Bruins

Haggerty: No deal (yet), but no panic with Bruins and Pastrnak

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Haggerty: No deal (yet), but no panic with Bruins and Pastrnak

The most important offseason task for Don Sweeney remains the one thing he's yet to get done.

The Bruins general manager spoke to reporters Monday on a conference call about the hiring of Jay Leach as head coach of the Providence Bruins and Mike Dunham as goalie development coach (a position that was sorely needed in the B's organization).

He also updated the media on contract negotiations with the Bruins' prized 21-year-old restricted free agent, David Pastrnak.

And it sounds like there's a whole lot of nothing going on.

"I'd say we are at the same point that you asked me the last time. We are in a holding pattern," said Sweeney. "I have not made much progress as what I would have liked, but we have plenty of time and the opportunity to continue to talk and we will find a landing spot."

The Bruins certainly would have liked to have locked up Pastrnak by now, but there's also no need to panic. As Sweeney indicated, there's still plenty of time to get something done prior to the mid-September start of training camp for the Bruins. Pastrnak also clearly isn't distressed by the situation; he traveled with a group of Bruins to China as part of a contingent spreading hockey to a new, eager audience.

There's little chance of another team swooping in and throwing an offer sheet at Pastrnak that the B's can't match. The Bruins have roughly $10 million in cap space to match any offers, and there continues to be a reluctance among GMs about hijacking another team's RFA.

So Pastrnak really doesn't have many options,. He could sit out camp, or try to find a place to play a while in Europe, but neither is optimal. It seems most likely that, eventually, the two sides will reach agreement on a new deal.

According to sources with knowledge of the situation, the Bruins and Pastrnak's camp had made some progress toward a contract "that would be slightly less term and money" than the extension Brad Marchand signed last autumn. It would be something in the neighborhood of six years, $36 million if the Bruins were to be successful in keeping their internal salary structure in place, and therefore hold Pastrnak under David Krejci ($7.25 million), Patrice Bergeron ($6.875 million) and Marchand ($6.125 million) in terms of salary.

Pastrnak scored more goals (34) in his big breakout season as a 20-year-old than Bergeron or Krejci have at any point in their excellent NHL careers. Those game-breaking kinds of players get paid in a big way, even when they're barely out of their NHL diapers as RFAs. Indications are that Pastrnak and his camp are waiting to see what Leon Draisaitl gets for a second contract from the Edmonton Oilers, as he's a direct comparable player to the B's right winger.

Certainly the Bruins and Pastrnak could scrap the long-term deal and go shorter with a three- or four-year bridge contract, but that wouldn't even be a consideration if the money was right that's coming from Boston. League sources have indicated to CSN that Draisaitl isn't going to get a contract anywhere close to the double-digit millions that Connor McDavid received from the Oilers, so that leaves  both Draisaitl and Pastrnak in a neighborhood where they could fairly demand something closer to Vladimir Tarasenko money.

Both will probably fall short of the $7.5 million per season that Tarasenko got from the St. Louis Blues when he signed for eight years, $60 million a couple of years ago, but nobody should squawk if both of the young forwards end up around $7 million. That's fair market value for young elite players with their numbers, which places them above the level of recently signed Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson. However, they aren't lose enough to unrestricted free agency to command the type of contract ($8 million AAV) that Ryan Johansen did in Nashville.

The sense here is both of these players, Pastrnak and Draisaitl, will sign around the same time. And both negotiations could drag on into training camp, with the teams understandably uncomfortable about giving the store away to a young player on a second contract.

In a perfect world, the Bruins would be able to get Pastrnak's number under that of their established veterans within their internal salary structure. Unfortunately for them, this might not be a perfect world.

The bottom line is this: There's no legitimate worry the Bruins will scare away Pastrnak in contract negotiations as they did with other elite young talents (Phil Kessel, Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton). There's a gap between what both sides currently want, but the Bruins know they're going to have to pay to keep Pastrnak, a talented, goal-scoring game-breaker whom they've molded into their kind of player while also nurturing his top shelf offensive skills.

It's not hyperbole to say Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy could be looked at as the future of the Bruins franchise, and the team's most important pieces over the next 5-10 years.  

It may take all summer and part of camp, but the Bruins and Pastrnak will find a common ground that will keep him in Boston for a long time to come. Why, you might ask? That's what both sides want, and that's what ultimately gets a deal like this done in the end.

Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

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Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center on Saturday night, which gave Boston four of a possible six points in its California road swing.
 
1) The kids stepped up at a great time for the Bruins. Boston needed some young players to step up and fill in for the injured veterans up front, and they got it on Saturday night. Jake DeBrusk was the main playmaker on both goals in the first period, and the Bruins got goals from rookies DeBrusk, Peter Cehlarik and Danton Heinen. It was Cehlarik’s first NHL goal and the 10th point of the season for Heinen, who continues to show signs that he is going to be a productive, reliable winger  even though he didn’t start the season at the NHL level. DeBrusk finished with a goal and an assist and twice used his speed and aggressiveness taking the puck to the net to create scoring chances: On the first goal it was Cehlarik who finished the loose puck after DeBrusk’s net drive created a rebound, and on the second it was DeBrusk simply beating reigning Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns to a race for the puck and then snapping it up and over San Jose backup goalie Aaron Dell. Cehlarik became the sixth Bruins rookie to score the first goal of his NHL career with Boston this season, and it all shows tangible results of the youth movement they were fully embracing this season. There will be peaks and valleys with so many young players in the lineup, but Saturday night turned out to be one of those high-water marks.

2)  At their healthiest, the Bruins can be a fast-skating, skilled team that will be equal parts offense and defense in a hard-working style that features pace and creativity in the offensive zone. The Bruins aren't healthy right now, obviously, and aren’t going to find success that way as attested by the fact that they hadn’t won two games in a row this season until Saturday night in San Jose. With a number of players already out of the lineup, Torey Krug now injured as well and Tuukka Rask taking an extended rest in favor of a red-hot Anton Khudobin, the Bruins are actually playing a very different brand of hockey right now. With Rask not playing -- and not allowing the types of bad or soft goals he's given up so far this year -- they can play a little more conservatively and try to make a two- or three-goal output in a game actually stick as the game-winning margin. Just check the box score,  as the Bruins blocked a whopping 30 shots and conversely the Sharks blocked just 12. Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Robbie O’Gara all had blocked shots in the final few minutes, and Brandon Carlo stepped in front of a wide-open chance for Burns in the third period off a clean offensive zone faceoff win for the Sharks. Those are all gritty, tough plays in the D-zone that you don’t always see, and it perhaps comes a little more naturally when the Bruins are making the clear choice to feature their defense and goaltending right now. It may not be sustainable once Anton Khudobin inevitably cools off a little bit, but for now it’s pretty darn effective.


 
3)  After watching him stop 36 of 37 shots for the win on Saturday night, the Bruins need to see this thing through with Khudobin until he loses a game. Khudobin is 5-0-2 with this season, with a .949 save percentage in three appearances in November. He's playing the best he's played in the last couple of years. Right now Khudobin is actually leading the NHL with a .935 save percentage for the season, and that really contrasts to Rask's .897 save percentage. Certainly part of it is about the Bruins selling out defensively in front of him and blocking 30 shots in the win while knowing they didn’t have to play again until Wednesday night. But it’s also about the Bruins backup goaltender playing himself into a position where the B’s should ride him until he cools down a little bit, and give Rask some more time to figure out what is slowing him down between the pipes right now.
 
PLUS
-- DeBrusk made a couple of big plays in the first period that led to goals for the Bruins, and he finished with a goal, two points, a plus-2 and a team-high four shots on net in 15:49 of ice time. He has a goal and three points in three games since being a healthy scratch last weekend against Toronto.
 
--Khudobin made 16 saves in the first period when the Bruins were outshot 17-5 and it certainly seemed like they were going to get run out of the building. Instead Khudobin stood tall.
 
-- Heinen finished with two goals and three points on the three-game trip and iced the game for the Bruins with a backdoor strike in the third period after Kevan Miller had dashed up the right side of the ice to create the chance. Heinen is pushing up near the Bruins team leaders in some offensive categories and looks like he belongs in the NHL this season.
 
MINUS
-- Burns was burnt on each of the Bruins' two first-period goals, he actually missed the net with 12 of his 16 shot attempts, and he had seven giveaways in a pretty sloppy game managing the puck. Burns hasn’t had a great season to date, and Saturday night was a good example of things not going well for him this year.
 
-- Paul Postma finished with just eight minutes of ice time in the win, and was part of the poor defensive coverage on the Sharks goal by Joonas Donskoi in the first period that ended up getting overturned on video review. Postma didn’t show much else after that only playing a handful of minutes over the remainder of the game, and based on his early performance looks like he’s only going to be a seventh defensemen in Boston.
 
-- Here’s a hearty boo to the 10:30 pm West Coast starts on Saturday night that only the diehards, or those getting paid, are going to closely watch on the weekend leading up to Thanksgiving. Congrats to you if you were one of the lucky ones that decided to stay up and watch a game that didn’t end until after 1 a.m. in the East.  

Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

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Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while battening down the hatches for Thanksgiving week.
 
-- When longtime Bruins follower Clark Booth opines about the Black and Gold, I tend to listen. And he's not happy with the Bruins' salary cap situation at this point in time. It should be noted that this was written before they won the last two games. But some of those truths still remain self-evident when it comes to the B’s.

-- Kevin Bieksa will never stop talking about former teammate Rick Rypien, or about the factors that ultimately led to his tragic passing.
 
-- Alex Ovechkin is truly living up to the “Russian Machine Never Breaks” mantra these days, which led to the creation of an entire blog about the Capitals.
 
-- This Saturday Night Live skit with Chance the Rapper playing a clueless hockey reporter was funny, even to people that have been covering the league for 20 years and still struggle to pronounce a name like Brady Skjei.
 
-- The good, the bad and the ugly courtesy of FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mitch Melnick from last night’s Montreal blowout loss to the Maple Leafs that probably could have just been called the ugly, the ugly and the ugly.
 
-- It’s 20 games into the season, and the Buffalo Sabres media are wondering what’s wrong with their team, and star Jack Eichel.
 
-- For something completely different: It sounds like some of the NFL rank-and-file players want to know why Roger Goodell deserves $50 million and a lifetime private plane.