It’s still very uncertain as to what awaits the Boston Bruins a couple of years down the road, but the B’s are all limbered up for one last dance with Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci this coming season. In a flurry of activity on Monday, the Bruins announced the expected one-year, incentive-laden deals for both captain Patrice Bergeron ($2.5 million plus another $2.5 million in performance bonuses) and wayward son Krejci ($1 million plus $2 million in performance bonuses) and also wrapped things up with newly acquired Pavel Zacha on a one-year, $3.5 million contract as well.
It’s stunning on its face that the Bruins have their top two centers signed on for next season for a paltry $3.5 million cap hit, and that both players left millions of dollars on the table to get the Boston band back together. But it shouldn’t be all that surprising with a pair of lifetime Boston Bruins that were clear they weren’t playing anywhere but Boston, and for a player in Bergeron that’s been taking less to keep the B’s competitive for a long, long time.
“I wanted to come back with the Bruins and Bruins only, there was no question about that. I wanted to make it work with management, so I took the time, and we took the time together to make it work, and I thought that Sweens and Cam were amazing throughout the process, and Phil as well,” said Bergeron. “It all played out. To me, hockey is all about the team success and ultimately wining. And that’s what really makes the difference between a good career and a great career. And it’s the friendships that you build. It’s the memories that last a lifetime.
“The dollar sign obviously, I’m not going to say that we’re not well paid. We are extremely [well-paid] and beyond what I ever dreamed of, as far as salary goes. That being said I think leaving a few on the table to make sure you’re a competitive team and you’re a good team and that it carries on for years, I think that to me makes a big difference. I think that’s how we want to play the game. You want to play the game to win. You want to play the game to be successful. You want to play the game to have friendships and memories. I think that’s the one thing that you hope people buy into. And I think this team and guys, even the younger guys, have been really buying in. You hope that this carries on. It didn’t start with me or [David Krejci]. It’s really beyond my years and I think it’s great to have in a historical franchise like the Bruins.”
Bergeron has a captaincy in Boston and never at any point even gave a hint that he was going to leave it, and Krejci will hit the 1,000 NHL games played mark this coming season while becoming just the fourth player drafted by the B’s to hit that mark while just playing NHL games for the Boston Bruins.
That is as clear a sign of selfless leadership and priorities in check as you’ll see across all of pro sports, even as we are all spoiled here in Boston having watched a player like Bergeron set the perfect example with the Black and Gold for the last two decades. And watching Krejci selflessly play the role of second line center alongside Bergeron when he could have been a No. 1 guy for so many teams across the NHL during his career.
Certainly, there’s little doubt Bergeron and Krejci returning helps position the Boston Bruins as a playoff contender again this coming season. The future Hall of Famer is still arguably the best two-way center in the game and a player that even the fancy stats brigade loves with a fiery passion based on his defensive metrics.
Patrice Bergeron has re-signed with the Boston Bruins to a one-year deal with an AAV of $2.5M with another $2.5 mil in attainable performances bonuses. Bergeron is still elite two-way center. Huge, important news for the Bruins! pic.twitter.com/ho8nI1ZYvX
— Andy & Rono (@ARHockeyStats) August 8, 2022
Yes, the Ottawa Senators have greatly improved with the acquisitions of players like Alex DeBrincat and Cam Talbot, and the Montreal Canadiens are generating a lot of excitement with the moves they made at NHL Draft weekend that included selecting Juraj Slafkovsky with the No. 1 overall pick.
Even the Detroit Red Wings have made some notable improvements designed to fast-forward Steve Yzerman’s rebuild in Hockeytown.
There may be changes within the Atlantic Division pecking order from Toronto, Boston and Tampa Bay traditionally ruling the top of the division, but one expects the Bruins will again be a playoff team this coming season even if rehabbing players Charlie McAvoy, Brad Marchand and Matt Grzelcyk aren’t going to be ready to play at the start of next season. Certainly, Bergeron sounds as sure of that as he’s been of anything in his 19-year NHL career.
Why else would the 37-year-old come back again for one more year coming off his NHL-record fifth Selke Trophy last season with little to prove after winning at every single level?
It’s clear Bergeron and Krejci both feel the Bruins have enough to get into the Stanley Cup playoffs, and everybody knows that anything can happen once the postseason gets going, particularly with Tampa Bay lessened by salary cap challenges and teams like the Rangers, Hurricanes, Maple Leafs and Panthers in a good-but-not-great category in the Eastern Conference.
“I wanted to come back because I still know that I have some to give. Because I want to come back,” said Bergeron, who finished with 20 goals and 65 points last season while putting together some of the best 5-on-5 stats seen across NHL history since analytics have started being closely documented. “And with the Bruins because it’s my team. I love the city. I love the team. I love the guys. And I want to do something special with them.
“I think the fire, the desire, and the passion was too strong for me to take that path right now. Obviously, my family is always going to be my priority, try to make to work and spend as much time with them like I have over the past few years since [my kids have] been born, but with that said I’m not ready for that next step, [that next] part of my life. I think I still have something in the tank and something to give and then my mind will be more sure, and 100 percent and when it’s time to move on I’ll let you know.”
As Bergeron alluded to, there will come a day soon when both Bergeron and Krejci are gone and retired, and these one-year contracts buy the Boston Bruins one more season to find those long term solutions at the center position. The Boston Bruins will also have millions in performance bonus penalties on the salary cap in 2023-24 after this upcoming year with Bergeron and Krejci, so there will also be a heavy price to be paid for what should be a fun, nostalgic and likely final run with this core Boston Bruins group.
But there’s also something else in Bergeron’s words about taking less money to keep the Boston Bruins organization competitive and vital at a time when 25-year-old David Pastrnak could be entering unrestricted free agency following this season.
David Pastrnak could make upwards of $10 million per season on his next contract after watching a comparable player in Jonathan Huberdeau sign an eight-year, $84 million contract with the Calgary Flames. Or he could opt for something in the $9.75 million per season range that Johnny Gaudreau signed for in Columbus to keep all Boston Bruins players under a seemingly important $10 million per season mark, as no Stanley Cup winner in NHL history has yet to have a $10 million AAV player on their roster in the season when they hoisted the Cup.
Certainly, Don Sweeney and Cam Neely hope that Pastrnak was listening to Bergeron’s words of wisdom when talking about the One Last Dance with the Boston Bruins that Bergeron and Krejci, and Boston Bruins fans, will enjoy this upcoming season. And Boston Bruins fans should give one final stick salute in appreciation for Bergeron and Krejci literally putting their money where their mouths are and showing just how much they wanted to be Bruins for this upcoming season.