By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Cam Neely didn’t need to be so definitive about David Pastrnak, but the Bruins president insisted that the dynamic young winger is in for the long haul.
Speaking to a scrum of reporters for his end-of-season media availability on Tuesday, Neely addressed a wide range of topics related to the past season and the plans for the Bruins in the coming offseason. Among them is a possible long-term deal for Pastrnak, who will become a restricted free agent this summer.
The Bruins are not necessarily at risk of losing Pastrnak any time soon. As an RFA, it would be very difficult for another team to pry him away from the Bruins. Even if Pastrnak didn’t agree to a long-term deal, he would need to accept the Bruins’ qualifying offer to be eligible to play.
But most importantly, Pastrnak has told the team that a long-term extension with the Bruins is what he wants – and the feeling is mutual in the Bruins front office.
“We want David, and David certainly reiterated a number of times that he wants to play here and stay here [in Boston],” said Neely. “He loves it here. So I feel confident we can get something done with him.”
[graphiq id=”6G9bqXfPzeZ” title=”David Pastrnak Full Season History” width=”600″ height=”330″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/6G9bqXfPzeZ” ]
Pastrnak’s desire to stay in Boston long-term is a significant one for obvious reasons, like his eye-popping offensive talent. But it’s also significant because of the team’s recent history with other talented young Bruins.
Phil Kessel in 2009 had no interest in staying with the Bruins long-term, according to then-GM Peter Chiarelli, and essentially forced the team to trade him to Toronto. In 2015, it was widely reported that one of the players that emerged from the Kessel trade, Dougie Hamilton, refused to sign long-term with the Bruins. The defenseman’s disinterest in Boston ultimately led current GM Don Sweeney to decide to trade him to the Flames.
Regardless of whether the Kessel and Hamilton situations were symptoms of a larger organizational problem or mere isolated incidents, it’s important for the Bruins to be more patient and committed to their most talented young players than they have been in recent seasons. Their commitment to Pastrnak, even in light of his very real struggles in the first six playoff games of his career, is an indication that they’re showing the patience they need to show.
Neely was not shy about commenting on Pastrnak’s playoff problems, but acknowledged that such issues can end up helping a player his age with plenty of time to develop.
“He’s steadily improved over the years. He’s a dynamic player,” said Neely on Pastrnak. “He’s exciting to watch. He’s got all kinds of skill. But I think that the playoff experience was extremely important for his development as an NHL player to get better than he has been.”
Pastrnak scored two goals and four points in six playoff games against the Ottawa Senators, but often looked out of sorts with the puck and frequently missed the net with his shots. The 20-year-old will need to adjust his game to be a better, more reliable option in future playoff games.
But the important thing is that Pastrnak and the Bruins want that development to take place while Pastrnak is wearing the spoked ‘B’. For a change, a dynamic young talent wants to be here. If and when he gets even better than the 34 goals and 70 points he put up last season, most of the city will want him to be here too.
Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.