What We Learned: Bruins have to pony up for Pastrnak

(Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.)

Long-accepted fact: David Pastrnak was going to get something in the neighborhood of five or six years at an AAV of something like $5.5 million to $6.5 million.

High-end young talent, for sure. Gotta pay him as such. Just about any “insider” you talked to, whether on the management, player representation or media side, told you that was the term and number.

Only 11 forwards under the age of 22 have cleared 120 points in the past three seasons, and as you might imagine a good chunk of them are the high-end guys you’d expect to see here. Filip Forsberg, Sean Monahan, Connor McDavid, Sasha Barkov, Alex Galchenyuk, Nathan MacKinnon, Johnny Gaudreau, Leon Draisaitl, Nikita Kucherov, Elias Lindholm (maybe a surprise to some), and Pastrnak.

That’s it, and that’s with Pastrnak playing the fourth-fewest games of anyone in the group; last season was his first full NHL season.

In terms of points per game, Pastrnak is eighth. Tied with Leon Draisaitl. And Pastrnak scores more goals per game by a decent margin. And Pastrnak doesn’t have the benefit of playing a huge chunk of his minutes with the reigning MVP.

Which is why things just got a whole lot more complicated.

Because now we’re accepting, “Well, this is what guys coming out of their ELCs who scored at this level are worth now.” It used to be that your Halls, Saads, Barkovs, and Eberles set the market in the neighborhood of a $6 million AAV. That made sense just a month ago. But now you look at what Draisaitl pulled from Edmonton management — hell, look at what Kuznetsov, a very good player who’s also a few years older, snagged as one of the last guys worth paying in Washington.

It’s understandable that people would be hesitant to give a 21-year-old $8 million or more, but the Bruins didn’t have a problem giving Tyler Seguin $5.75 million and six years back in 2013-14. Turns out they had a problem with the player, for what the local media would have you believe is myriad reasons, but that’s a separate issue. There are no such problems with Pastrnak; he seems to throw checks at a rate sufficient for Boston brass, at the very least, and he scored a couple goals in the playoffs.

If it cost that much to play ball with a high-end talent like Seguin four years ago (it’s equivalent to about $7.3 million in today’s dollars), one supposes that $8 million isn’t an outlandish starting point for Pastrnak, who you’re probably not going to use to power his own line any time soon. That’s clearly the plan in Edmonton, but that Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak line is such a brutal force (they had a CF% of about 62 together last season, which is so far beyond phenomenal it’s tough to compute) that while you might want to redistribute that talent given the cost, it’s tough to justify. Not that Pastrnak would suddenly become any sort of lesser player — his under-lyings are all strong even when playing with inferior talent, though obviously nowhere near what he does with the big group — but the value for these three guys together is so high that Bruce Cassidy would be foolish to try getting too cute here.

The idea that the Bruins would trade this guy is silly. How many top-end early-20s guys can they justify trading away in a decade? The team is committed to keeping him, especially because they want to play up-tempo hockey and few can skate like Pastrnak. But that comes with the acknowledgement that if they wanted to keep the price down, well, that boat should have been pushed out quite a while ago.

Tough to say for sure whether foot-dragging on the team or the player led to Aug. 21 without a deal getting done, but that Kuznetsov extension got signed July 2, so there wasn’t a ton of time for the Bruins to set the market for good young forwards. Again, this comes with the acknowledgement that Kuznetsov is three years older and the Caps were buying more UFA seasons, even if that’s apparently starting to matter less in the grand scheme of things.

Nonetheless, Pastrnak was wise to be patient, especially because there was no way the Bruins could justify trading a player like this again.

The good news for now is that Boston has the cap space to add Pastrnak at even $8.5 million, and that if you lock him up for eight years you’ve got him for basically the entirety of his 20s. On the other hand, you can see where the Bruins might want to keep that price tag down because they already have four forwards carrying AAVs of more than $6 million. And the problem is two of them are Davids Krejci and Backes, both locked in for four more seasons and basically untradeable because they wouldn’t be worth a price point that’s significantly lower than what they actually make (i.e. Boston couldn’t even retain salary and expect someone to bite).

Indeed, the Bruins are in the same sort of position as the Oilers insofar as they’ve allocated a lot of dollars to a lot of players who aren’t all that good. Even beyond Krejci and Backes ($13.25 million combined, woof), they have three more years of Matt Beleskey — he of three goals last season — at $3.8 million. And Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller are at $5.25 million combined. They also have buyouts for Dennis Seidenberg and Jimmy Hayes on the books for three and two more years, respectively.

This is basically a situation like Draisaitl’s. The GM should call the agent and say, “What does he want?” And then he should just give him that number. The Bruins can’t really afford to dither around here, specifically because of what they can afford to spend.

Hammering out a bridge deal when you have more than $10 million in cap space available doesn’t make a ton of sense either logistically or logically. For whom would you be saving that money? Pastrnak is the only guy they need to sign, unless they want to take a run at one of the few remaining worthwhile UFAs and, for some reason, give him a bunch of money on a short-term deal.

While the goalposts have certainly moved back a couple million dollars and years, this eventuality had to be acknowledged as a possibility. Waiting was always likely to result in a bigger payday, but it circles back to the idea that you gotta pay your stars and find ways to save elsewhere on the roster. That’s doubly true if those stars are in their early 20s.

So what’s the issue? You know this kid can play and you know what ‘capital-P Players’ his age cost now.

There’s no real problem here. Or at least there wouldn’t be if you could totally trust the Bruins to not-trade guys like this.

It’s an easy decision. Get out the checkbook. Why are we still talking about this?

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: It’s really hard to score 30 goals, man. Really hard. To do it consistently from year to year takes a huge talent level. I think Rickard Rakell is great, but I dunno if he’s that great.

Arizona Coyotes: That Coyotes defense. Hoo boy. Ekman-Larsson, Goligoski and Hjalmarsson is a strong top-three but then their next-best guy is Kevin Connauton.

Boston Bruins: Yeah, no pressure, kid. They just want you to take over from Zdeno Chara after this season.

Buffalo Sabres: Imagine looking at 19-year-old first-round pick with four NHL games under his belt and saying, “This kid might be a bust!”

Calgary Flames: Hey Glen, I wanna have $5 million dollars but we can’t always get what we want, bud.

Carolina Hurricanes: Wait, were we supposed to think Bill Peters was on the hot seat or something?

Chicago: The answer to this question is in the ages of the players when the contracts went into effect, and the quality of those players. Edmonton got a much better deal for McDavid/Draisaitl than Chicago did for Toews/Kane.

Colorado Avalanche: Hey, a new AHL team. That’s fun.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Seems like Columbus is basically done for the summer… except for that whole “We have to re-sign Josh Anderson and Alex Wennberg” thing. Which, to me, seems like a big deal.

Dallas Stars: Hockey teams always seem to do well in these things. Not sure why.

Detroit Red Wings: Ahh, hmm, well

Edmonton Oilers: Yeah, $6 million is a lot to spend on your No. 3 center.

Florida Panthers: Jonathan Huberdeau, recently inducted into his QMJHL team’s hall of fame, could have a real good season in 2017-18.

Los Angeles Kings: The Kings know they need offense but not the kind of offense Jaromir Jagr provides. Okay, have fun out there.

Minnesota Wild: Funny that the Canadiens haven’t gotten this message.

Montreal Canadiens: Wow, Tony Hawk got to meet Youppi!

Nashville Predators: I gotta say: Slow down.

New Jersey Devils: Not that I’m any sort of Travis Zajac fan but this team could be really rotten again now.

New York Islanders: Yeah I guess if Eberle and Tavares do their ’09 WJC act again and average like two and a half points a game each, that’ll work out well.

New York Rangers: There’s a reason they should have put this guy on Mount Rushmore, baby!!!

Ottawa Senators: The only reason I’m excited for another season of Senators hockey is the dang Karlsson show, folks!

Philadelphia Flyers: Is Jori Lehtera a difference-maker? Man, I don’t know. Sure, why not?

Pittsburgh Penguins: Will Butcher really seems to be going to one of Pittsburgh or Buffalo. Those are the two teams you heard about through this whole process.

San Jose Sharks: Man, what a nightmare.

St. Louis Blues: Man, what a different kind of nightmare.

Tampa Bay Lightning: If the Lightning wanted to support long-time losers they’d be sharing revenue with the Canucks.

Toronto Maple Leafs: They’re not signing Tavares! Get over it!

Vancouver Canucks: I can’t bear to read this.

Vegas Golden Knights: Here’s an idea – Expand to Salt Lake City before Quebec City!!!

Washington Capitals: Philip Grubauer is gonna be a backup in Washington forever.

Winnipeg Jets: I’m really on the fence about whether Steve Mason is what’s going to get this team on track, and that’s not because of Mason. I just don’t think they have to coaching. I think that’s been the issue for years.

Gold Star Award

We’re less than a month from training camp. That’s wild to think about.

Minus of the Weekend

Sign Jagr.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Year

User “OvermanKingGainer” is out of his mind.

Calgary Trades:
2C Mikael Backlund (27 / 3.75M / 2Y Remaining)

4C Matt Stajan (32 / 3.15M / 2Y Remaining)
Prospect LW/RW Morgan Klimchuk (21 / ELC / 2Y Remaining + RFA)

New Jersey Trades:
2C Travis Zajac (31 / 5.75M / 4Y Remaining) @ ~25% retained (4.3M)

Signoff

That’s what passes for entertainment these days? “Woozle wuzzle?”

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All stats via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)

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