BOSTON (CBS) — No player better represents the values and character of the Boston Bruins, so it’s perfectly fitting for the team to extend alternate captain Patrice Bergeron for eight years.
The deal will pay Bergeron $52 million and keep him in Boston through the 2021-22 season, when the center will be 36 years old. Bergeron said Friday that he hopes the spoked B will be the only logo he wears for his entire NHL career.
“I started my career as a Bruin. They were the team that believed in me as an 18-year-old coming in, and I’m really happy now to say that I will hopefully retire a Bruin. That’s the goal and that’s what I want,” Bergeron said. “I gotta thank my teammates for helping me on and off the ice become a better person and a better player and I’m very proud to be a Bruin, hopefully for life. I have a lot of pride every time I step on the ice as a Bruin and I couldn’t be happier.”
General manager Peter Chiarelli, who had a busy week with an eight-year contract for Tuukka Rask agreed upon just two days prior to Bergeron’s, stressed how valuable Bergeron is to the organization as one of the “pillars of the team.”
“We’re obviously very happy to get him signed and – you never know – but to finish his career with the Bruins, we obviously really like him as a player,” Chiarelli said. “He embodies a lot of what the Bruins stand for. He’s a responsible player, he’s a hard player, he’s a leader, he’s a clutch player and he’s just got kind of a classic way of carrying himself that I like to be part of and the Bruins like to be part of.”
Chiarelli credited Bergeron for taking less money than he would have made on the open market after next season as a free agent, but Bergeron spoke to why he’d never want to leave.
“The mentality of the organization is team-first, and to me that means a lot. That’s the only way you can win,” Bergeron said. “Everything about it, everything about the Bruins made me want to stay in Boston. The city, the people and definitely my teammates.”
Of course, in the business of contact sports, committing eight years and all that money to any player comes with its risks, and in the case of Bergeron and his concussion history, that’s most certainly the case. Despite the ever-present potential for a long-term deal ending up looking bad for a team, Chiarelli noted the positives that outweigh the risks.
“When you’re looking at giving a long-term contract to a player, you look at everything and you accept a lot of the risks,” Chiarelli said. “But a person of Patrice’s character, a person like Patrice who we’ve obviously closely monitored his recovery over the years, it’s not without risk. But Patrice is a terrific character guy and he’s shown his resiliency, so we’re comfortable with the risks. It certainly wasn’t something that we took lightly. We just felt very strongly about Patrice as a player and as a person, and we would accept some of the risks.”
Bergeron certainly displayed his resiliency during the Stanley Cup Final, when he played with a broken rib and separated shoulder in Game 6, logging nearly 18 minutes of ice time. After that game, his lung collapsed, and he spent several days recovering in the hospital. Bergeron said Friday that his recovery is “going well,” but he still has to wait two weeks before he can begin working out. He said he won’t need any more surgeries, but just needs to be patient as he waits for the OK to increase his heart rate by working out.
While Bergeron expected to be fully ready to hit the ice at full speed at the start of next season, it’s safe to assume he’s not the type of player who will become a complacent player with his long-term, big-money deal. The soon-to-be 28-year-old’s goal remains the same as it’s always been.
“You want to stay here, you want to keep doing it, you want to keep reliving the way that we felt in 2011 after winning the Cup,” Bergeron said. “Those are the memories that you never forget. This year, we were two wins away. It was unfortunate but at the same time we have a very competitive team every year. Guys here want to win, and you can tell. I’m just happy to be a part of that and it was a huge factor in staying in Boston and trying to get another Cup. That’s always the goal.”