Sweeney on Pastrnak: 'I know it's a deal both sides are happy with'

Sweeney on Pastrnak: 'I know it's a deal both sides are happy with'

BRIGHTON, Mass – The David Pastrnak contract ends up being a solid win for both sides of the negotiating equation.

The Bruins were able to coax the 21-year-old right wing into a deal that was probably slightly under market value ($6.67 million average annual value rather than the $7 million he could have demanded) for six years, and Pastrnak will miss only the first couple of days of training camp as he flies into Boston on Friday. Pastrnak gets a massive raise coming off his entry-level deal, the security of a six-year contract and can become an unrestricted free agent at 27, when he’ll get a monster contract if he continues to be a game-breaking force.


It’s clear, however, that this is another big accomplishment for Don Sweeney in his time as Bruins general manager as he’s now locked up his two best offensive players to long-term contracts under $7 million per season.

“I’d always said we were going to find a deal. We were right up against [training camp], but there was no deadline. We didn’t look at it that way. We had strong, open communication and the work finally paid off for both sides to finally find a good landing spot,” said Sweeney. “I know it’s a deal that both sides are happy with and now we have a full complement [of players] at camp, which I think everybody would acknowledge is in everybody’s best interests.

“You just keep working at it. JP [Barry, Pastrnak's agent] and his camp and our camp, we just kept at it and found the right landing spot for both sides. There are a lot of variables that go into it, and in the long run, the result is a positive one for all parties. David is a big part of what we’re trying to build here and David is a very motivated player. He made a hell of a jump last year and he’s earned the opportunity to be in the top five of guys coming off the entry level [contracts].”

Sweeney also managed to preserve Boston’s internal salary structure where Pastrnak isn’t going to make more money per season than established Cup-winning veterans like Patrice Bergeron ($6.875 million) or David Krejci ($7.25 million). Perhaps most important in the short term is Pastrnak’s entry into training camp just a couple of days late, where he can begin rekindling the chemistry with Krejci, and the removal of any drama or potential bad vibes from a camp that’s crucial for Sweeney, team president Cam Neely and new coach Bruce Cassidy.

Instead, the Bruins players can rib Pastrnak about his 45-minute holdout on the first day of camp, then welcome with open arms. The Czech forward dominated to the tune of 34 goals and 70 points at 20. Now, it’s going to be all about hockey in camp rather than players, coaches and executives worrying about protracted negotiations with No. 88.

“We’ll get that kid from across the sea, and make him do all the testing hopefully with all of us watching. So, we can give him a little hazing for the...I don’t what was it...25- or 30-minute holdout. It will be great to have everyone here and be going at full power heading into the season,” said Backes. “That little side story [is over]. He’s a hell of a player and he makes us a lot more potent. He makes our lineup a lot deeper and we can spread out a lot more scoring while he’s going to garner a lot more attention after the year he had last year.”

Pastrnak is expected to fly into Boston on Friday, hit the ice this weekend and get plenty of time with Krejci as the two Czech forwards are expected to be paired together again this season. 


Backes escapes skate blade situation with deep cut that 'wasn't too dangerous'

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Backes escapes skate blade situation with deep cut that 'wasn't too dangerous'

TAMPA – David Backes certainly didn’t escape the scary situation with an errant skate blade unscathed, of course. 

The 33-year-old limped his way to the Bruins team bus out of Amalie Arena after Boston’s 3-0 shutout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, and needed approximately 18 stitches to close up the gash on his right thigh. But Backes was still able to joke about it as he exited the dressing room while knowing that it could have been much, much worse with that kind of freak accident on the ice. 

"I'll play a second period one of these days,” said a smiling Backes, who was forced out of Saturday night’s loss with the skate blade cut in the last minute of the first period and exited the Florida loss as well after catching a match penalty in the first period as well. Luckily for him, there was no structural damage to Backes’ right leg after Yanni Gourde caught him in the thigh area as both players were down on the ice around the Tampa net.

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There was a lot of blood, however, as he quickly exited the ice, sped past the bench and headed right to the Bruins dressing room with Bruins trainer Donnie DelNegro trailing right behind. 

“I went in and saw him between periods. He’s okay. There’s no structural damage. There will be concern going forward about swelling or infection, but it looks like he’ll be okay. We’ll classify him as day-to-day, but I don’t know if he’ll be ready to play on Monday,” said Bruce Cassidy of Backes, who actually scored the second goal of the game for the Bruins as a power play strike. “You see a guy coming off like that and you see the blood pooling up, and you’re always worried they could hit an artery somewhere. He was able to get up. That was the first good sign and he was able to be tended to quickly. 

“It is scary. But we were told it would be a deep cut that would require some stitches, and it wasn’t too dangerous.”

For now it just becomes an eventful month for Backes where he’s been suspended, tossed out of a game with a match penalty and now forced out of a game after a freak skate blade incident, but there’s no doubt he’ll return better and stronger than ever in rapid fashion as he’s done through the last two seasons with the Bruins.


B's make a big statement to Tampa, rest of the NHL with gutsy win

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B's make a big statement to Tampa, rest of the NHL with gutsy win

TAMPA – One has to wonder what the Tampa Bay Lightning are thinking after Saturday night’s game. 

It’s probably something along the lines of “Oh crap” after the Bruins completely shut them down while missing their top defensemen pairing, their best all-around player and top line center, their most impactful rookie forward and also losing their best power forward, who was filling in as top line center, in the first period. The undermanned Bruins made a big, fat statement with their 3-0 win over the well-rested, healthy Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena at the end of a long, four-game road trip, and now sit just two points behind the Bolts with 12 games to play in the regular season. 

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It was impressive enough that the Black and Gold won at all against the NHL’s best team while missing so many of their top shelf players, but to do it while also totally shutting down Tampa’s offense was something worth remarking about. The Bruins defense and goaltending had been playing a bit fast and loose for the better part of a month, and had been bailed out time and again by an offense that’s been dropping big numbers lately. 

But the Bruins went into Saturday night determined to leave an impression with the Lightning about what awaits them next month once the playoffs start, and they did it with physical, gritty defense that left Tampa with little space to operate. Even better the Bruins defensemen moved the puck pretty much perfectly and swiftly all night, blocked shots with hard-nosed determination and proved they could do more than survive without Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy. 

That’s damned impressive when you consider the opponents from Tampa Bay lining up against them with a chance to clinch their playoff spot, and what’s on the line for both teams headed into the final three weeks of the regular season. 

“We were looking at it as more of a bounce-back against a really good team, and let’s see where we are. I thought we answered the bell,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “Probably the biggest win in a long time. We've had some nice comebacks and some high-scoring affairs, but it was nice to get a zero [goals allowed] in the column. It’s been a while. 

“It was just good, solid team defense…winning pucks. It was probably not the prettiest hockey, but I thought the goals we scored were pretty nice ones going to the net. It was playoff hockey. I thought we were better at it than they were tonight. Who knows how the next one is going to go, but we’re going to enjoy this.”

It was clear early on that the Bruins wanted to set the tone both physically and style of play-wise, and they did just that. The pounding physicality clearly bothered the Lightning as Steven Stamkos made an uncharacteristic choice to retaliate against Tim Schaller after he threw a heavy hit on the Tampa Bay star player. That landed Stamkos in the box and set the Bruins up for their first of two power play goals on the evening. 

Those two power play goals were proof enough that the Bruins had their special teams in good order, but it took just a combined 23 seconds of power play time to strike for those two scores against the Lightning penalty kill. That’s the kind of thing that’s going to keep Jon Cooper and the Tampa Bay coaching staff up at night before the final two meetings between these two teams. The suffocating defense, the stout physicality and the quick strike offense just completely overwhelmed the Lightning, and things went exactly according to the game plan that Bruce Cassidy had set out for them prior to the game. 

“We’re a confident group back there, and when we play the way we’re supposed to we can compete with anybody,” said Kevan Miller, who played a punishing, physical 21:41 of ice time in the win. “It’s that time of year where we’re pushing for the playoffs, we’re grinding away and we knew as a group after [the Florida loss] we needed to tighten things up. We did that. That’s a tough team over there, so you need to take time and space away from them. As a group we did a great job of that.”

About the only thing that didn’t go right for the Bruins early was David Backes exiting quickly at the end of the first after his right thigh got sliced by an errant skate blade. But even the 33-year-old Backes managed to avoid serious injury despite approximately 18 stitches to close the wound, and was cracking jokes about it as he limped to the Bruins bus postgame.

Clearly things can and will change with two games remaining between the two teams in the final three weeks of the regular season. The Bruins should theoretically be even better and more difficult to beat once they got all of their key players healthy, and that’s got to be a frightening prospect for the Lightning. 

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Then again perhaps the Bolts were a little rusty after three days off leading into Saturday night, and they needed to be kicked in the teeth by the Bruins to start getting that hunger back. Either way the Bruins are within a single win of pulling into a tie for the top spot in the East and home ice throughout the entire Eastern Conference playoff bracket. Nobody should be surprised the Bruins did it once again while fighting through injuries and a brutal late season schedule, and that’s a testament to how stubbornly they’ve successfully plowed through adversity this season. 

The dominant win over Tampa on Saturday night just serves as another piece of compelling hockey evidence that something special is building with the Black and Gold. It’s become impossible to deny or ignore as the Bruins continue bucking the odds in a way that should have everybody else’s full attention around the NHL at this point.