Rick Vilette, the agent for Jake DeBrusk, wants one thing to be clear when he and Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney get down to the nitty-gritty of negotiating a new contract for the restricted free agent-to-be. DeBrusk was challenged by and benched by Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy on more than one occasion this season but responded immediately every time and Valette says that when it comes time to really negotiating with the Bruins, that needs to be a focal point.
“I think that at times, there has been some tough love for sure but Jake has always responded,” Vilette told Boston Hockey Now Thursday evening. “The one thing I’d say about Jake DeBrusk is, he’s a really competitive guy and he wants to win. God does he want to win. He has a huge competitive fire burning in him and we can never lose sight of that, that’s very important. He’s a big-game player and we can never underestimate his competitive spirit.”
In an extensive phone interview with BHN, Valette didn’t back off comments he made earlier this week regarding his client’s upcoming restricted free agency. He did, however, acknowledge – with the new CBA extension and flattened cap will likely have altered most teams offseason plans and all free agents could be affected.
“I think that all teams, not only the Bruins, are going to be looking at that very closely,” Vilette told BHN. “With this pandemic, this is a bit of a new world in some respects – and when I say new world, we were at $81.5 (million) this season, so it’s not like the cap went down so we’re dealing with a flat cap – I think that teams were planning on – and I’m not speaking about Jake’s case here so there’s a difference. Generally speaking across the league, I think teams were expecting the cap to continually rise given revenue streams that were on the horizon. …television deal, etc… and now we know for sure that we’re going to be at $81.5 so that’s going to change some thinking across the league.”
RFAs-to-be like DeBrusk could have to take less money and term than originally expected when free agency begins on what’s expected to be on either October 9th or seven days after the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final.
“Those are interesting thoughts – and again I wanna stress to you this is not about Jake – but general players in the National Hockey League,” Valette replied when asked if he thought the flattened $81.5 million salary cap would drastically change the market. “Let’s talk about UFA’s for a bit. There are some really good UFA’s coming into the market this year and it’s going to be hard on those UFA’s. They might take a shorter-term deal than they normally would just to get past some of the uncertainty I’d call it. I think this is a possibility and there are so many new possibilities.
I think all of us are sitting here studying the new rules, making projections, making guestimates and the reality is that none of us know for sure. The sooner we get information, the better. Let’s ask these questions: Are we going to play without fans next season or with fans? Are the arenas going to be 100 percent or 50 percent? What happens with concessions then? Will TV ratings go up or down? That’s all HRR and those are hard questions for any of us to answer. As much as we start to think we know, sometimes we realize we just don’t know.”
Speaking on The Oilers Now Radio Show hosted by Bob Stauffer this past Monday, Vilette came close to scoffing at the idea that DeBrusk would take a hometown discount for the Bruins. Speaking on an NBC Boston Sports Zoom call last week, Stauffer said he believed that DeBrusk is a $6 million per season player DeBrusk’s hometown team, the Edmonton Oilers, would have an interest.
When Stauffer was asked if the Bruins could entice him to take less than that or his actual market value, Valette said that’s not even a consideration at this point.
“I don’t really consider that at this point. Will it play into it? Maybe,” Valette replied when asked how the Bruins cap structure could affect DeBrusk? “I would hope not. That’s not typically how I would approach that.
“The one thing I would add to Jake is that you want to look at his playoff performance and what he’s done in the playoffs in big games. The Toronto series from a couple of years ago, for example. He’s a big-game performer and he’s been a top-6 forward almost from the moment he stepped into the National Hockey League. Boston certainly has some internal things that they like to look at, but I’m going to try to not look at that. I guess that’s the way I would say it to you.”
In his third NHL season, DeBrusk, 23, admittedly had an inconsistent body of work. He began the 2019-20 regular season on a seven-game goalless streak and was streaky in both the right and wrong ways throughout the season finishing with 19 goals and 16 assists in 65 games when the NHL paused the 2019-20 season on March 12 due to Coronavirus. DeBrusk had just one goal in his last 12 games when the Bruins stepped off the ice at Wells Fargo Arena after a 2-0 shutout win over the Philadelphia Flyers on March 10.
“It’s something that I strive for, something that every player in this league strives for is consistency,” DeBrusk said in a Zoom call with the media back on April 22. “I have watched my games, I’ve kind of taken a step back and looked back at my whole year. Being back home with my dad, he’s been all over me about it so I’ve been thinking a little bit more harder than usual, I guess. But to be honest with you I don’t know if I had a consistent stretch this year, looking back at it I don’t know if I really necessarily put a staple of my game into this year at all.”