By: Theo Lander | Follow me on Twitter @lander_theo
On Monday, the Bruins had their busiest day of the offseason. It began with a teaser tweet that hinted at Patrice Bergeron’s return.
Just thirty minutes later, Patrice’s signing was confirmed. His contract is worth a $2.5 million cap-hit with another $2.5 million in bonuses for one year. This was more than enough to send the fans into a frenzy, but it was not the final piece of news for that morning. A similarly cryptic tweet was sent out centering around former Bruin David Krejci.
Again, thirty minutes later it was announced that David Krejci had returned to the Boston Bruins following his year-long hiatus in the Czech Republic. His contract is worth a $1 million cap-hit with another $2 million in bonuses for one year. With the team’s top two centers now under contract, the Bruins shifted their focus to newcomer Pavel Zacha. That afternoon, they signed Zacha to a one-year contract worth $3.5 million.
On Wednesday, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney spoke to the media to cover the moves made on Monday and to provide an update on the team’s direction.
Retirement rumors had been circling regarding Patrice Bergeron throughout last season. Many had indicated he might call it a career after the Bruin’s 2022 first-round playoff exit. We had been hearing reports for months now that Patrice was close to returning to the team, but some fans had grown fidgety at the absence of an announcement. Now that we know he and Krejci will be back, will this be their final season?
When asked about Bergeron’s future, Sweeney said, “(Patrice) dictates how long he’s going to play hockey. He can play for as long as he wants to, to tell you the truth in my opinion-He was pretty adamant that he’s going to take things year by year and reevaluate.” Sweeney continued, “I don’t think there’s any timeline about how long (Patrice and David) want to play. I think they’ve left it open-ended. They are very much living in the moment and recognizing (that) they’ve seen several of their teammates previously move on (or) retire. So, I think they’re honest about where they are. But, they’re awfully really good players-they’re driven to succeed and excited about playing with the group that we currently have.”
Sweeney went on to mention that they have subsequent plans in place in the event that both Patrice and David retire after this season. While in all likelihood this will be the last season we see both Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci dawn the spoked-B, the door seems to be left open. A lot can change over the course of a season and perhaps if the Bruins exceed this year’s expectations they may decide otherwise. Their desires to play beyond this year will be a constant talking point throughout the season.
Patrice’s Involvement in Bringing David Krejci Back
David Krejci reportedly had to be convinced to return by his old partner-in-crime Patrice Bergeron. Both have accomplished more than enough to comfortably walk away from the game but have opted for what appears to be their final season:
“Once Patrice indicated that he was likely coming back, his recruiting of David (Krejci) started,” said Sweeney. “I had been in touch with David all through last year-mostly with Jiri (Hamal) just (to) allow David to stay in his own headspace of what he had intended (and) why he had left in the first place. I think he was pretty forthright that (his hiatus) was all about his family and the opportunity to play in his hometown.”
The door to return was always left open for Krejci’s return but with the current cap situation, both he and Patrice had to be accommodating in order to return. Sweeney noted, “Both players were really good and honest about, ‘hey, you’re going to try to improve the team and we want to be part of it’ and (we started) working backwards from there. So, that’s why the contractual stuff took an awful lot of time to just sort of figure out what we were going to be capable of doing and how we could fit them together.” Sweeney noted how the teamwork of Patrice and David’s agents allowed the Bruins to have flexibility, ultimately leading to their deals getting done.
The signings on Monday morning changed the outlook for this team tremendously. With two bonified top-6 centers back in the mix, the Bruins can now feasibly compete for a playoff spot. Patrice Bergeron is coming off of a Frank J. Selke trophy-winning season that some are saying was one of the best defensive campaigns from a forward in NHL history. David Krejci is a player who consistently does better in the playoffs and was 12th in Czech ExtraLiga scoring last year. Even if it truly is just this last season, both of these players have something left in the tank and were clearly motivated to return to Boston.
David Pastrnak’s Contract Extension
This is perhaps the most prominent point of contention remaining for Bruins fans this offseason. Despite earlier offseason reports that the Bruins would be aggressive in extending David Pastrnak’s contract, he still has not been signed. When asked about Pastrnak’s status at this point, Sweeney said, “Ongoing would be the best way to describe it. We’ve been in regular communication. Obviously, David (Pastrnak) is still in Europe and the likelihood is he’ll come back. We’ll talk between now and then. (When) he gets back we’ll maybe have a better idea of a deal timeline but I don’t have one today.” Sweeney continued by mentioning, “We’ve made our intentions known all along and we’ll continue to do that, and we’ll go from there. As far as entering the season (without an extension), we have no problem with it.”
The kicker with this statement is the end where he mentions the team’s willingness to enter the season without a deal in place for Pastrnak. If the Bruins truly have been “aggressive” in pursuing a contract extension with David, then perhaps Sweeney is indicating that the delay is coming on Pastrnak’s side. Although Pastrnak’s agent later denied this report, it seems relevant to acknowledge the rumor from June that David was allegedly unhappy with Don Sweeney as general manager. Although Krejci and Bergeron have only signed on for one year, perhaps that could be enough to encourage Pastrnak to re-sign.
Of course, Pastrnak’s contributions are critical to the Bruin’s future success. However, his looming contract situation spews a dark fog over this franchise. David has been a point-per-game player in this league since 2018 and was just two goals shy of 50 before the regular season shut down in 2020 due to the pandemic. He is an offensive dynamo that the Bruins can not afford to let walk away at 26 years old, right when he is about to hit his prime. Pastrnak represents one of the last fingerprints that Peter Chiarelli has on this team along with the aforementioned newly re-signed centers. Not being able to retain David Pastrnak would be extremely damning for this regime and would only worsen the relationship between them and the Bruin’s faithful. This is undoubtedly the #1 story for Bruins fans to follow heading into October.