Over the past eight seasons, Boston Bruins faithful have become far too used to the organization trading away young talent.
In 2009, which feels like forever ago, Phil Kessel was on the chopping block, sent to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a blockbuster deal between divisional rivals. Come 2013, the return for Kessel, first-round pick-turned-young sniper Tyler Seguin, was shipped out to the Dallas Stars in a shocking summer deal. And little more than two years ago, it was Dougie Hamilton, an up-and-comer who looked like the heir apparent to Zdeno Chara’s No. 1 defenseman throne, who ended up elsewhere, traded to the Calgary Flames after contract negotiations hit a snag.
All this is to say that when rumor surfaced earlier this week about the Bruins potentially trading David Pastrnak, even the most staunch denier of the report may have had a tinge of doubt, a sinking feeling that it may actually come to pass. But it appears those doubts, no matter what size, can be put to rest, as Boston GM Don Sweeney didn’t mince words when shooting down the speculation.
"Not trading Pastrnak," Sweeney told The Boston Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupont in an email Monday evening.
That sound you hear is Bruins faithful breathing a collective sigh of relief.
In some respects, it’s understandable why the rumor came about. Some — or most — expected Boston to have locked Pastrnak up by now. The 21-year-old restricted free agent more than made his case for a new contract over the course of the past campaign, breaking out in a big way with a 34-goal, 70-point season that put him second behind only Brad Marchand in Bruins’ scoring. This past season, Pastrnak proved he could handle top-line minutes, formed a formidable combination alongside Marchand and Patrice Bergeron and helped power one of the league’s best special teams units. Pastrnak had 10 goals and 24 points on Boston’s seventh-ranked power play.
With numbers like that, the expectation was Pastrnak was in for a big-money, long-term contract, and the thought was he’d be receiving it in short order once the season came to a close. The off-season started without Pastrnak getting a new deal, though, and has carried on through July and into mid-August without such a contract being inked by the Czech winger.
The reasons why he hasn’t signed yet could be plentiful, of course. Maybe the two sides can agree on term but not on salary. Maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe Pastrnak is waiting to see what other young stars, most notably Leon Draisaitl, are set to receive before he signs, hoping that a comparable contract could up his earnings on his next deal. But no matter the hang-ups, it doesn’t really seem as though the negotiation is all too contentious. Pastrnak has said he’s left the contract talks up to his agent, J.P. Barry, and Barry suggested he and the Bruins’ front office are at work on a deal.
"The negotiations between myself and Don have been very open and both sides understand each other's positions,” Barry told The Boston Globe in an email. “Hopefully we can agree on an overall structure that is amenable to both sides in the next month.”
And any deal with Pastrnak — long-term or short-term, bridge or otherwise — is a great sign for the Bruins and an indication that Boston is changing its tune when it comes to young potential all-star players, showing a commitment to building around young stars instead of moving those players along as they’ve done in the past.
That’s important, too, given that most of the current top-level talent on the Bruins roster is of the veteran variety. Bergeron, while still one of the best centers in the game, is 32. Marchand celebrated his 29th birthday this off-season. David Backes, a major signing last summer, is 33. David Krejci is 31. On the back end, there’s some equally elder talent. Chara will turn 41 before the season ends, Adam McQuaid is months away from 31 and Kevan Miller will be 30 shortly after the season begins. That means the Bruins, who have an aging core, need to begin to bulking up not through trades but through youth. It may be the only way to become competitive again while Bergeron, Marchand and others are still able to contribute to a potential Stanley Cup contender.
And Boston does have some youth coming aboard. Consider the group of young stars who stand to fight for roster spots this coming campaign. Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson got a taste of the NHL at the conclusion of the past campaign and could slot into a spot with the big club this coming season. Anders Bjork has potential to earn a spot, as well. The same goes for Zach Senyshyn. On the back end, Charlie McAvoy is considered one of the top defensive prospects in the game, and Jakub Zboril and Jeremy Lauzon could be regular NHLers in relatively short order. Add Pastrnak to that group and the Bruins, who ranked 10th in Future Watch 2017, have a nice stable of prospects who can refresh the group.
But all those prospects are only any good to the Bruins if they’re able to keep them around, and that’s going to start with committing to Pastrnak. He may only have one breakout season under his belt, but it was as good a breakout season as any Bruins youngster this side of Bergeron has had in the post-lockout era. Trading him now would be a regrettable move, maybe more so than the trades of Kessel, Seguin and Hamilton in the past, and Boston should be pleased that Sweeney stopped that rumor before it could even really get rolling.
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