How dependent is Don Sweeney’s future with the Boston Bruins on Patrice Bergeron’s future with the team?
By all accounts, it seems almost a certainty that Sweeney – who confirmed his current contract as general manager of the Boston Bruins is expiring – will return as GM of the Boston Bruins for the 2022-23 season. The current Bruins GM hinted as much to the media in his end of the season press conference Wednesday.
“I’m under contract for right now. I’ve had a discussion earlier in the year in terms of the indication of where my path will be and that will be determined in short order,” Don Sweeney said.
Make no doubt though that that path will be determined and guided by Bergeron’s decision on whether or not to retire after a 18-season, hall of fame career. On Monday, Bergeron confirmed to the media, in his end of the season media scrum, that he will either return to the Boston Bruins for the 2022-23 season (and maybe beyond?), or hang em up as arguably one of the Top 5 players to ever lace them up for the storied Original 6 franchise.
Ever since Bergeron’s former agent, Kent Hughes, became the general manager of the Montreal Canadiens back in January, there have been rampant rumors that if Bergeron were to move on from the Boston Bruins as an unrestricted free agent this July, he would entertain the idea of reuniting with his longtime agent. Bergeron did his best to shut that and all rumors down on Monday.
“No. I’ve been here for my whole career,” Bergeron promptly and bluntly replied when asked if he could envision playing for another NHL team.
Bergeron, who now has 400 goals and 982 career points in 1,216 career NHL games with the Bruins dating back to being the youngest player in the league as an 18-year-old back in the 2003-04 NHL season then reiterated his need to have time to figure things out.
“Obviously, [Boston] is a special place for me. It’s not on my mind right now. I just need to take time and regroup,” he said.
Could the amount of time Bergeron takes to make this life-altering decision have a direct impact on how long it takes for the Boston Bruins to make a final decision?
According to a team source and another NHL team source on Wednesday, the Boston Bruins from Sweeney up to Cam Neely, and then to Charlie and Jeremy Jacobs, think that with or without Bergeron next season, their window to win a Stanley Cup is still slightly open. The Bruins are already being linked to NHL trade rumor buzz names like Minnesota Wild RFA-to-be Kevin Fiala and even veteran Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews (despite a lofty $10.5 million cap hit in 2022-23, the final season of his current contract?).
So it would appear then, Bergeron’s decision and the amount of time he takes has no bearing the current contract talks to keep Sweeney as general manager for at least one more season. The Bruins, with Sweeney at the helm still, are intent on one more kick at the can, hoping that even without Bergeron, they can still bring home Lord Stanley with the likes of Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Taylor Hall, Hampus Lindholm and Charlie McAvoy still on board.
On Wednesday, Sweeney spoke as if he knew was going to have another chance to accomplish the mission the Boston Bruins failed to accomplish in 2019 when they lost Game 7 on home ice to the St. Louis Blues in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.
“No, I don’t think we did,” Sweeney replied when asked if the Bruins performed to their capabilities in the seven-game first round series loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. “My message was I believe we’ve left something on the table this year in terms of what we needed to accomplish, what our ultimate goals were to accomplish.”
With the potential loss of his longtime and current No. 1 center looming, Sweeney actually hinted at the potential return of his former and longtime No. 2 center, David Krejci, returning to don the Spoked B again.
“Again, has to line up for a number of reasons,” the Boston Bruins general manager replied when asked again about Krejci, who is currently teammates with longtime Bruins teammate David Pastrnak for Team Czechia at the 2022 World Championships in Finland. “Still looks like he values playing the game and being highly competitive and was highly productive. Seamlessly would probably fall back into knowing what our team is like and what we’re trying to accomplish, but again, it’s hypothetical for me at this point in time. I’ll cross that bridge when it’s presented.”
That doesn’t sound like a GM that’s nervous about losing his job but rather one who knows that with or without the greatest Boston Bruins player since the 2010-11 season, he’s got one more shot to finally do what his predecessor, and the only Bruins GM to win a Stanley Cup since Milt Schmidt in 1972, Peter Chiarelli did that very season. The read here is that Sweeney has a one-year deal in place and if he can’t lead the Bruins to their seventh Stanley Cup, he’s gone next June and the rebuild officially gets underway for the Boston Bruins.
Of course his chances of doing what Chiarelli did before him will be drastically increased if Bergeron doesn’t retire.