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. 

'I definitely wasn't mad at our team,' Rask says of Vegas postgame comments

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'I definitely wasn't mad at our team,' Rask says of Vegas postgame comments

BRIGHTON, Mass – Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was acting a bit out of character after the Sunday night loss to the Vegas Golden Knights when he said he wouldn’t be commenting on team performance outside of his own goaltending. 

Clearly, it was a tense atmosphere in the Bruins dressing room following an extremely bad road performance and it would seem very likely there’s probably been some friction in the past between Rask and positional players over his postgame candor.

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That was the backdrop for Rask keeping it laconic, and saying on Sunday night: “I just try to go out there and give us a chance to win every night. That’s what I’m focused on. I’m not going to comment anymore on team play that much. We can just talk about goaltending. That’s just the way it is. Sorry.”

It would seem that some fans and Bruins observers took that to mean Rask was pissed off at his Bruins teammates after a few breakdowns defensively, and a total non-performance at the offensive end of the ice.

Taking all that into account, Rask clarified his comments a bit after practice Tuesday at Warrior Ice Arena and said it’s all about focusing on his own performance rather than taking issues with any of his teammates.

“You lose games and you’re not happy with your performance. Somebody just told me that I guess it got spun the wrong way that it was me mad at my teammates or something. That’s definitely not the case,” said Rask, whom at 1-3-0 with a 3.30 goals-against average and .880 save percentage this season, is clearly in need of some improvement as well.

“You lose games and you definitely hold yourself accountable and you want to talk about your performance and what you need to do to get better," Rask said. "So, that’s where I was coming from. I definitely wasn’t mad at our team. I was more mad at myself, so that’s that.

“You always try to give a fair assessment about the game, but I think the biggest thing that I need to worry about, and what everybody else needs to worry about, is how they get better themselves. You start from that, so that’s where I was coming from.”

The prospect of getting Patrice Bergeron and David Backes back healthy would go a long way toward improving the Bruins play on the ice and stabilizing things defensively for Rask and the rest of the Black and Gold. That’s really what’s needed at this point to improve a situation where the B’s are 23rd in the NHL, averaging 3.6 goals allowed per game, and real, rather than figurative, fingers might start getting pointed all around if it doesn’t start looking better in short order.  

Morning Skate: Shawn Thornton brightening hospitalized kids' days

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Morning Skate: Shawn Thornton brightening hospitalized kids' days

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while back in the good, ol' Eastern Time Zone.
 
*Really nice piece from Shawn Thornton in the Players' Tribune about the inspiration provided by his “Nanny” and how he’s come to truly love the community service and hospital visits while involved with professional hockey. He’s always been one of those athletes that just stops by children’s hospitals for a visit without needing the attention for it, and that is a credit to his great generosity and empathy for those brave kids.

 *You want a Stanley Cup made out of bottle caps? Well, the world will certainly provide a Stanley Cup made out of bottle caps.

*Defenseman Connor Murphy hasn’t been the player that the Chicago Blackhawks expected him to be since arriving in the Windy City.
 
*The Colorado Avalanche are adding a fancy stats and video man to their management group as they seek to keep improving the NHL product.
 
*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Eddie Olczyk is returning to the NBC broadcast booth as his health will allow as he continues to battle cancer. Good to see you back, Edzo!

 *Erik Karlsson is finally set to debut for the Ottawa Senators after offseason foot surgery, and it will be a case of the strong getting stronger for a Sens team off to a pretty decent start.

 *For something completely different: Just in time for Halloween, Jennifer Tilly releases all of the behind-the-scenes secrets of working with Chucky.