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Anderson: Bruins and David Pastrnak making new deal harder than it needs to be

Ty Anderson
September 06, 2017 - 5:43 pm

Old habits will apparently die hard for the front office on Causeway Street.

That’s the only plausible explanation for the Bruins making their summer contract negotiations -- now entering month five since closing the book on last season -- with restricted free agent David Pastrnak entirely more difficult than they ever needed to be.

Comfortable with having more than enough time to hammer out a new deal this summer, the Bruins began these negotiations with a six-year, $36 million contract offer. When that was denied, they upped their offer to a seven-year, $42 million deal. That, as Sept. 6 and still no Pastrnak on the ice or signed for next season will tell us, did not work either. But that’s not a shock, really, as that was the same average annual value -- just with one extra year -- which was a seemingly odd offer to make when the more player-friendly version of that contract was just turned down.

With those deals failing, and with time running out before the start of camp next week, Pastrnak’s camp has openly put an eight-year maximum term deal on the table for the B’s, and that offer appeared to be the focus yesterday, and continued Wednesday.

And I can only assume the Bruins will now offer them eight years, $48 million, because why not show them that you have a thorough understanding of how times tables work?

For the disgruntled fan (and there’s more than a few), this is just business as usual for a B’s front office led by team president Cam Neely and third-year general manager Don Sweeney. This is simply the Bruins cheaping out on paying a young talent when the time has come to pay them more than the peanuts they made for their first three years.

They’ll quickly point out that Phil Kessel did not play a single game for the Bruins beyond his three-year entry-level deal expired, and was instead traded to Toronto shortly into training camp during his holdout. Dougie Hamilton was a three-and-out talent, too. Tyler Seguin, moved for a woeful return in a trade that will seemingly haunt the Bruins forever, was traded before his six-year, $34.5 million extension began.

But Pastrnak isn’t that guy. The 21-year-old Pastrnak has never had the issues that Kessel had with the coaching staff. He’s not Hamilton in the sense that he doesn’t need his brother to be a Bruin to keep him here (that remains one of the weirdest stories I’ve ever heard, and seems actually believable given what a straight-up uncomfortable person Hamilton appeared to be in Boston), and it’s hard to find a recent Bruins prospect that’s loved Boston more than Pastrnak. And he’s not the ultra-talented Seguin in the sense that his off-ice lifestyle has not become noticed for the wrong reasons.

Pastrnak is everything the Bruins want out of their new youth movement.

So, excuse me for being frank, but what the hell are we doing here? 

If the Bruins aren’t sold on Pastrnak being a long-term solution worthy of north of $6 million per season -- even if he’s coming off an entry-level deal, which is somehow held against these players, even when they’re immense talents -- then they’re not going to be sold on any player being worthy of that. If what you’ve seen from Pastrnak isn’t enough to tell you that he’s worthy of a long-term investment, then you’ve successfully developed an actually impossible set of standards for players to meet in regards to your willingness to pay for your future. That would be a misstep for the Bruins, too, especially with the crop of young players they’ve drafted and developed in recent years.

But in a league that’s become undeniably hyperfocused on speed, youth, and skill (30 is now considered old), the reality is that the second contract is dead. It’s become natural for players to go from entry-level to major payday, and they’re certainly deserved.

And Pastrnak, even if the sample size is just one full season, is no exception.

Pastrnak is among a group of 16 NHL skaters since 2005 to score at least 30 goals in their Age-20 season. Connor McDavid, Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Anze Kopitar, and Patrice Bergeron are also in that group. Pastrnak also put up 70 points in his Age-20 season, which puts him among that same group, but with Patrick Kane added to the mix as well. These players are all paid quite handsomely today, even if they’re on their second contract or third contract since that Age-20 season, and Bergeron’s is actually the most affordable of the group, at $6.875 million per season. The average salary for that group, by the way, is over $9.5 million per year.

It’s not what you want to see the Bruins put on the table, of course, but It’s just more proof that the numbers alone trend towards Pastrnak earning a contract north of the $6 million that’s been offered. And those figures hammer home the reality that Pastrnak is going to get paid if he’s going to remain a Bruin, even if the Bruins try to claim that he has no leverage. (That leverage argument, by the way, is patently false, as the Bruins most definitely need Pastrnak in their lineup if they're going to even sniff the playoffs this season, so there's his leverage.) And his payday is especially inevitable if the Bruins want to eat up some of Pastrnak’s potential unrestricted free agent years, which seems to be an underrated focus of a new deal from their end. 

The good news -- I guess, if you want to call it that -- for the Bruins is that Pastrnak’s range is far closer to Leon Draisaitl’s new $8.5 million per year contract. The Pastrnak camp knew that, too, which is why they seemed more than content to wait until Draisaitl signed his deal in Edmonton, and why they’ve gone into their recent round of talks with the Black and Gold with that deal as a potential blueprint for a new Pastrnak contract. Neely has resisted such a notion, saying that one contract does not define a trend.

In this case, Neely seems to be on the right path, as Pastrnak’s body of NHL work seems closer to the $7.5 million per year deal that the Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko signed. That would also be the middleground between the $6 million lowball offers the Bruins have thrown out there and J.P. Barry’s pie-in-the-sky hope for $8.5 million per.

It’s a simplification, sure, but that’s only because this negotiation could sure use some.

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