The Boston Bruins have plenty of items still remaining on their offseason checklist and one of them is now taking care of RFA Pavel Zacha after he filed for salary arbitration on Sunday afternoon.
NHLPA announces 24 players elect Salary Arbitration: https://t.co/YIbbKgCkl0
— NHLPA (@NHLPA) July 17, 2022
There wasn’t much of a surprise that the 6-foot-3, 210-pound center filed for arbitration as that may have been one of the driving forces behind New Jersey looking to deal the 25-year-old pivot coming off 15 goals and 36 points in 70 games last season. As is the case in most of these arbitration proceedings, one would expect that both the Bruins and Zacha’s camp are going to work something out prior to things actually getting to the late summer arb hearing.
For the Devils, they acquired a versatile forward in Erik Haula with cost certainty next season ($2.375 million) for a player in Zacha that’s looking for a raise from his $2.25 million salary coming off a three-year bridge contract.
It remains to be seen where Zacha is going to fall salary-wise when he either signs or goes through the arbitration process, but there’s no doubt it will be upwards of $3 million per season based on his past performance. In fact, it will be interesting to watch the negotiations for Zacha and Pittsburgh Penguins forward Kasperi Kapanen as they both have produced similar stats to this point in their careers after being first round picks.
Zacha agreed to a one-year, $3 million qualifying offer prior to being traded to Boston, so his arbitration ask will undoubtedly be north of that while the two sides work on a possible longer-term agreement.
“I feel there’s growth and potential there moving forward. We hope to be able to find a deal with him being part of the organization now and beyond, that remains to be seen how long that is,” said Don Sweeney of Pavel Zacha, who has actually already been making his home in Boston for the last couple of summers. “Just felt like it was an opportunity for now and potentially moving forward. We identified a player that fit into our organization that we’re excited about.
“He’s more than comfortable playing all three positions and being productive. I think he sees himself as a center and he’s excited to be joining the Boston Bruins. Down the road, he’s definitely a center. I think that helps us if we’re able to find the term and agreement.”
The real challenge for the Boston Bruins is the current $2.3 million available in cap space with contracts still yet to finalized for Zacha, or for veteran centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci as they both remain unsigned a week into free agency. Both players will sign a lower salary one-year deals with incentives based on their age and experience level, but the Boston Bruins currently don’t even have enough cap space for that.
Sure, the B’s can go over the salary cap during the summertime with free agent signings and have IR cap space to play with given that at least rehabbing Boston Bruins Brad Marchand, Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy won’t be ready to play when the regular season opens in October.
Beyond the incumbent NHL players, there’s also RFA Jack Studnicka after Jack Ahcan and Matt Filipe signed one-year deals with the Boston Bruins over the last few days. Ahcan will undoubtedly be one of Boston’s injury replacement, depth D-men at the start of the 2022-23 NHL season. Boston walked away from a pair of players in Zacha’s position last season when both Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase were due raises off their RFA contracts, and the Boston Bruins walked away from both of those players before they signed with the Maple Leafs.
Don’t expect history to repeat itself here, though, as the Boston Bruins have high hopes for Zacha after investing in a mid-20’s, top-6 type center that fills a big time need for them between aging pivots Bergeron and Krejci, third line center Charlie Coyle and a number of young center prospects like Studnicka that haven’t fully been able to make the NHL jump as of yet. Zacha’s agent, Darren Ferris, and the Boston Bruins can continue to negotiation up until the scheduled hearing, which will be sometime between July 27-August 11.