Bruins and Pastrnak Have Plenty of Time to Work on an Extension

Since getting drafted in the first round of the 2014 NHL Entry Level Draft and making his NHL debut as an 18-year-old on Nov. 24, 2014, David Pastrnak has cemented himself as an instrumental part of the Boston Bruins’ offense. They are a drastically better team with him on the ice versus not on it, which is why many have started to become concerned about his future with the team. It was made worse by comments he made this past week in a Czech article that seem to imply his frustrations with the team’s lack of a Stanley Cup.

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It is important to reiterate that the comments were made in Czech, and a lot can get lost in translation, and it seems like a lot was by the Google translation, as pointed out by native speakers. But the article has once again brought up the concerns about Pastrnak’s future in Boston.

However, it is early. The regular season hasn’t even started yet, and Bruins general manager Don Sweeney has a tendency to sign his extensions during the season rather than the offseason beforehand. Also, it is very valid for a guy like Pastrnak to want to have a better idea of where the future of the team is going before wanting to sign a long-term extension. While his comments weren’t as dire as the Google translation made it sound, he does make a good point that he is entering his ninth season with only one Stanley Cup Final appearance and a very uncertain future.

Pastrnak’s Place With the Bruins

Pastrnak is 26 years old and has scored 504 points in 510 NHL games, including 240 goals. He’s also a plus-86, meaning the Bruins score way more goals when he is on the ice than their opponents (part of this is definitely because he’s spent a good chunk of his career with one of the all-time best two-way players as his center). He was the co-winner of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy for the 2019-20 season for most goals scored. In addition to his regular season stats, he has 74 points in 70 playoff games, including 19 points in 24 games during their 2019 Stanley Cup Final appearance. 

At times over the past few years, the Bruins have struggled to find a spark on offense, particularly at 5-on-5. Pastrnak is one of the few players who has consistently been able to jump-start scoring. Of his 504 career points, only 165 have come on the power play, which comes out to roughly a third of his points, meaning nearly two-thirds of his points are coming at even strength. So while he has been an excellent player on the power play at times, he’s even more valuable for what he can do without it. 

David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While the Bruins have found ways for them to win when he’s not on the ice, they are a much more dynamic offense when he is present, and if he does not sign an extension in Boston, they will not be able to fill his spot on the roster. In his eight seasons, he has become an essential part of the offense. 

If you’re looking at the future core of the Bruins, Pastrnak is certainly a huge part of that. He, in addition to Charlie McAvoy, Hampus Lindholm, Jeremy Swayman, and Fabian Lysell (whenever he makes the jump to the NHL), are a talented group that could compete with any other young core in the NHL. The struggle, of course, is building a complete team around them.

Not Time to Panic

Pastrnak has every right to wait on signing an extension. He is in the prime of his career, and like any athlete, he wants to win. No one but Pastrnak’s team and Bruins management truly know about the conversations that have been had at this point, so there is no point in panicking about a deal not being done yet; it honestly makes sense for both sides to wait. 

The Bruins have a very murky future ahead of them and need to figure out what direction they’re going in. Will they be able to rebuild on the fly as they did after missing the playoffs in 2015? Or is there a much bigger rebuild for them on the horizon? If that is the case, they may not want to commit to Pastrnak for a long-term deal, and if he wants to win, he may not want to stick around either. They are also right up against the salary cap and need to do some maneuvering to be able to afford him. 

For Pastrnak’s camp, this is always a time for players to bet on themselves. If he thinks he has another level to his game (which would be incredible to see), then why sign a contract now when he could earn himself an even bigger payday a few months from now? Again, it’s important to mention that he wants to win, and the Bruins’ future is pretty uncertain at the moment. Waiting a few months to see how Pavel Zacha shakes out in Boston or how prospects further develop will help give a better idea of where this roster is going and if he wants to be part of it long-term.

The Ideal Situation for Both Sides

What I would love to see happen is Pastrnak signing a 3- to 4-year deal at some point in November or December. This keeps a central figure of the Bruins roster on the team for a few years without locking him in for too long in case there is a big rebuild on the horizon. In sports, there’s often the idea of the “show-me” contract, a short-term contract to see if a player is worth committing more money and larger terms too. In this case, it’s a show-me contract for the Bruins. Can they build a contender or at least be legitimately on the way to becoming one and keep Pastrnak around longer? 

Don Sweeney Bruins
Don Sweeney, Boston Bruins general manager (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Pastrnak is a terrific player and central to this roster, but he can’t win a Stanley Cup on his own. When Bergeron, Krejci, and Marchand inevitably retire, who is left? At the moment, there doesn’t really seem to be anyone, and that isn’t a great sign for a guy who wants to win. 

The future of Pastrnak in Boston will be in question until either he signs an extension or signs elsewhere. Just because he has not signed yet does not mean he’s on his way out. Both sides have questions to answer, and when an eight-year contract is potentially on the table, there need to be answers. 

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The start of the 2022-23 season will be particularly important for the Bruins. With Marchand out until about December, there will be an opportunity to see who this team is without him and what the future direction may be. It’ll also provide answers to how Pastrnak steps up in his absence. At this point, waiting to sign an extension is the best option, and there is plenty of time to get one done once the season is underway.

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