The offseason is boring. The Bruins didn’t make any big free agent splashes. They haven’t made any huge trades or surprising roster moves.
The Draft was cool (URHO!!!!!) and so was Development Camp, but now it’s July, the official Hockey Doldrums®.
During the summer months, speculation and rumors run wild, and fans are left with nothing to fill their minds but “what if...” and “what about...”
For Bruins fans, there’s a giant question floating out there: what the hell is taking so long with David Pastrnak’s new contract?
It seems like it should be a slam dunk. The Bruins aren’t strapped for cash. Pastrnak isn’t a malcontent. He’s not a Phil Kessel or Dougie Hamilton, each of whom wanted out of Boston at the end of his ELC. I mean, for the love of God, they’re taking him to China! CHINA!!!!
Let’s take a look at some possible reasons why the deal is being delayed.
Reason #1: The Bruins are waiting on Ryan Spooner’s arbitration hearing
What to do with Spooner remains one of the bigger questions of the offseason (after signing Pastrnak). His arbitration hearing is in just a few days, after which the Bruins will have a better idea of what his contract will look like. Spooner’s deal (or lack thereof) may impact what the Bruins do over the rest of the summer. His deal could open a second buy-out window, which could lead to some roster shuffling.
His deal will also determine what kind of cap space the Bruins have, so they may want specifics before locking Pastrnak up.
Why this reason could be legit: The Bruins know they want to get Pastrnak’s deal done, and he wants to stay. However, what happens with Spooner could determine what other moves the Bruins make: maybe they trade him for a defenseman and need to ask Pastrnak to take a little less, for example. Or maybe they just want to make Pastrnak’s deal the icing on the cake for a completed offseason.
Why this reason could be bogus: Spooner’s deal isn’t going to prevent the Bruins from signing Pastrnak, unless he’s asking for Connor McDavid money (he isn’t). If the Bruins trade Spooner, it’s not going to be for a guy who’s going to take Pastrnak’s spot, nor is it likely to be for a guy with a big enough cap hit to cause trouble for Pastrnak.
Reason #2: The two sides can’t agree on a bridge or a long-term deal.
Ah, the bridge deal. It’s a team saying “prove it” to a player.
The Bruins did it with Tuukka Rask in 2012-2013, and he went out and led the team to a Stanley Cup Final; he was rewarded with a mega deal.
David Pastrnak is 21. His three-year ELC is done, but he remains a restricted free agent until he a) plays seven seasons in the league or b) reaches the age of 27. Obviously option A will come first, with Pastrnak slated to accrue seven years of service after the 2020-2021 season. The Bruins would probably prefer to lock Pastrnak up for seven years; however, that would bring him to age 28 and take three years of free agency away from him.
Pastrnak may prefer a four-year deal, where he takes a little less now but forces the Bruins to face the prospect of UFA Pastrnak when those four years are up.
Why this reason could be legit: Pastrnak and his agent aren’t dumb. Signing a seven-year deal now would make him a UFA at the age of 28, in 2025. A four-year deal would bring him to free agency at the more attractive age of 25 in 2021.
Why this reason could be bogus: If the Bruins make it worth his while (i.e. PAY THAT MAN HIS MONEY), there’s really no reason for Pastrnak to turn down a long-term deal. He’ll be a UFA when his contract is done, and he’ll still be in his 20s; he’ll hardly be yesterday’s news by that point.
Reason #3: There are signing bonus issues
It’s that time again, friends! Time to start preparing for another NHL lockout.
It’s kind of a joke, but there are signs that players and teams are already planning around a possible lockout when the current CBA expires.
Deals like the ones signed by Connor McDavid and Johnny Gaudreau, per Matt Kalman, feature “lockout-proof” signing bonuses; this means the players get that cash regardless of whether or not there’s a season.
It’s not too hard to imagine Pastrnak wanting to build some insurance into his deal, and it’s also not hard to imagine Bruins ownership balking at that prospect.
Why this reason could be legit: Pastrnak and his agent know a lockout is a possibility, and know that he needs to be taken care of in the event one occurs. If history is any guide, Jeremy Jacobs will be one of the leaders of the lockout talks, and may not be interested in lockout-proofing a deal.
Why this reason could be bogus: It’d be weird for Pastrnak and his camp to refuse to sign a deal just based on this. It’s not like he’d never get his money. He’d find himself in the same position as dozens of other players, getting his money when the lockout ends.
Reason #4: The sides can’t agree on money.
Money makes the world go round!
It’s easy to say “JUST PAY HIM, DON.” However, Don Sweeney needs to get his best young forward signed while also keeping the team flexible when it comes to the salary cap. He can’t just say “yup, sounds good” to the first number Pastrnak’s camp throws out there, as it could cripple the team a few years down the line.
Sweeney must balance keeping Pastrnak happy and keeping the team competitive; Pastrnak must take care of himself while also allowing the team to build around him.
It’s possible that Pastrnak wants an amount of money that would make him the team’s highest-paid forward, and it’s also possible that the Bruins aren’t comfortable making a 21-year-old kid higher paid than the Bergerons and Krejcis of the world.
Why this reason could be legit: You can’t blame Pastrnak and his camp if they ask for the moon. They know the Bruins need him, and they know what a talented pure scorer would be worth on the open market.
Why this reason could be bogus: The Bruins have plenty of space, and “appearances” are overrated. If the kid should be paid like your best scorer, then pay him. Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci aren’t going to pout if their teammate makes more money.
#5: Don Sweeney is on vacation
It’s summer. It’s vacation season. The Cape is nice. So is Maine. Maybe Don needed a break, geez. Get off his back.
Why this reason could be legit: It’s hot and humid, Don can’t work in these conditions.
Why this reason could be bogus: THERE ARE THINGS CALLED CELL PHONES, DON. YOU CAN MAKE DEALS FROM THE BEACH. THE LOBSTER ROLLS WILL STILL BE THERE IN A FEW WEEKS.