By: Cam McCusker | Follow Me On Twitter @CSthinks
Professional hockey is absolutely a business. Money is connected to every move that is made, and labor laws stipulate that each player must be compensated for their work for each organization. The balance between spending money and maintaining a deep, effective roster, is a very delicate one.
Such is the reason that often times, teams that sign multiple superstars to lucrative contracts are often left vulnerable to weaknesses in other areas. You know, the areas that they’re not rapidly throwing dollar bills at (or for Canadian teams, the areas that they’re not rapidly throwing dollar bills at, eh).
In this area, General Manager Don Sweeney is at a pretty significant advantage when it comes to negotiating chips in contract discussions with players entertaining the idea of playing in Boston. These negotiating chips are the team-friendly contracts of his three most prolific point scorers in Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand. And, in light of the most recent contract extension reached by the Bruins front office, Zdeno Chara’s contract might be one to point to as well.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) March 23, 2019
If the Bruins’ four most valuable (debatable in a couple cases) players are willingly getting paid less than what they would make if they hit the open market, then any future contract negotiations essentially boil down to whether or not the players in question value playing and winning in Boston more than money. If I’m Don Sweeney, and any player attempts to negotiate for a contract north of $7 million per year, then I’m asking one question.
“Okay, so how much better do you think you are than Patrice Bergeron? You know, Patrice Bergeron? Our point-per-game first line center who has won four Selke Trophies and brought this team a Stanley Cup? The guy who has consistently been regarded as a top-5 player in the entire league? Yeah. He makes a little over $6 million per year. How much better than him do you think you are again?”
Okay, a few questions.
Now, is that an oversimplification? Absolutely. Did I get a little carried away? Maybe. Do I have great hair? You’re damn right I do.
But that’s neither hair nor there.
The point is that any player that requests more money out of an organization whose top players have already proven that they care more about succeeding and winning in Boston than a few (million) extra bucks… well, they might not be a great fit. If the culture is built around winning and paying players fairly provided that they all buy into a winning philosophy and style of play, then there simply is no room for prima donnas, who are out to make more money than they will ever need at the expense of the team’s success.
Patrice Bergeron is the Bruins’ best hockey player and has been for quite some time now. He might be as highly regarded as any one player in the National Hockey League. And year after year, he affirms through his contract that he does not presume to be better, or more important than the Bruins’ organization or the success that they strive for.
So how would any player on the Bruins feel entitled to more than Bergeron? David Pastrnak, the Bruins leading goal scorer for much of the year and most lethal powerplay threat is attached to a similar contract, despite being much more valuable on the open market. When asked if he was disappointed about his contract and having potentially left money on the table, Pastrnak responded without a moment’s hesitation that he was not. He’s just living his dream.
Pastrnak has no regrets re: contract: “If you (told) me when I was 15, I’d be playing for $6m a year (at) 22, I’d be like, ‘I don’t think you’re saying the truth.’ Just a dream come true. I’m happy for what I’m getting. I could be playing in Czech for a couple hundred a month.”
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) November 26, 2018
When Torey Krug’s contract is up, there is certainly a possibility that he heads elsewhere to make as much cash as he can. If he does, then good for him. But it would be a mistake for all parties involved for him to stay and out-earn the Bruins most valuable players. Krug is exceptionally gifted offensively, and as such is a valuable member of the Bruins. But he is, by no standard, more valuable than any of the aforementioned players who have attached themselves to contracts that make the Bruins a better team.
Fair play, fair pay.
The contracts of the B’s first line, in addition to Zdeno Chara’s contract extension, set the bar for the young talent that are approaching their next contract negotiations. If each decides to get paid for what they are worth to the team, then the next man in line will get paid fairly as well. But my guess is that anyone that tries to squeeze the Bruins for as many pennies as possible might not get what they’re hoping for. And we might not see too much of them in the future.
If you’re looking for proof that this type of business model can be successful for a professional sports team, then may I interest you in a serving of the New England Patriots? Every year, they pay players fairly to do a good job, they have immense success, and then the same players leave to get paid more than they are worth to never win another Super Bowl. Or something to that effect.
Either way, if I’m Don Sweeney, then I’m feeling pretty good about contract negotiations, thanks to my top dogs.
Friendly reminder that the Bruins have Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak all signed under contract at a combined $19.6M until 2022.
— Ty Anderson (@_TyAnderson) December 23, 2017
Playing for Boston might not make any one player the richest in the league, but it will certainly give them a chance to be part of a winning culture.
And after all, it’s very seldom that you hear of a child beginning to play hockey due to his burning desire for money. You play hockey for the love of the game, and the desire to compete and win alongside like-mind teammates.
That sounds better, anyway.