Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said on Friday that David Pastrnak’s extension is “moving towards getting done.” ESPN’s Emily Kaplan wrote on Tuesday morning that the two sides are “financially very close” and that it’s “tracking to get done this season, after some progress the last few weeks.”
That’s the good news if you’re the Bruins or a Bruins fan. Friedman and Kaplan aren’t just guessing at this. They’re as tied in as anyone in the hockey world, and if they’re saying things like that, it’s a pretty safe bet that a deal is in fact getting close to completion.
These negotiations have dragged on longer than pretty much anyone anticipated, but as long as they end with Pastrnak remaining in Boston for many years to come, no one is really going to care how long it took.
But Friedman and Kaplan also shared some details that suggest that the Bruins aren’t entirely comfortable with where this contract is ultimately going to end up.
“I think when this is over, we will find out that David Pastrnak pushed the Boston Bruins in a position they didn’t think they would get to and didn’t want to be in,” Friedman said. “What’s the biggest weapon you have in a negotiation? It’s the willingness to say no. I think David Pastrnak had a willingness to say, ‘Look, if you guys aren’t going to do this, it’s gonna be a problem.’ And I think he pushed the Bruins into an area that maybe they didn’t want to go in. I think it’s gonna get done because I think they recognized it has to get done. That’s my opinion.”
Kaplan echoed that sentiment on Tuesday.
“It sounds like Pastrnak will get paid on level with the top stars in the league, and for more money than Boston’s front office was originally budgeting,” she wrote.
So, what does that mean in terms of actual numbers? Well, you can break those “top stars” into a few tiers. Nathan MacKinnon and Connor McDavid are at the very top with cap hits of $12.6 and $12.5 million, respectively (beginning next season in MacKinnon’s case). Then there’s Artemi Panarin, Auston Matthews and Erik Karlsson all in the $11.5-11.7M range. Next comes Drew Doughty, John Tavares and Mitch Marner all between $10.9-11M.
It would be silly for the Bruins front office to be uncomfortable with anything less than that, so we can pretty safely assume that this price range that they “didn’t think they would get to and didn’t want to be in” is at least $11 million per year, for the maximum eight years they can sign him for.
The question is whether it’s closer to the $11 million side of that top stars level or if it approaches that MacKinnon/McDavid $12.5 million tier.
To Friedman’s final point, it has to get done. Even if it costs the Bruins $1-1.5 million more per year than they were hoping, they simply have to lock up Pastrnak. Their chances of competing for Stanley Cups in the post-Patrice Bergeron years are better with Pastrnak, worse without him.
Their chances of using the $11-12 million they would save by not signing Pastrnak on someone who would be as impactful are low. They would then be right back in the market for an elite goal-scorer that they would have to get into a bidding war for, and it’s not like there are Rocket Richard contenders on the trade or free-agent markets very often anyways.
Nonetheless, paying Pastrnak more than they anticipated obviously does affect the Bruins’ planning moving forward. That $1-1.5 million could be the difference between being able to afford to give a nice depth player like Trent Frederic or Connor Clifton a raise this summer vs. having to let them walk. Or on the upper end of the roster, it could affect how high they can go in a bidding war for a future No. 1 center at some point.
Those are bridges to cross when the Bruins get there, though. Whatever problems they might face in the months and years to come would be a lot tougher if they also had to replace Pastrnak. Having Pastrnak in the fold should help them attract players anyways, so take care of Pastrnak first -- no matter the cost -- and figure out the rest later. It sounds like the Bruins are getting close to completing that first step.