After the 2019-20 season, Torey Krug’s contract was expiring. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney did not stand in the way of the defenseman’s exit to St. Louis.
A year later, David Krejci’s deal was up. During the season’s end, Krejci considered relocating his family to Czechia. Sweeney did not make it worth the center’s while to change his mind.
In both cases, David Pastrnak was watching.
“88 had seen how Don has treated his two best friends,” a source close to Pastrnak wrote The Athletic in a text. “No chance he comes back with Sweens as GM.”
Pastrnak, 26, is approaching the final season of his six-year, $ 40 million contract. The right wing will be free to sign an extension July 13. The Bruins want that to happen.
“I’ve said all along I will attack that one, as I have with all of our players that we’ve looked to go longer-term on, right away and see where it goes,” said Sweeney, who is working on the assumption that his own extension is imminent. “David has a decision in the same vein. He might be sitting back and balancing the same way, whether it’s Patrice (Bergeron) or anybody else we’re adding. Those conversations will come to light. We’ll have to make a decision based on the information that I get. “
‘Not as effective as it was’: Bruce Cassidy’s demanding approach lost its impact. https://t.co/bFAPqzr3UI
– Fluto Shinzawa (@FlutoShinzawa) June 7, 2022
Money and security have ways of making hard feelings go away. The Bruins will not be shy about either.
The Bruins have an advantage over the 31 other teams of being able to offer Pastrnak an eight-year max-term extension. One agent believed an eight-year, $ 68 million deal would be fair to both parties.
Whether Pastrnak agrees with that thinking remains to be seen.
On July 1, 2019, Artemi Panarin signed a seven-year, $ 81.5 million contract with the Rangers. Panarin was 27 years old. He had scored 320 points in 322 games.
Next summer, Pastrnak will be 27. He has 504 points in 510 games. Pastrnak led the Bruins with 40 goals in 2021-22.
Panarin and the Rangers are in the Eastern Conference Final. It may not be their last visit.
Former Bruins executive Jeff Gorton, now in charge in Montreal, built the Rangers for today (Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Adam Fox, Igor Shesterkin) and tomorrow (Alexis Lafrenière, Filip Chytil, Kaapo Kakko).
The Bruins, meanwhile, have one long-term foundational piece: 24-year-old Norris Trophy-worthy defenseman Charlie McAvoy. It’s too soon to tell whether Jeremy Swayman could fit that category.
Meanwhile, Bergeron might retire. Brad Marchand, 34, will not be ready to start 2022-23 following hip surgery. Same for McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk following respective shoulder surgeries.
Taylor Hall (30), Charlie Coyle (30) and Hampus Lindholm (28) are good players but fall short of qualifying as elite. Fabian Lysell (19) and Mason Lohrei (21), the Bruins’ top two prospects, have zero games of professional experience between them. Pastrnak will be reporting to a new coach instead of Bruce Cassidy, fired on Monday for a style that management declared had worn thin. The Bruins’ championship window is closed.
The Bruins’ championship window is closed. https://t.co/M8ljIgVr0o
– Fluto Shinzawa (@FlutoShinzawa) June 7, 2022
All of this may discourage Pastrnak from putting pen to paper, at least until he gets a better read on the Bruins’ long-term health. If the Bruins sense any hesitation on Pastrnak’s part to re-sign, their only alternative will be to trade their 2014 first-rounder. They can’t afford to let Pastrnak skate for nothing.
Sweeney has seen a version of this movie before. After the 2014-15 season, Milan Lucic had one season remaining on his three-year, $ 18 million contract. That offseason, Sweeney replaced Peter Chiarelli as GM.
Lucic was 27. He was coming off a season with 18 goals and 44 points in 81 games. The Bruins were not interested in extending the power forward after 2015-16.
So on June 26, 2015, Sweeney traded Lucic to Los Angeles for Martin Jones, Colin Miller and a 2015 first-rounder. Four days later, Sweeney flipped Jones to San Jose for Sean Kuraly and a 2016 first-round pick. It was a respectable haul for two players that did not fit the Bruins’ long-term plans.
How the Bruins spent the draft capital was not as remarkable.
They used the 2015 first-rounder to pick Jakub Zboril. A year later, the Bruins drafted Trent Frederic with the No. 29 selection.
If Pastrnak goes out the door for futures, the Bruins cannot experience something similar. They need sure things – not a bottom-pairing defenseman like Zboril or a bottom-six grinder like Frederic. The system is barren – no first-round picks in 2018, 2020, 2022 – as a consequence of previous trade-deadline aggressiveness.
“You know you’re going to leverage. You try and spread it out as we did, ”Sweeney said of wheeling first-rounders for Rick Nash, Ondrej Kase and Lindholm. “Then at some point in time, as I referenced, you may have to be in a position where you are going to recoup, like we did in ’15. And then you hope you do it and execute it to the nth degree. We’ve done it well. But not well enough. Our aspirations are to continue to do it better. So to answer your question, yeah, I’d certainly like to add from a futures standpoint and be much deeper and stocked. Chances are, if you’ve been a team that’s been looking to win and be competitive every year for 15 or so years, you’re going to sacrifice some things. There’s going to be a tradeoff. That’s exactly what’s happened. “
Lucic brought back a No. 13 pick, a future No. 1 goalie and a 22-year-old defenseman who played 42 games the following season. If the Bruins determine, on July 13 or shortly after, that extending Pastrnak is not possible, the ask for No. 88 will be higher.
A 2023 first-rounder would be nonnegotiable. They would want a 2023 second-rounder as well. It wouldn’t end there. A young NHL player and high-end prospect would round out the package.
This is not how the Bruins want to proceed with one of the league’s most gifted finishers. They may not have a choice.
(Photo of David Pastrnak: Matthew J. Lee / The Boston Globe via Getty Images)