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Anderson: If he wants a deal, David Pastrnak should come to Boston

Ty Anderson
September 13, 2017 - 7:46 pm

As is tradition, the Bruins are losing the PR battle.

This time, it’s against restricted free agent David Pastrnak, but that’s hardly surprising.

The Bruins have had all summer to hammer out a new deal with the winger that finished second among Boston skaters in both goals (34) and points (70) last season, and it only seems now -- with just hours to go before the start of training camp -- that they’re taking these talks serious in an effort to get Pastrnak signed. And also: B’s fans typically don’t require much to get pissed off. It’s a disposition that comes as natural as cursing out Jeremy Jacobs, and buying-then-throwing $12 beers over a marginal penalty call. Oh, and bitching about the Bruins’ failure to pay top-tier players beyond an entry-level deal.

But while the Bruins’ negotiation tactics have certainly been worth harping on, is it fair to begin -- or at least consider -- to put blame on David Pastrnak and agent J.P. Barry?

With camp set to begin tomorrow, it’s certainly worth noting that Pastrnak is obviously not here or joining the Bruins for the first day of on-ice sessions at Warrior Ice Arena. But he’s not even in Boston, or the United States, for that matter.

That seems… bizarre.

The same agent that represented both Dougie Hamilton and Loui Eriksson in two straight-up disastrous negotiations for Sweeney, it’s no secret that Barry has done a brilliant job of playing with whatever leverage he can find in this situation (and it’s not much). Under team control, and with an offer sheet yet to come their way this summer, it’s essentially the Bruins or nothing for Pastrnak, and everybody knows that. That’s why you’ve seen the team take a hardline approach to their talks (Bruins president Cam Neely has said that they’re not going to bid against themselves) in the face of Barry’s upfront comments suggesting that the B’s are coming in far too low, and why Pastrnak’s camp finally unveiled the anything-but-surprising KHL threat earlier this week.

And a refusal to report to Boston unless he’s signed to a new, long-term deal is just Barry and Pastrnak’s next -- and perhaps their final -- play of this exhausting saga.

But watching from the Czech Republic, making a straight-faced case that the KHL could be your home for a season, missing an important camp won’t make anything easier between the Bruins and Pastrnak. It could even serve as the beginning of a shift from the fans’ perceptions of Pastrnak and his camp’s ability to negotiate in good faith.

Throughout the life of these talks, and despite those aforementioned troublesome negotiations with previous Barry clients, Pastrnak has repeatedly been billed as the good guy that just wants to be paid appropriately and like his peers, and then get back to playing for the Bruins. I still believe that to be the case, too, but a refusal to come to the negotiating table and find some common ground will absolutely look rough in the court of public opinion.

That’s where the line between innocent bystander and defiant contributor to the chaos can blur, and it’s where the script can easily flip and find Pastrnak looking like the one that’s holding Boston hostage in a Dougie-esque fashion.

It’s believed that the Pastrnak camp has come in seeking at least $8 million per season on a long-term extension while the Bruins have come in substantially lower (about $2 million lower, to be exact). It’s an undeniably high ask from Pastrnak, and while numbers trend towards him being worth that, you can understand why the Bruins would prefer to take this to the negotiating table and see how low they can go. You can’t fault them for that, even with the number of botched talks and trades to their name, and you can’t fault Pastrnak for wanting his payday, as youth and speed rises in both price and popularity.

But if this negotiation is going to devolve into the 21-year-old Pastrnak simply sitting at home and pretending Boston doesn’t exist until he gets what he wants, it no longer becomes a negotiation. It then becomes a standoff that can make Sweeney, who is still relatively unproven as a general manager, look weak if he caves. It’s also worth mentioning that the my-way-or-no-way approach from a player and agent is actually how Sweeney has saved face and escaped any and all criticism on the Dougie-to-Calgary trade, and he’d probably do it again if he absolutely had to. Stuck between competing and developing, the Bruins could probably find a way to spin it, too.

Of course, the flipside to those concerns come with the obvious fact that Pastrnak is not an NHL agent and doesn’t have to be in the room with them, and unless he has a full understanding of contracts and what benefits him most, his presence is not mandatory.

But it would certainly help.

It would show that he’s committed to working with the Bruins on a new deal (sources have insisted that Pastrnak still very much wants to play in Boston) in the strongest manner possible. It's no secret that it's harder to tell a player he's worth less when you're in a face-to-face manner (why do you think arbitration hearings almost never happen?), and that it could and would push the dialogue along in a more progressive manner. And it would show that these sides are even just a little bit closer, which has emerged as the biggest question on everybody’s mind as Sweeney repeats canned quotes on finding a new deal while Barry implies that there’s been a true lack of a significant breakthrough.

And that breakthrough, be it from Boston’s side or Barry’s side, most definitely ain’t coming if Pastrnak is out of sight, out of mind and 4,000 miles away from Boston.

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