The Boston Bruins took care of another minor item on the offseason checklist this weekend as they’ve signed 23-year-old center Jack Studnicka to a two-year contract. It still leaves Pavel Zacha with an arbitration date in a couple of weeks and veteran centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci in some kind of strange limbo without contracts, but Studnicka signed a two-year deal with an average annual value of $762,500. The finished contract was first reported by The Score and subsequently confirmed by the Bruins.
Boston Bruins have signed forward Jack Studnicka to a 2-year extension, according to a source.
Told it’s a 2-way for 2022-23 and 1-way for ‘23-24. AAV of $762,500.
— John Matisz (@MatiszJohn) July 23, 2022
The terms of the deal are the interesting part as Studnicka will have a two-way deal for 2022-23 when the expectation is that the Bruins could be loaded with top-9 centers with Bergeron, Krejci, Zacha and Charlie Coyle all expected to be under contract. But it changes into a one-way deal in 2023-24 when it’s a very real possibility that Bergeron and Krejci have moved on from their playing careers, and the Boston Bruins will be changing over to youth at the center position.
That reality in Boston is a big part of what moved them to pull the trade on the Zacha deal last week and has them focused on what’s coming next after one last hurrah with a veteran group this season.
“We just felt that Pavel Zacha was a player that we had targeted in the middle of the ice in a multi-positional-type player. Younger,” said Don Sweeney, of dealing for Zacha. “I feel there’s growth and potential there moving forward. We hope to be able to find a deal with him being a part of the organization now and beyond.”
The same “younger” sentiment applies to Studnicka, who enters a crossroads point in his pro hockey career after stalling between the AHL and NHL last season following the best NHL training camp of his career. Studnicka finished with three assists in 15 games in Boston last season while putting together 10 goals and 35 points in 41 games last season along with a minus-11 rating that’s going to need to be improved.
“Studs is a young pro. He was still on his entry level contract. If you look around the league, it’s a tough league,” said Providence Bruins head coach Ryan Mougenel, who has worked with Studnicka for the last couple of seasons. “For me, there was a time during the season when he came down and he was our best player and our go-to guy, which is what we expect from him. His game is maturing and rounding. He’s got to watch the puck go in the net, he’s got to get touches and he’s got to play with confidence.
“But he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s gotten bigger and he’s gotten stronger, and now it’s his time to make those things go to work. He’s a kid like a Trent Frederic that everybody is rooting for and I think he’s got a bright future.”
Now the tougher jobs continue for Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney as he figures out how to fit Bergeron, Krejci and Zacha into a shrinking amount of salary cap space that ultimately looks like a cap-clearing trade is going to be required.