Once again, the Boston Bruins’ performance on the ice took center stage over the last few days. From their emotional 4-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs to David Krejci capping off his 1,000th career NHL game with a three-assist performance against the Philadelphia Flyers, the league-leading Bruins once again created further separation from the rest of the pack.
Along the way, they sprinkled in more Czech mix through off-ice developments.
The Bruins announced Pavel Zacha’s four-year, $19 million contract extension shortly after their thrilling triumph over their Original Six foes. The former Devil, who arrived in Boston during the off-season in a deal involving Erik Haula going to New Jersey, scored twice and added an assist in Monday’s 6-0 rout of Philly.
Zacha’s acquisition and subsequent signing gave the Bruins some needed flexibility in the post-Krejci and Patrice Bergeron era. He’s on pace for a 50-point season even as he encountered snakebitten stretches throughout his first year in Boston.
And now Don Sweeney turns his attention to locking up the third wheel of the all-Czech trio.
Frankly, he’s provided full attention to David Pastrnak’s camp throughout the season. But given recent reports from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and an update from Pastrnak’s agent, J.P. Barry (through Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald), the Bruins may very well enter the home stretch following the rumored progressions in the negotiations.
Sweeney didn’t provide any update to the press during Saturday’s briefing. He only had one answer to the query of a Pastrnak update amid the press conference to confirm the Zacha signing.
“No,” Sweeney said on the Pastrnak update.
Even so, Sweeney touched on his potentially signing his pending free agents. Each situation is unique as Sweeney balances the impending in-house contract extensions and acquiring external help at the trade deadline.
Given their torrid pace, the Bruins may only need a bottom-six and a defensive depth piece or two. But Sweeney shouldn’t hesitate to submit inquiries for the top commodities on a currently passive trade market, including Bo Horvat and Patrick Kane.
“You’ve got to hope you stay healthy. I think we have a good hockey team, and I think we’re deep,” Sweeney said.
“There haven’t been a lot of trades up to this point. We’ll have to see going forward. It will take some creativity for clubs like our own that have some cap challenges. Chances are, most of the teams that are hoping to have an opportunity to play in the playoffs generally have cap challenges, and we’re no different. But we’re going to try to do our best to play the best team we possibly can.”
As he navigates through that balancing act, the top item on his to-do list centers around Pastrnak. Since the summer, both parties have publicly admitted to extending their partnership.
“Yeah, of course,” Pastrnak said before the start of training camp. “This city is where I got the chance to become the player I am, to become the human being I am. Boston, the organization is an unbelievable part of it. I came here as a kid, and now I’m a man. I’m extremely happy. A lot of great memories. I’ve said many times I love it here, and it’s an honor to wear this jersey.”
No matter where he signs, Pastrnak will earn every penny. He’s performing at a nearly 67-goal pace in the final season of the $6.66 million six-year per year deal he signed before the 2017-18 campaign.
Pastrnak developed into a perennial-Rocket Richard candidate during his time in Boston. Barring a significant hometown discount, he’ll likely enter the $10-$12 million range for his next contract.
Re-signing Pastrnak would likely result in potential salary cap casualties, however. Between keeping their in-house talent, solidifying the middle of their top-six post-Bergeron and Krejci and even restocking their pipeline, Sweeney will undoubtedly embark on one of the more challenging times assembling a roster for the present and future.
“My job is to put the best team on the ice year to year…balance it, and live in the moment for what this group is trying to accomplish. And good on them,” Sweeney said. “It’s a process-driven group. We’ll address things as they come, and I’ll do the best job I possibly can.”
Pastrnak remains a significant short and long-term cog. And perhaps it’s only a matter of time before the two parties embark on another long-term investment.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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