There will be plenty of good, old-fashioned contract-watchin by the Bruins this season. Its crucial that general manager Peter Chiarelli and the rest of the front office track the potential free agent market under new CBA conditions since a bevy of its own players are entering some level of free agency after this year is over.
Labor talks between the NHL and the NHLPA could go in a few different directions, but lets assume the new CBA is something similar to the current agreement that expires on Sept. 15, and the contracts of Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask and Nathan Horton all expire at the same time.
Under those circumstances, the six-year, 28.5 million contract agreed to by Scott Hartnell and the Philadelphia Flyers might be of particular interest to Lucic and the Bs brass. Hartnell agreed to long-term, guaranteed money on Monday and a limited no-trade clause to remain in Philly on the heels of first NHL All-Star season at the age of 30 years old.
Hes a big, active body with deceptive offensive abilities, and always seems to be in the middle of everything for the Flyers.
Lucic is six years younger and a restricted free agent rather than a player headed for unrestricted free agency like Hartnell would have been after this season. So a side-by-side comparison between Lucic and Hartnell is out with each player in a different spot bargaining-wise under the current CBA parameters. But the six-year, 27 million handed out to Montreal forward Max Pacioretty certainly would be a fair comparable to Lucic given his current contractual situation and a bar for the bare minimum he could expect in his next deal with Boston.
Both Lucic and Hartnell play a hybrid power forward game that mixes offensive production with varying degrees of nastiness. Lucic is a more fearsome fighter dealing in intimidation while Hartnell is more of rabble-rousing aggravator, but the Philly forward is also coming off a 37-goal, 67-point campaign that registers as his best NHL season.
Hartnell has averaged 25 goals a year over the last seven years in the NHL after originally being the No. 6 overall pick in the 2000 draft. He is also clearly one of the leaders in the Philadelphia dressing room.
Theres more of a long term body of work for Hartnell while Lucic is still growing into the vast potential within his 6-foot-3, 235-pound frame. But Lucic has also averaged 28 goals and 61.5 points over the last two seasons and is due for a healthy raise over the 4.083 million annual salary hes made over the last three seasons.
Its conceivable that a contract similar to Hartnells 28.5 million and 4.75 million cap hit would be in the cards for Lucic if he wanted to sign something that would assure hed be a member of the Bruins for the long haul. In all likelihood Lucic will agree to a short-term contract extension for two or three years as a restricted free agent and bank on a few more banner seasons before commanding a large extension for a higher average annual value.
But perhaps this is the perfect time for both the Bruins and Lucic to meet in the middle with something in the neighborhood of the six years and 28.5 million before this season is over.
An unrestricted Lucic on the free agent market would easily command upwards of 5 million per season in average annual value given his body of hard work, his solid reputation and the unique skills he brings to the table as he enters his prime years.
But somewhere along the line some of the current core of Bruins players as others like Patrice Bergeron and Johnny Boychuk have done before them will have to take a Black and Gold discount if they hope to keep their nucleus together.
A contract similar to Hartnells deal is a way Lucic could guarantee that his future remains in his second home city of Boston when it appears that change might be inevitable at the end of this upcoming year no matter what happens. Its a way that a Bruins team bumping up against the salary cap could keep the band together well beyond this upcoming season.
Its something to think about as anonymous NHL agents hammer Hartnell for doing what was best for him, and taking less money to remain in Philly presumably for the rest of his career in a spot he enjoys.
Thats something there really is no price tag for, after all.