satire while looking far into the NHL’s crystal ball where the new expansion team is called the Seattle Slippery Seals, and Brad Marchand is the head of the NHLPA. That is quite a twist at the end of the movie right there. 


*The Hockey Central crew debates whether they would want John Tavares or Tyler Seguin as a player to build their team around. Seguin is having a solid year (with the end of his contract coming into view), but I’m going with Tavares all day long. I think he’s more of a competitor and a reliable player along with an equitable level of talent, and that counts for quite a bit in team-building. 


*It’s good to see the PHWA decide to make public the ballots of all NHL Awards starting at the end of this season. It’s something I voted in favor of and already did annually as I think transparency is something we always ask for from those we cover, so it should never be something we shy away from. 


*The Flyers have hit the skids again after pushing themselves into playoff view. This has been such a streak team over the last couple of years. 


*Pro Hockey Talk says that the Montreal Canadiens need to take a long look into the mirror before they move on from this season. I couldn’t agree more. 


*For something completely different: I feel badly for my kids that Toys R us is liquidating as a company, and the stores will be closing. It’s getting to the point where there will be no more brick and mortar toy stores for kids to visit, and that’s something from my youth experience that they’re going to miss out on. Frankly, it’s kind of sad.