PLYMOUTH – At a certain point in their NHL careers, most veteran players decide to take things a year at a time – and it looks like Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron is entering that stage of his Hall of Fame career.
The 36-year-old center was excited about the start to a new season while kicking things off at the Boston Bruins Foundation Golf Tourney at Pine Hills on Wednesday morning, but also kept things close to the vest about his future as he enters the final year of his contract with the Black and Gold. Bergeron said that he won’t be signing a new deal during this 2021-22 NHL season and would assess his playing future in Boston after the season was over.
For an aging, brilliant player with a history of groin difficulties that he’s doggedly played through over the last handful of years, that certainly leaves some level of uncertainty. It’s also purely Bergeron, however, to focus on the here and now rather than getting caught up in something wholly individual like his contract, or playing status, for two seasons down the road.
“It’s something that a lot of people have asked me this summer, and the way that I approach it this year is to just concentrate on this year,” said Bergeron. “I have a year left on my contract and I think it would be useless for me to think about the [long term] future. I want to create something special. We want to work toward winning a Stanley Cup.
“I know everybody says that, but that’s definitely our goal as a team. I think it’s better to be in that group of [playoff] teams and I think that’s where my focus is right now.”
So, does that mean Bergeron isn’t looking to get a potential new contract done until after this season?
“I’m going to play out this year and then talk about [contract matters] after,” said Bergeron, matter-of-factly.
The good news, though, is that it certainly appears that Bergeron should have more than a little something left in the tank coming off a season where he posted 23 goals and 48 points with a plus-27 rating in 54 games and finished second in Selke Trophy voting. The even better news is that Bergeron was able to manage his troublesome groin situation last season to remain healthy and was excellent in the playoffs with four goals and nine points in 11 games.
“I don’t want to jinx myself, but I feel good,” said Bergeron. “I feel healthy and confident, and mentally I’m excited. I want to play this year and have a good year as a team. That’s where my focus is at, but I do feel great.”
There’s no danger of Bergeron leaving the Bruins, of course, as a player that’s long said the Black and Gold is the only team that he wants to play in his NHL career. But one does have to wonder if Bergeron would like to emulate one of his role models in Mark Recchi, and perhaps retire at the pinnacle if the Boston Bruins did manage to climb the mountaintop again to win another Stanley Cup.
Don Sweeney said earlier this summer that he engages in regular conversations with Bergeron’s agent Kent Hughes, but that he was cryptically leaving it up to his captain “about what path he wants to take” in the future.
Certainly, if it ever got to the point where the Boston Bruins were in a serious rebuild, that would be cause for concern about the 18-year veteran’s long-term future as an NHL player. But the good news is that the Bruins look to be reloaded and ready to compete in the Atlantic Division for the foreseeable future, and Bergeron has been able to stave off Father Time while retaining his status as one of the best two-way centers in the NHL.
It’s just a fact of life, though, that the future Hall of Famer is at a stage where he’s going to take things year-by-year moving forward, a status befitting his service time, accomplishments and lofty stature within the Boston Bruins organization.