After watching their longtime captain Zdeno Chara leave via unrestricted free agency in October 2020, could the Boston Bruins actually lose a second straight captain via the UFA market next July?
Current Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron succeeded Chara as captain of the B’s and after two seasons of wearing the C on his jersey, the future hall of famer is still committed to this season and won’t sign an extension until the 2021-22 season concludes, leaving the door open that he could become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career on July 13.
“My whole career I’ve always had the [contract] extensions and the long-term deals, so I felt like this time I was like, I just want to play this year and see how I feel, see where we’re at, see a lot of things,” Bergeron told NHL.com Sunday. “There’s a lot of questions that I’ve asked myself that need to be answered.”
This falls in line with what he told the media just prior to this season.
“I’m going to play out this year and then talk about [contract matters] after,” Bergeron said back on September 8. “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. 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.”
However, while Bergeron is still committed to playing the final season out of an eight-year contract that carries a $6.8 million cap hit, it doesn’t sound like he’s planning to see if the grass is greener on the other side of 18 seasons in Black and Gold with another team. In a wide-ranging interview with NHL.com, Bergeron, 36, was non-committal to re-upping with the Boston Bruins but sounded more like it’s either that or he will retire. Bergeron knows father time is knocking on his door and that’s why he’s focused on living in the moment and trying to win another Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins this season.
“I know that there’s a lot less time for me in this League. So, I’m pretty aware of that, that it’s coming to an end at some point and I need to really enjoy that feeling and that moment,” said Bergeron, who started playing for the Bruins in the 2003-04 season.
Does that mean retirement is a real possibility?
“It’s one of those questions,” he said. “It’s like the million-dollar question, right? Is it one of the boxes that are there? Yeah,” said Bergeron who was still playing at an elite level with 12 goals and 21 assists heading into Sunday’s tilt with the Stars in Dallas. “It’s in one of those boxes that need to be checked if that’s where I’m at or not. And that’s why I don’t have the answer right now. I’m feeling good, I’m happy with how our team is trending right now in the right direction. So, yeah, it’s there. But it’s not the only question. … It’s definitely not the only reason that I’m not signing.”
If he does decide to actually test the free-agent market, there will be no shortage of suitors and his and the Bruins’ longtime archrival, the Montreal Canadiens could already be eyeing the longtime Boston Bruins center and L’Ancienne-Lorette, Quebec native. The Habs just hired Bergeron’s longtime and only agent he ever had in Kent Hughes as their new general manager. They also have a budding superstar center in Nick Suzuki, who has tried to model his young career after the four-time Selke Trophy winner, Bergeron. On Friday, Suzuki was jokingly asked if he may try to persuade his Atlantic Division teammate to become his teammate with the Canadiens when the two play together at the 2022 NHL All-Star Game in Las Vegas next weekend?
“I don’t know, we’ll see what happens,” the lone all-star for the Montreal Canadiens replied. “He’s been a Bruin for his whole career so. …I don’t know what the chances are that we get him but obviously, it would be cool to play with him. We’re on the same team for the all-star game so maybe I’ll chat with him there.”