It’s been two full seasons since Peter Chiarelli was fired as the general manager of the Boston Bruins, but the former general manager still might have some say so over Boston’s salary cap situation moving forward. Chiarelli was pushed out in Boston as a result of a long stretch of poor drafts and some ill-advised contracts that edged the Bruins into salary cap trouble.
He was almost immediately hired as general manager of the Edmonton Oilers, and it’s in that capacity with his penchant for giving out generous deals that he might just put the screws once again to the Black and Gold. It all relates to the unresolved negotiations between the Bruins and 21-year-old restricted free agent David Pastrnak as he hits among a talented pool of RFA’s that haven’t yet been signed by their teams more than week since the July 1 open of free agency.
Don Sweeney said last weekend that he continues to speak with Pastrnak’s agent, JP Barry, and the hope is that the Bruins will close a long term deal with him sooner rather than later.
“Just had some talks this week with [Pastrnak’s] group and hopefully that will lead to a resolution at some point in time, in the near future, but we have no timeline,” said Sweeney, while speaking on the final day of Bruins development camp at Warrior Ice Arena.
To recap Pastrnak’s situation, there is virtually zero danger of an offer sheet being extended for an RFA in the world of the NHL, so the Bruins aren’t in a whole lot of real danger of that happening with their game-breaking right winger. Furthermore, the B’s have north of $13 million in salary cap space open to match any offer sheets that did theoretically materialize as they enter the typically quiet period of the NHL offseason.
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Sources with knowledge of the negotiations said that progress was being made on a deal that would pay Pastrnak something just shy, both in term and AAV (average annual value), of the eight year, $49 million contract signed by Brad Marchand last fall. Something more in the neighborhood of six years, $36 million was thought to be what Pastrnak was looking at prior to Connor McDavid, Carey Price and Evgeny Kuznetsov all signing big money deals over the last few weeks.
It sounds like the Bruins have gone from encouraging progress to not much happening since McDavid, Price and Kuznetsov, among others, agreed to inflated deals that may lift the waters for free agent boats around the league when it comes to elite players looking for new contracts. None of them are straight-up comparable players to Pastrnak after his breakout campaign saw him net 34 goals and 70 points last season, but the bottom line is that elite, game-breaking players are seeing spikes to their market value.
Getting back to Chiarelli and the Oilers, one player that is a direct comparable to Pastrnak is fellow 21-year-old restricted free agent center Leon Draisaitl. The young top flight Edmonton center is still unsigned after McDavid got his $12 million plus per year contract, and there were even mild Draisaitl trade whispers that the Oil won’t be able to afford both of those talented young centers.
Both Pastrnak and Draisaitl were first round picks from the same 2014 draft class, both had breakout third campaigns with comparable numbers and both have been brilliant performers on the international stage over the last couple of seasons. So it makes perfect sense that the hold-up for Pastrnak with the Bruins is simply waiting for Draisaitl to sign with the Oilers, and seeing if he sets a bigger, more lucrative market for his fellow restricted free agents.
It could very well be that the talented, well-regarded Draisaitl tops $7 million in AAV with the Oilers when it’s all said and done, and that forces Sweeney and the B’s into inflating the final salary numbers for Pastrnak before it’s a done deal. Clearly the Bruins are going to do whatever it takes to lock down a player in Pastrnak that they see as a big building block for the franchise’s future, and that means paying more than they’d like to if it comes to that.
It would just be the ultimate in hockey irony if it’s another helping of Chiarelli largesse in contract negotiations that ends up costing the B’s once again in the end.