At this point in the negotiations between David Pastrnak and the Bruins, it should be painstakingly clear that there will be no easy option for the Black and Gold.
Months ago, the Bruins and Pastrnak’s camp discussed a deal in the neighborhood of six years and $36 million, as first reported by CSN New England, but that ship sailed when Connor McDavid, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Ryan Johansen and Leon Draisaitl all signed massive contracts as young, restricted free agents in a summer where elite young players saw their market go way, way up.
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So, the Bruins will need to step up and find some sort of middle ground on a long-term deal between $6 million per season and the $8.5 million per season that Draisaitl received, or they’ll need to somehow get Pastrnak’s camp to agree on a shorter bridge deal that comes with all kinds of risk down the line. Either option could include a Pastrnak holdout into training camp as both sides brace for the best deal possible. That’s something that would begin to impact this year’s team in a negative way.
The other, almost unthinkable, option: A trade of another talented young player. Don Sweeney and the Bruins have already stated they don’t want to trade the 21-year-old right winger, who is coming off a 34-goal, 70-points point season, and that goes in line with everything Sweeney and Cam Neely have said since Dougie Hamilton essentially forced them to trade him away to the Calgary Flames.
Neely and Sweeney have been consistent in their message of saying the Bruins are done “sprinkling their talent around the rest of the league”, and everyone is on the same page evaluating Pastrnak as a massive talent. So a trade involving Pastrnak doesn’t appear on the horizon and it really shouldn’t as long as the Black and Gold think the game-breaking, young right winger wants to remain in Boston.
What would a trade of Pastrnak look like if Sweeney and the Bruins did get to the point where the nuclear option was necessary?
Felger and Mazz earlier this week floated the scenario of a Pastrnak-for-Noah Hanifin trade with the Carolina Hurricanes making a lot of practical sense for the Bruins. Certainly, the Bruins are looking for a young left-shot defenseman who could be an heir apparent to 40-year-old Zdeno Chara and the jury is way out as to whether young prospect Jakub Zboril will ever be that guy. There’s also the fact that acquiring Hanifin would allow Sweeney to go full circle after he tried to trade up to nab the former Boston College D-man in the 2015 draft, in which the Bruins made three consecutive selections in the middle of the first round.
But let’s be honest here. The 20-year-old Hanifin hasn’t quite developed in Carolina as many projected when he was a lottery pick for the Hurricanes. He wasn’t even a top-four defenseman for most of the year in Carolina while falling short of 18 minutes of ice time per game, and he was a team-worst minus-19 in 81 games for the Hurricanes.
If the Bruins ever actually did trade Pastrnak, they’d need to get the same kind of elite, young player in return. It’s clear Hanifin isn’t anywhere close to the level of a player who busted out for 34 goals and 70 points last season. A deal that would make more sense for the Bruins would be another member of the 2015 draft class in Columbus, D-man Zach Werenski, but there’s no way the Blue Jackets would deal a player that looks like a Norris Trophy contender for the next 10 plus years. That’s the rub with potentially dealing Pastrnak and what puts the Black and Gold into such a difficult spot.
If the Bruins did indeed trade a young, star player for another team’s top young player, they are going to have to show the player they bring in the money just like they’re eventually going to have to pay Pastrnak. And another team isn’t going to trade away their young star if they’ve already got him locked up in a reasonable long-term contract.
The bottom line with No. 88 is that he’s the perfect fit for the speedier, skilled philosophy that the Bruins are emphasizing these days and that the B’s don’t have anything else in their organization that’s even close to his game-breaking, electric ability.
The best possible solution for Sweeney remains figuring out a way to close a deal with Pastrnak on a contract that will keep him happy and productive in Boston, and in doing so avoiding another futile repeat of the Original Six organization’s handling of Phil Kessel, Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton over the past 10 years.