By: Michael DiGiorgio | Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio
Since the NHL released its Return to Play schedule, the NHL community has been buzzing with news and rumors. The latest news comes from NBC Boston Sportswriter, Joe Haggerty.
If Jake DeBrusk “is a $6 million a year player” as some like @Bob_Stauffer have suggested, then the Bruins might be in salary cap jeopardy…particularly after DeBrusk’s agent suggested today that a Black and Gold hometown discount wasnt in the plans 🏒🏆💰https://t.co/wdSlyIxx2Q
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) July 6, 2020
On NBC Sports Boston Zoom Call, Bob Stauffer announced his thoughts on Jake DeBrusk’s worth in the upcoming contract negotiations. Bob Stauffer is an Edmonton Oilers radio analyst who has spent over 10 years calling hockey games in Alberta, so he knows his hockey. Stauffer thinks Debrusk is “a $6 million a year player,” which, if that’s true, the Bruins have an extremely tough roster and cap decision to make.
DeBrusk’s contract ends at the same time as Torey Krug’s deal, which is this coming off-season. We wrote about Krug’s next probable contract, which is the area of $7-8M per year. It had been reported back in March that Krug was seeking a 6-year, $49M contract, which is $8.2M per year. To Bruins fans liking, Krug did mention he was open to a hometown discount, which could benefit the Bruins cap situation immensely.
DeBrusk’s agent, however, did not seem to be on the same page as Torey. Bob Stauffer and Jake DeBrusk’s agent, Rick Valette, spoke on Stauffer’s radio show on Monday. Stauffer mentioned the Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak deals with Valette to get the agent to convey his Jake’s willingness to take a hometown discount. Valette wouldn’t bite on the hometown discount comment and understandably so. Valette needs to have his clients’ best interests in mind and cannot be coming to the negotiating table showing his hand that they’ll take a hometown discount. There’s a difference between being open to one and openly expressing taking one.
Rick Valette didn’t shut the door on it but definitely didn’t hint towards one. He explains DeBrusk’s accomplishments through his “big-game playoff performances” and “being a top-six forward almost from the moment he stepped in the National Hockey League.”
DeBrusk was one of the three 2015 first-round draft picks when Don Sweeney made two swift trades leading up to the draft. DeBrusk was selected with the Bruins’ own draft pick at 14th overall out of the Western Hockey League (WHL) in Canada. He potted 185 points in 205 games in the WHL and stepped into Providence for another exciting year. He scored 49 points with the Providence Bruins, showing Bruins management he was ready for the NHL spotlight.
DeBrusk had a fruitful rookie season, scoring 16 goals and adding 27 assists. He followed up his rookie regular-season with 6 goals and 2 assists in the ensuing playoffs. Bruins fans salivated at his tenacity, willingness to battle in the corners, and his clutch goals.
DeBrusk entered last season with that same drive, scoring a career-high 27 goals. Any NHL forward who scores 30 goals is widely celebrated, and DeBrusk was three away from that feat. He ended the year with 42 points, looking to continue his fiery playoff game-play. However, DeBrusk was close to a no-show in the 2018-19 playoffs. He scored four goals and seven assists in 24 playoff games. He only surpassed his previous playoff total by two points but played in 12 more games.
DeBrusk has definitely scored timely and much-needed goals in the playoffs, making his “big-game playoff performance” claim fine. But what about the other games? DeBrusk ended the shortened season with 35 points, which he was on pace to net 44 points in all 82 games. 44 points would become his career-high, but scoring 27 goals the year before, Bruins fans thought Jake would smash his career total and easily eclipse 50 points.
He has spent most of his career with David Krejci, who has been longing for a left-winger who isn’t afraid to grind in the corners. Before the season ended, DeBrusk was spending some of his ice time with Charlie Coyle on the third line. Coyle seemed to give DeBrusk the spark we all know he has, and it’s likely Head Coach, Bruce Cassidy, places DeBrusk on Coyle’s left to begin the playoffs.
Debrusk is playing the last of his 3-year, $4.05M deal and will become a restricted free agent. He is not eligible to enter the open market and is not arbitration-eligible, leaving him entirely under the Bruins control, to an extent. Restricted free-agents are still under their teams’ command and can only be plucked by another team through an offer sheet. General Managers have strayed from offer sheets because they’re afraid another team will steal one of their players in the same process.
Debrusk also doesn’t have arbitration rights, which is a contract negotiation that uses a third party arbitrator to determine a fair contract term and length for a restricted free-agent. Jake’s options to negotiate are limited, hence his agent’s demeanor leading up to the off-season. He can holdout for a better deal, which is the route William Nylander took in 2019. However, if DeBrusk holds out into the next calendar year, he is ineligible to play in the current season.
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) December 2, 2018
His presence will be missed if he chooses the holdout route, so let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. If DeBrusk comes to the negotiating table with a 6-year, $42M offer, either Krug or DeBrusk will likely be wearing a new jersey next season. The Bruins are in an excellent position to give DeBrusk a bridge deal, which is a “show your worth” type of agreement that Torey Krug took back in 2015. Krug signed for a 1-year, $3.4M deal, which clearly has worked out well for him.
Debrusk’s bridge deal would be in the neighborhood of 2-years, $8M, which would pay him $4M a year. It is certainly is a much lower price point than his agent is touting him to be, but it could help both sides at the end of the day. The Bruins have $19.6M in cap space next off-season and still need to sign Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara, Anders Bjork, and Matt Grzelcyk.
The $4M per year deal is by no means a low ball offer either. DeBrusk has plenty of comparables to reference for that contract offer.
DeBrusk comps pic.twitter.com/eIUlojTSCP
— $19M=OffseasonCapspace (@bruinscapspace) July 9, 2020
DeBrusk’s point per game is certainly on the high-end of the comparables, and a few players have been in the league longer than DeBrusk, so he carries a higher weighted average. He’s also been compared to Travis Konecny in Philadelphia. Konecny signed a 6-year, $33M deal immediately following his rookie contract. At the time of the signing, Konecny had scored 24 goals in two consecutive years and followed it up with 61 points in 66 games in the shortened season. The Flyers skipped the bridge deal and went full throttle, risking what Konecny’s ceiling was. Thankfully for the Flyers, he has rewarded them.
If you were to ask the Bruins what they’d ideally like to do, they would probably choose to take the Konecny route with DeBrusk. However, their cap situation does not allow that. If the Bruins signed Krug and DeBrusk to their reported offers, the Bruins would be left with $5.6M to sign Grzelcyk, Chara, and Bjork. This would be nearly impossible, and someone wouldn’t be wearing the spoked-B next season.
Now, if the Bruins can negotiate successfully and sign both Debrusk and Krug at $4M and $7M, respectively, they’ll have $8.6M leftover. Sweeney has shown his ability to make a roster complete with limited funds. Last season, he had Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo without deals and $7.3M leftover in space.
DeBrusk taking a bridge deal, would help both him and the Bruins in the long-run. DeBrusk would be setting himself up for an even bigger pay-day once the bridge deal is over if he performs well enough. Additionally, Bruins will (hopefully) have more cap space in two years to fund DeBrusk’s ceiling.