With the good Boston Bruins news that Patrice Bergeron is coming back for one more season, things snap into focus a little more clearly for the Black and Gold.
It won’t be a strip-it-down-to-the-studs rebuild for the upcoming 2022-23 NHL season when it comes to the Boston Bruins with the 36-year-old captain back on an incentive-laden one-year deal he’s expected to sign in the coming weeks. Sure, it’s going to be arduous to begin next season with Matt Grzelcyk, Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy out for next season’s first few months, but it would have been much, much worse if the Boston Bruins were scrambling around trying to find a No. 1 center capable of scoring 25 goals while playing Selke Trophy-winning defense.
Those guys don’t exactly grow on hockey trees and everybody involved with the Boston Bruins knows that as they attempt to transition from the Bergeron Era to what comes next.
Tuukka Rask was asked if it feels like the end of an era with almost nobody left active from the 2011 Stanley Cup team with guys like him, Zdeno Chara, David Krejci and possibly Patrice Bergeron moving on in years past and present, and his answer was pretty interesting.
“There’s always somebody left, you [in the media] should know that,” said Tuukka Rask, who was serving in his new Boston Bruins ambassador/community outreach role while attending the Boston Pride Hockey scrimmage at Warrior Ice Arena on Thursday night. “Whenever you’re talking about the Boston Bruins, there is always somebody left and that’s the beauty of the organization. Me retiring, whoever else is retiring…we hope that we leave behind the legacy that other guys can keep it going, and that the legacy keeps going.”
It’s clear that carrying on the Boston Bruins tradition is more than just lip service to Bergeron after dutifully representing the Black and Gold with pride, integrity, class and excellence for what’s approaching two decades. He could have easily retired and rode off into the sunset on a high note after capturing his NHL-record fifth Selke Trophy a couple of weeks ago, and in doing so left the Bruins with a massive leadership and center void right down the middle of the lineup.
In essence, Bergeron hit the “pause” button on any Boston Bruins rebuild by agreeing to suit up for one more NHL season. It would never have been Bergeron’s style to leave the Bruins in the lurch when he’s still capable of competing at such a high level.
But one should expect that it’s just going to be a one-year reprieve for Bergeron’s services in Boston even if he again comes out and posts 25 goals and 65 points while still being one of the best players in the league. This entire offseason is a warning bell that Bergeron is in his final days and there could be some incredibly difficult days ahead for the Boston Bruins once this current window has permanently and irrevocably closed.
In the short term it’s an easy choice to run it back one more time, even if the road is a little rocky at the beginning. Perhaps they can even get David Krejci back for one more go-round in Boston after his year-long adventure in his native Czech Republic with his family. That would solve the No. 2 center question in the short term as well even as the Boston Bruins stave off some pretty pressing long term roster dilemmas, and it would give the Bruins a formidable, deep forward lineup for next season.
Beyond this upcoming season, though, which will likely become a farewell tour for No. 37 befitting a player of his stature and greatness?
It’s a pretty bleak-looking Black and Gold picture.
David Pastrnak is entering the final year of his contract and will be due a contract extension in the $9-10 million per season range with the Bruins essentially forced to entertain trading him if it doesn’t become a pretty easy negotiation. Brad Marchand is 34 years old and will be coming off surgery on both his hips after logging heavy, heavy miles in an NHL career that’s pushing into Hall of Fame territory. The Boston Bruins have a lot of young NHL veterans like Matt Grzelcyk, Brandon Carlo and Trent Frederic that struggled a bit while running headlong into career plateaus last season, and it remains to be seen if they can bust through to a higher level of play.
There are a slew of young prospects like Jack Studnicka, Oskar Steen, Jakub Lauko, Trent Frederic, Jack Ahcan and now Fabian Lysell that the B’s are hoping to move into NHL spots next season with a new coaching staff more willing to integrate the youngsters.
It’s no longer a Boston Bruins NHL roster brimming with stars and top drawer talent like it once was.
It feels like things are going to be built around Charlie McAvoy, Hampus Lindholm and Jeremy Swayman, which admittedly is a pretty good place to start long term as the Bruins focus on the blueprint moving forward. And now Don Sweeney will have a year to figure out the long term game plan on the B’s reload and rebuild as Bergeron has given him one more big assist after opting to come back for one more NHL ride next season.
After that things could look a lot different top-to-bottom for a Boston Bruins lineup that’s facing substantial, generational roster change in the future whether they like it or not.