Patrice Bergeron has reportedly decided to return to the Boston Bruins, likely on a one-year deal, per Joe McDonald of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. This would answer the biggest offseason question for the team as the future of their captain was very much up in the air prior to this report. This would bring Bergeron back for his 19th NHL season.
The idea of Bergeron returning to the Bruins for even just one more season is a welcome one for Bruins’ fans who have had to endure a consistent stream of unfortunate news since their season ended. From the offseason surgeries to Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk and Mike Reilly (which carry recovery times of six months, six months, five months and three months respectively), to Bruce Cassidy being fired from his role as head coach to general manager Don Sweeney potentially getting a contract extension, it’s been a bad start to the offseason.
Knowing that Bergeron is likely to be back donning the Spoked-B and captain’s C on his chest this coming season make all of it a little more tolerable, though.
The soon-to-be 37-year-old Bergeron would score 25 goals and 65 points in 73 games last season and is fresh off of arguably the best defensive season’s in his entire career. Bergeron would cap off the year with a record-setting fifth Selke Trophy victory and has solidified himself as the most decorated two-way center the NHL has ever seen.
While most players get worse with age, Bergeron has somehow aged like a fine wine. The veteran center put together a dominant 2021-22 season and when he was on the ice during five-on-five play, the Bruins had 68.4% of the shots on goal, 66.3% of the shot attempts and 69.5% of the expected goals, per JFreshHockey. He also led the NHL in shot attempts allowed per 60 (40.4), Corsi For percentage (65.58), expected goals against per 60 (1.56), shot share (67.23), scoring chances against per 60 (18.85), high-danger attempts against per 60 (6.26) and shots for per 60 (48.47), per a Bruins’ press release.
Bergeron was able to cap off his 2021-22 regular season with the 400th regular-season goal of his NHL career, but the 1,000-point mark eluded him by just 18 points. As it stands, he has 400 goals and 982 points in 1,216 games. A new contract would all but guarantee he retires with 1,000 points in his career which would be just another feather in an already well-decorated cap of the Bruins’ captain.
If Bergeron is indeed back, though, this means that the Bruins will be putting off any sort of rebuild for at least one more season. Kicking the can a little further down the road means that Bruins management is going to need to dig deep and pull off some significant moves this offseason to bring this team closer to Stanley Cup contention. Working against them, however, is the salary cap — the Bruins have just over $2 million in projected cap space heading into the offseason before Bergeron’s contract factors in, and the three significant injuries set to hamper them to start the season.
With Marchand (the team’s No. 1 left winger), McAvoy (the team’s No. 1 defender), and Grzelcyk (one of the team’s top-two left-shot defenders), on the mend to start the season, the Bruins will need to at the very least wade water until their stars can return. This is easier with Bergeron in the mix, but it’s still a tall task nonetheless.
Bruins Need to Maneuver the Salary Cap This Offseason
To make everything work, the Bruins are undoubtedly going to have to make some moves to clear out contracts while bringing in impactful players. This is easier said than done, especially considering the fact that the Bruins don’t have a first-round pick to leverage in a deal this offseason. It’s unlikely that the Bruins use a buyout on the final year of Nick Foligno’s contract and though moving Derek Forbort’s $3 million contract might sound attractive now, it’s a little more difficult to swing such a move when so many defenders are out to start the season.
Still, between the contracts of Forbort ($3 million), Foligno ($3.8 million), Chris Wagner ($1.35 million) and Tomas Nosek ($1.75 million), the Bruins are on the hook for $9.9 million for players that are far from essential to the team. If you add in Jake DeBrusk’s $4 million which could come off the books if the team moves him, the Bruins would free up $13.9 million. This would give them a lot more breathing room to potentially bring in another top-six winger and potentially a second-line center.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a video game and the real world doesn’t always work as simply as saying “let’s get rid of these contracts” and the problem suddenly resolving itself. The Bruins will need to be creative this offseason and work towards bolstering the top end of their roster within the confines of the salary cap. It won’t be easy, but with Bergeron back and the team’s contention window firmly shutting once he retires, the time to throw caution to the wind is now.
Brandon Share-Cohen has covered the NHL and various professional sports for seven years. Working with The Hockey Writers, Brandon works extensively on covering the Boston Bruins in addition to his role as the News Team Lead.