BRIGHTON, Mass -- David Backes probably had the best idea yet when asked about the ongoing, unconsummated contract talks between the Bruins and 21-year-old game-breaking right wing David Pastrnak.
“I think there’s a desire from both sides for him to be in camp and be playing, and for him to be a Bruin for a long time,” said Backes, who signed his own five-year, $30 million contract with the Bruins a little more than a year ago. “We should lock them all in a room with no food until they figure it out…that’s my plan. But I’ve had [teammates] that have held out of camp before, and typically there is enough stress [applied] and eventually, cooler heads prevail no too long after that. That’s what I hope happens that he’s a participating member for the entire season.
“If not then it’s the sooner, the better. I don’t have any kind of crystal ball, but I think he’s going to be a Bruin for a long time and he won’t be worried about paying for any meals. He loves playing the game, he’s good at it and they want him here. So it will get done in my opinion.”
While that was more tongue-in-cheek than a real suggestion, it may take something extreme like that for the B’s to finally get something done with Pastrnak with only about a week to go until the start of NHL training camp. The good news continues to be that something will eventually get done between the Bruins and Pastrnak’s camp because both sides want something to get done, and there has been plenty of recent dialogue between Pastrnak agent JP Barry and B’s general manager Don Sweeney.
The bad news is that all of those recent conversations haven’t really pushed the two sides all that much closer together and there still remains a sizeable gap in actually getting a deal done.
Thursday morning, Sweeney said it's "status quo" in talks. "We just need to find a deal that works," the GM added.
The Bruins have offered a pair of deals in the six- and seven-year range that would pay Pastrnak $6 million per season. It’s believed that Pastrnak’s camp countered late last week with an eight-year offer something in the neighborhood of $64 million. Regardless of what Sweeney and the Bruins have proposed, Pastrnak’s camp hasn’t wavered from their client being a direct comparable to 21-year-old Leon Draisaitl after he signed an eight-year, $68 million contract with the Edmonton Oilers earlier this summer.
While it might seem like a massive gap to overcome with camp just days away and a real danger that Pastrnak could miss significant time in the preseason, there is also very clearly a middle ground here once camp begins. Pastrnak is going to get more than the $6 million AAV that the Bruins have offered based on what comparable players in Draisaitl and Vladimir Tarasenko got in similar situations and there’s been an obvious market change for elite young players given the money that Connor McDavid, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Ryan Johansen and Draisaitl got.
Still, it’s also fair to say that Pastrnak is going to have to settle for a little less than Draisaitl, despite posting 34 goals and 70 points last season in a breakout campaign for the Bruins. Pastrnak doesn’t play center, as Draisaitl potentially will for the Oilers, and for the most part centers hold a little more value than wings.
So, in all fairness, Pastrnak should be looking at something along the lines of the eight-year, $60 million that Tarasenko signed for with the Blues after posting just one 30-goal, 70-point season in the NHL. The $7-7.5 million-per-year range is the clear middle ground between the two sides, and where things should eventually be going.
Meanwhile, the Bruins would probably like to sign Pastrnak to something more like the six-year, $40.5 million ($6.75 million) contract that Johnny Gaudreau agreed to with the Calgary Flames roughly a year ago. That kind of deal would pay him more than Cup-winning veteran Brad Marchand, but it would be a tick less than Patrice Bergeron ($6.875 million) and David Krejci ($7.25 million) in Boston’s internal salary structure. It should get done eventually without any real damage being done to Pastrnak’s season or the Bruins’ hopes for the upcoming year, but it’s easy to why it’s going to take some time given the difference of opinion in the young player’s value on what’s going to be a massive second contract.
So perhaps the “locked in a room” suggestion from Backes might not be such a bad after all if they want to start speeding up the process.