By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
It was the non-update that shook a thousand heads.
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was asked during a conference call Monday to announce Jay Leach as the new coach of the Providence Bruins about contract talks with restricted free agent David Pastrnak, who after Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl had the second-most points last season among RFAs currently without a contract for 2017-18.
Boston Globe veteran writer Kevin Paul Dupont once again drew the short straw, as he did at the conclusion of Bruins development camp in mid-July and broached the Pastrnak topic.
“I think we’re at the same point you asked me the last time,” Sweeney said. “So we’re in a holding pattern. I have not made much progress as what I would have liked since the last one. But we have plenty of time and the opportunity continues to talk and we’ll find the landing spot.”
If ever there was a time when a “holding pattern” should cause little to no negative reaction, or maybe even inspire hope, it was Sweeney’s statement on the last day of July about the Pastrnak talks.
Although Sweeney is typically tight-lipped about ongoing negotiations, and there’s been no on-the-record comments from Pastrnak’s camp, one has to assume the talks have been civil and are on the right track – even if they haven’t advanced toward a conclusion in a month.
Let’s not forget what Pastrnak had to say days after the Bruins lost Game 6 of the Eastern Conference first round to Ottawa.
“Obviously I love it here, you know,” said Pastrnak, whose 34 goals and 70 points were second to Brad Marchand on the Bruins last season. “This is where I started and where I got the opportunity to play in the NHL. This is not what I was focusing on.”
Pastrnak could’ve pulled a Dougie Hamilton and dodged the questions about his contract. Hamilton famously offered a “no comment” in response to a question about wanting to be in Boston days after the Bruins failed to qualify for the playoffs. Things seem to be on the upswing in Calgary, but one has to wonder what Hamilton’s career would look like if he was playing for Bruce Cassidy these days. We’ll never know.
But we do know another thing about Pastrnak that should give Bruins fans positive feelings about his future in Boston – the forward’s current location. He’s currently part of the Bruins’ caravan through China for the second straight year. He’s spreading the Bruins brand around the world’s most populous nation and possibly auditioning for his second career as a Czech diplomat.
Players anticipating a long, venomous contract negotiation with a team don’t go on team-sponsored trip to the other side of the globe. At the very least agents don’t let players go on those types of trips.
Let’s face it, the market has been set. Pastrnak is worth at least $5.5 to $7 million per season depending on the term and it’s all just a matter of what Pastrnak wants to do. He doesn’t have arbitration rights now, so he could sign a bridge contract and then one or two years from now he’ll be swimming in Subban money (P.K., not Malcolm). He could sign a medium-term (4-5 years) and then cash in when he’s 26 or 27. Or he can make himself a Bruins until he’s almost 30, but that might require some transferring of his salary into signing bonuses that would get him paid in the case of a work stoppage in the next couple years.
The money and term are going to get hammered out. Everyone is saying the right things. If you still have a tendency to worry about the Bruins and contracts for young, high-skill players, remember that in the summer of 2011 Brad Marchand was coming off his breakout rookie season and performance in the Bruins’ run to the Stanley Cup championship. He was a restricted free agent but showed up for captains’ practices and even the team’s charity golf tournament. He signed a two-year contract on the eve of training camp. He said he wanted to be here, he proved it with his actions, and the deal got done.
So far, Pastrnak has said and done everything you would expect of someone who anticipates being a Bruins for the foreseeable future. A contract is going to get done. And if the Bruins can’t come to terms, they could always trade Pastrnak to Dallas for a package of four … oh come on, just kidding.