By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The temperature in Boston has exceeded 90, the Red Sox are making their plans for the MLB trade deadline and most of the best NHL free agents have found new homes.
The Bruins have taken care of business with all but two of their restricted free agents. Ryan Spooner has an arbitration hearing scheduled for July 26. David Pastrnak doesn’t have arbitration rights and is still sitting out there waiting to get re-signed so he can build off his career year last year when he had 70 points (34 goals, 36 assists).
Here are a few quick Bruins thoughts at this dull part of the offseason:
*There’s been talk in some parts about what Pastrnak deserves to be paid and what the Bruins are willing to pay him. Bruins fans are crossing their fingers hoping Pastrnak is looking at Nashville’s Filip Forsberg, who signed a six-year, $6 million per year contract at 21, or Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who signed a seven-year contract with the same $6 million cap hit at 20, as comparable players. He just might lean that way keeping in mind that the Bruins need to cap flexibility to build a team around him.
However, it would be his prerogative to think of himself more in the mold of Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau, who after one season in the NHL signed for six years at $6.75 million against the cap (with $6.5 million of the total paid out in two signing bonuses) or Vladimir Tarasenko, who turned a 37-goal season in 2014-15 into an eight-year contract worth a $7.5 million cap charge with St. Louis.
Either way, Pastrnak is in great position being that he’s just 21. It’s so easy to forget that he’s so young and still has at least a decade of high production ahead of him, health willing.
And that brings me to another point some have raised about the Bruins having their own internal salary cap based on David Krejci ($7.25 million cap charge), Patrice Bergeron ($6.875 million), Brad Marchand ($6.125 million) and David Backes ($6 million). This seems fair until you consider that except for Marchand the other three players are aged 31, 31, and 33. It shouldn’t be Pastrnak’s fault that the Bruins have opted — like most teams in the NHL — to pay players past 30 years old for what they accomplished in the past more than what they’re going to provide in the future. Bergeron might be an exception because of his gifts in the skills and athleticism department, but does anyone expect Backes are Krejci to ever match their best years? And don’t forget Bergeron dropped from 68 to 53 points — could be an anomaly or a sign of slowing down.
That’s why Pastrnak is so important to the Bruins. He’s not even in his prime and is one of the league’s most lethal goal scorers. He has a speed dynamic the Bruins might not get from another forward for a couple years while some of the prospects are maturing.
Pastrnak has every right to ask to be paid as the Bruins’ best forward because he’s the one whose best years are ahead of him. If the Bruins are holding up the works with Pastrnak because they don’t want to offend Bergeron or Marchand, they’re batty. It’s important to keep Pastrnak happy, especially because even if he signs a Tarasenko-level deal, he’ll probably be a bargain in a year or two as goal-scorer salaries continue to increase.
*The signing bonus issue is also interesting. As I mentioned, Gaudreau has two signing bonuses during the length of his contract totaling $6.5 million. That’s guaranteed money, regardless if there’s a lockout (the league or the NHLPA can open the CBA in 2019; the CBA expires in 2022). We just saw Connor McDavid sign for eight years and $100 million with $86 million of it in signing bonuses.
Hopefully the Bruins aren’t getting too hung up on this matter if Pastrnak’s trying to lockout-proof this deal. Obviously Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs has been one of the most combative owners during the past two lockouts and it might not look great if he’s giving out lockout-proof deals and then leading the way again toward closing the doors a few years down the road. But if the Bruins are fully committed to challenging for their second Stanley Cup title in 42-plus years of Jacobs ownership, they have to please their best players, especially the ones with youth, speed and the ability to become one of the most dominant players in the NHL and in this city.
*Lastly, David Backes was on the NHL Network the other night recapping last season and looking forward to next year.
“I think it made me a better person, made our family closer and we’re going to be a better team next year with a little more comfort on our hands,” Backes said about the adjustment to Boston during his first season here.
I’ll never understand how changing cities and sweaters can make such an impact on an athlete’s performance, especially when that player moves by choice and is afforded every luxury $6 million can buy or an NHL team can provide.
Nonetheless, this could be wishful thinking for Backes, as he tries to deny he’s on his back 9 at 33 years old. But he and the Bruins have to hope that now that he’s adapted to Boston he can at least come close to resembling the player he was with the Blues. Or he could be the Bruins’ answer to Pablo Sandoval.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @MattKalman.