Sweeney’s Tenure as Bruins GM Could Hinge on Pastrnak Deal

During his time as Boston Bruins general manager (GM), Don Sweeney has had his moments of success, while also having his moments of failure. There really has been no in-between.

While there has been both success and failures, the former Bruins’ defensemen faces arguably his biggest challenge during his eight years as GM in the coming weeks. David Pastrnak enters the final year of his current contract and is the former Maurice Rocket Richard Award co-winner in the 2019-20 season with Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. The 26-year-old has earned a big payday, but the question has been asked and will continue to be asked, will that payday happen in Boston or somewhere else? The end result could very well determine Sweeney’s future in Boston calling the shots. Losing Pastrnak in a trade during this season or next offseason would be devastating to the Bruins organization.

Sweeney Needs to Sign Pastrnak Before the Regular-Season Starts

Prior to the 2021-22 season, Sweeney locked up defensemen Charlie McAvoy on an eight-year, $76 million contract, then signed Hampus Lindholm to an eight-year, $52 million extension after he was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks at the trade deadline last March. Locking up a top defensive pairing was key for the future.

Now, Sweeney faces his biggest challenge yet as he needs to reach an agreement with Pastrnak to remain a Bruin for the foreseeable future. Sweeney has said multiple times that he has had preliminary discussions with Pastrnak’s agent, but nothing has gotten serious. That needs to change as Pastrnak enters Warrior Ice Arena later this week for the start of training camp.

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

“They’re going to talk to David and attack it as soon as we can,” said Sweeney. “They know the position the organization is in and how aggressive we’d like to be. David has a say in that, obviously, so you hope the two things align and you move forward in an aggressive manner. You’re right, he’s a big part of the Boston Bruins.”

There has been some talk, but not a lot of traction towards a new deal. Sweeney has been good at locking up young players for a long time, but he will have his work cut out for him if he’s going to get Pastrnak to sign on the dotted line before the season opener on Oct. 12 against the Washington Capitals. Pastrnak said that he wants to remain with the Bruins, but that does not mean something will get done.

Sweeney’s Tenure as GM Could Depend on Pastrnak Deal

Yes, there have been some mistakes made by Sweeney. There is no need to look further than the 2015 Entry Draft and the three consecutive first-round picks that have not worked out. Only Jake DeBrusk of the three picks has made much of an impact, but in six seasons, he has yet to score 100 goals for his career. Jakub Zboril is on his way to making an impact on a full-time basis as early as this season, but the other pick in 2015, Zach Senyshyn, requested a trade last season and was dealt to the Ottawa Senators.

If things had fallen differently during that draft, we could be talking about at least one Stanley Cup championship in Sweeney’s tenure. The Bruins got to Game 7 in 2019 at home before falling to the St. Louis Blues. Despite it being Sweeney’s fourth year in charge of the team, there were more fingerprints of that roster from Peter Chiarelli than there was Sweeney. Regardless, looking at who was taken following Zboril, DeBrusk and Senyshyn leave Bruins fans with more frustration.

There will come a point when Sweeney may have to sit in front of Pastrnak and sell him on the future of the franchise, which right now does not have a promising look. Lack of drafting, development, and repeated free agent signings of veterans has the Black and Gold looking at a rebuild in the not-too-distant future. Is that something that Pastrnak wants to be a part of at this point in his career? No, but Sweeney needs to have a plan in place to sell the 25th overall pick of the 2014 Draft by Chiarelli that the Bruins are going to invest in the team and stay a championship contender. 

Don Sweeney Boston Bruins
Don Sweeney, General Manager of the Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

All eyes around the league are going to be watching how the Pastrnak situation unfolds. Does he sign long-term beyond this upcoming season, or do both sides reach an impasse and the Bruins look to trade their consistent goal-scorer by the trade deadline? Sweeney and the front office can’t let the situation turn into what happened with Johnny Gaudreau with the Calgary Flames, where they held onto him and lost him for nothing in free agency to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Also, let’s not forget, even though there is a lot of money coming off the books for Boston ahead of 2023-24, goalie Jeremy Swayman is playing on the third and final season of his entry-level deal with a very nice $925,000 average annual value (AAV). He looks like the goaltender of the future for the Black and Gold and he will also be seeking a payday this upcoming summer. 

Related: Pastrnak Wants Contract Extension With Bruins

First things first, however, and Pastrnak is priority number one heading into camp. If not, it’s going to be a distraction hanging over the Bruins all season long. Not signing him and being forced to trade him or let him leave for nothing next summer would set the organization back further and have bigger consequences than the 2015 Draft. If that happens and they lose a talented player like Pastrnak that does not come around all the time would be tough for first-year Jim Montgomery and the locker room to swallow moving forward. At that point, team president Cam Neely, owners Jeremy, and Charlie Jacobs then need to figure out of Sweeney is the guy to lead a rebuild or not. A vote of confidence that Sweeney got from Neely and the Jacobs’ can only go so far for so long. If he can’t re-sign Pastrnak and a rebuild is next, then upper management needs to figure out if Sweeney can lead that rebuild or not.

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