By Matthew Cunha
The Boston Bruins are set to open camp on September 14th. Their second leading goal scorer from last season will likely not be present as 21-year-old David Pastrnak is a restricted free agent who stunningly, remains without a contract. A holdout, from the Czech winger, is all but inevitable this late into the summer.
Last season, Pastrnak scored 34 goals for the Bruins and added 36 assists. Both totals only trailed late season MVP candidate Brad Marchand. Point being, his presence on the Bruins for the 2017-18 season is vital if they have any chance of making it back to the playoffs this year. For those who do not follow the Bruins, Pastrnak is comparable to the Red Sox’s Andrew Benintendi in the terms of skill and age.
The situation is mind boggling to me in two areas; first off, how did the Bruins let this situation take this long? As a RFA, the leverage was in the Bruins corner and very rarely will other teams in the NHL send offer sheets to other teams’ players. The Bruins had every opportunity to offer Pastrnak a suitable contract in early summer and even during the season. Now, thanks to GM Peter Chiarelli, the market for Pastrnak has exploded to the $8-9 million range.
In Edmonton, Chiarelli signed fellow 21-year-old and RFA Leon Draisaitl to a high 8-year, $8.5 million a year contract. Draisaitl finished the season with 77 points (7 more than Pastrnak) for the Oilers and scored 29 goals. In essence, Draisaitl and Pastrnak are the same player in the same situation but because the Bruins waited this long, it raised the value of Pastrnak.
In a hard cap league, a few million dollars can be a big deal in the long run. Especially with David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Backes and Tuukka Rask all having cap hits of over $6 million. The Bruins have a lot of emerging prospects on the cusp and in order to keep this young nucleus together in 3 to 4 years (such as Charlie McAvoy) they are going to need all the cap space they can create.
The second thing that is mind boggling about this situation is the fact yet another 21-year-old who has played three years in the league is holding out for a contract. A contract that will likely be higher than Stanley Cup champion and assistant captain Patrice Bergeron’s $6.875 million per year deal. If a contract similar to Draisaitl’s has to be dished out to each prospect that finds success in just three years, the Bruins won’t be going anywhere but out of town with their up and coming prospects. The NHL needs to set limits on players coming off their rookie contracts if they want to stick to a hard cap.
David Pastrnak will not be Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton, or Phil Kessel. Come the season opener, he will be in black and gold, however, it is gonna cost the Bruins a steep price. The situation shows the Bruins and GM Don Sweeney are incapable negotiators. A skilled 21-year-old RFA should never get to the point of a holdout. Under no circumstances. It’s unacceptable. It leaves too much at risk, especially with a team whose management has buried itself again and again.
Matthew Cunha is a producer of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.