Haggerty: Despite the rumors, Bruins aren't trading Pastrnak

Haggerty: Despite the rumors, Bruins aren't trading Pastrnak

With little recent progress on the contract front for game-breaking right winger David Pastrnak, it would appear the hardball portion of negotiations have begun.

NHL Network analyst and former Lightning GM Brian Lawton tweeted out on Monday he “wouldn’t be surprised” if Pastrnak is traded based on the current tenor of negotiations:

This is coupled with rumor-peddler Eklund also mentioning on Monday that perhaps there's something cooking between the Bruins and Los Angeles Kings that would involve Pastrnak in a blockbuster summer deal.

Take Eklund for what it’s worth, as always. But Lawton has deep, legitimate NHL sources and has been wholly accurate with reports similar to this one in the past.

So what does all of this mean?

I wholly buy into Lawton and his sources, but think this may be a sign both sides are getting a little antsy with training camp just about a month away. Earlier this offseason, indications were the Bruins and Pastrnak’s camp were pretty far along on a long-term deal that would have paid the 21-year-old something short of Brad Marchand’s eight-year contract, both in term and in the average annual value of the deal. So it would have been something in the neighborhood of a six-year, $36 million pact that would have been pretty fair for both sides.  

But that was before a number of elite NHL players like Connor McDavid and Evgeny Kuznetsov got massive contracts from their respective teams, and the RFA market shaped up to make Leon Draisaitl and Pastrnak -- pretty comparable players -- still unsigned late into the summer. That could mean Pastrnak ends up in the $7-7.5 million per year range, and that could boost him past veteran leaders like Marchand and Patrice Bergeron in terms of salary.

There are also indication that perhaps Pastrnak’s camp and the Bruins are far apart in potential lockout-proof bonus money.  

This is where the issues come in for the Bruins. They have an internal salary structure where Pastrnak should be slotted in below Marchand and Bergeron based on service time, his role on the team and where he’s at in his very young NHL career. They may be starting to play a tougher brand of negotiations with whispers of a possible trade, and it’s clear they are going to stand firmly for a while on their end of contract talks with their prized RFA.

But let’s be honest here.

The Bruins aren’t going to trade David Pastrnak. Period. They need his speed, they need his goal-scoring ability, and they need his youthful zest for the game to sell their product in Boston. There's no other player coming through the organization who can match the dynamic right winger's skill set, and he's in high demand across the league because there aren’t many like him.  

The B’s would be on the losing end of any Pastrnak trade because they’d be giving up the best player in the deal. Remember Tyler Seguin? The Bruins would deserve what they get if they make that mistake again.

Boston is still trying to uncover itself from the rubble of trading Seguin for a number of assets that are now gone from the organization. The mere specter of repeating that mistake will have diehard B’s fans marching to Causeway Street with pitchforks, torches and season-ticket refund demands.

Pastrnak still has things to learn in terms of puck management and consistency, and he clearly needs to be better prepared for the way defenses leaned on him late in the season. But we’re talking about a player who scored 34 goals and 70 points in a season before his 21st birthday, and we’re also talking about a player who's done everything the Bruins have asked in terms of improving his game.

This, along with his RFA status, should be reflected in a number he settles on when the two sides eventually agree on a contract. It may not happen until sometime in training camp, and this latest development is a sign that things aren’t currently going in a great direction. But there’s no reason for Bruins fans to begin panicking at the first whisper of trade rumors now that they’ve surfaced midway through August.

There's probably good reason for B’s fans to have gut-wrenching flashbacks to past negotiations with young players gone wrong. Talks with Dougie Hamilton, Phil Kessel and, of course, Seguin were all botched.

But that's not what’s happening right now, despite a little smoke billowing out of the Bruins home offices.

Also, this is also a player that wants to be in Boston and isn't trying to shoot his way out of town, as Kessel and Hamilton clearly did before each of them was traded. 

By all accounts the Bruins currently have no appetite for trading Pastrnak, and this first volley of rumors would appear to be more about message-sending in negotiations rather than actually shipping out another elite young hockey player. If the trade stuff goes beyond that, then Don Sweeney, Cam Neely and the rest of the Bruins organization will begin destroying all the goodwill they built up with a pretty solid end kick to their season last year.  

Only five games into season, Bruins already sending off bad vibes


Only five games into season, Bruins already sending off bad vibes

LAS VEGAS -- Even though it's only five games into a new regular season, it feels like the Bruins are in danger of going off the tracks.

They finished their three-game Western road swing Sunday with an aimless 3-1 loss to the expansion Golden Knights, which came on the heels of a wretched defeat in Colorado and a victory over the winless Coyotes. Sunday was particularly disheartening, as they never tested their ex-goalie, Malcolm Subban, putting only 21 mostly harmless shots on net against a player they gave away on waivers just a few weeks ago,

They may only have three losses in five games, but it sure feels like there's trouble starting to brew in Bruins land.

“It could be a lot of different things,” said Brad Marchand about the loss to Las Vegas. "We may not have been as mentally prepared for that game as we thought we were. They wanted it more than we did. They out-battled us in a lot of areas and they were the better team. We were making it hard on ourselves. We were trying to do too much with the puck, and not directing enough of the pucks toward the net. You can’t get rebound and you can’t get bodies there if the puck isn’t going there.”

That is a lot of different things. A lot of different problems:

-- They couldn’t fight to get to the front of the net against a rugged Vegas defensive group that was going to make them battle to get there.

-- Once again they had too many passengers along for the ride, with both Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano failing to even be a blip on the game’s radar screen. Spooner suffered a lower body injury midway through the game, but while he was out there he was a non-factor once again. 

-- It felt like there was no flow at all to Boston’s game, with breakouts dogged by sloppy passing and players who weren’t hard enough on the puck.

-- When they did get a chance to create something they either missed the net with their shot, or opted not to even take the shot in the first place. 

-- They lost 67 percent of the 57 draws taken during the game, and saw Spooner, Riley Nash and David Krejci and Ryan Spooner go a combined 8-for-29 in the face-off circle.

-- They chased the puck for long stretches and certainly didn’t ever put together anything approaching a consistent, driving pressure in the offensive zone.

Missing stalwart veterans like Patrice Bergeron and David Backes certainly isn’t helping. It makes the Bruins a much smaller group up front that can be pushed around by bigger, stronger defensive units.

But even so, there’s a sense the Bruins can’t consistently bring their 'A' game to the rink with them and don’t seem to have much fight when they fall down by a couple of goals. Trailing by just two goals going into the third period, the Bruins had four shots on net for most of the final period until a late flurry produced a score by David Pastrnak.

Perhaps of more concern, though, is the growing feeling that the Bruins aren’t all on the same page.

Marchand vaguely referenced that the Bruins weren’t prepared to play Sunday, and Tuukka Rask said he’ll no longer comment on anything except his own goaltending. Rask has always been candid and willing to be frank about any shortcomings after Bruins losses, but it appears that’s not something that is any longer welcome inside the B’s dressing room.

“I just try to go out there and give us a chance to win every night. That’s what I’m focused on,” said Rask. “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.”

Meanwhile, Krejci was similarly short in his postgame thoughts and started talking about avoiding pointing fingers after a frustrating loss.

“There’s no reason to point fingers," he said. "Yeah, we lost a game and it was a frustrating loss. But it’s just the fifth game of the season, so we don’t need to make a big deal out of it. We’re going to back to Boston, we’re going to work hard in practices and we’re going to get ready for the next game.”

Clearly, the fact this stuff is coming to the surface just five games into the season is a cause for concern. But it makes sense, given the way the Bruins are letting an easy portion of the season slip through their fingers.

In their first 10 games of the year, they're facing only one team that made the playoffs last season and they've got plenty of spaced-out stretches in the schedule to get off to a strong, healthy start. Instead they’re losing to subpar teams and highly unproven goalies, and doing so with a real lack of energy or purpose on the ice.

Certainly management would be smart to think about shipping underperforming players like Vatrano back to the AHL in place of Peter Cehlarik or Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson. And a few more games like Sunday’s snooze-fest could advance trade talks for a player like Matt Duchene.

But there aren’t going to be any easy answers. It comes down to hard work and hunkering down together as a team, and Sunday’s pitifully inept loss in a very winnable situation was yet another sign the Bruins aren't even close to being there yet.


Spooner, McQuaid injured in Bruins' loss to Golden Knights


Spooner, McQuaid injured in Bruins' loss to Golden Knights

LAS VEGAS -- The Bruins are already missing a handful of players to injuries, and they may have lost a couple more in Sunday’s loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Ryan Spooner was knocked out in the second period with a lower body injury, and Adam McQuaid was lost in the closing seconds of the third period when he was hit by a Colin Miller rocket from the point in his leg. McQuaid had to be helped to the dressing room after staying down on the ice for a few long moments, and the hope is that it’s the same kind of mostly harmless “dead leg” hit that allowed Kevan Miller to bounce back immediately from his Friday incident in practice.

McQuaid was spotted up and walking around in the visiting dressing room area postgame, so hopefully it’s nothing serious with one of the few Bruins giving everything he has on the ice each and every night.

Spooner finished with just eight shifts and 6:42 of ice time while failing to generate much offense, and went 1-for-4 in the face-off circle before getting shelved for the rest of the game. He just has a single point and is a minus-3 in four games this season and is once again has been pretty hard to notice on the ice during 5-on-5 play. It perhaps wasn’t a huge loss for the Bruins, given how much Spooner has been struggling to find baseline consistency, but the Bruins can’t continue to sustain injuries to their center men without those missing bodies beginning to take a toll.

The Bruins already have Paul Postma on hand if they take any injuries on the back end, but any more losses up front could mean the B’s dip into Providence where Peter Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Kenny Agostino are all off to hot offensive starts.