Nobody is going to blame Boston Bruins fans if they’re wincing a little bit while watching the Xander Bogaerts situation play out with the Boston Red Sox on a tough Thursday in the Hub.
Red Sox management misread the landscape with a homegrown, MVP-level player in Bogaerts a year ago when the shortstop was entering the final year of his deal with the Sox, and then watched as they couldn’t come close to matching a 11-year, $280 million contract offered by the San Diego Padres that will take the slugging infielder past his 40th birthday.
David Pastrnak isn’t going to get that kind of contract because the CBA limits deals to eight-year terms and NHL superstars aren’t even getting half of that kind of Major League Baseball average annual value (AAV) at this point in time. But everybody is fully expecting that No. 88 is going to get something in the neighborhood of $88 million over eight years if/when he signs a contract with Boston ahead of this summer’s unrestricted free agency.
The Boston Bruins presumably would also be able to match anything offered by anybody else on the open market, but who knows if they would even get to the chance if it got to that point.
The two sides are still talking, as detailed by Boston Hockey Now in a quick exchange with David Pastrnak’s agent JP Barry a couple of weeks ago, but it’s been eerily quiet on the contract front while the 26-year-old right winger is predictably tearing it up in his contract year.
“I continue to speak to Don on a regular basis. I can’t really go into specifics as it doesn’t really help the process at this stage,” said Barry to BHN last week.
Pastrnak is sixth in the NHL with 36 points in 25 games and tied with Leon Draisaitl for fifth in the NHL with 18 goals in that span as well and is on pace for 59 goals and 118 points in what would be career highs in both categories. Pasta is holding up his end of the bargain when it comes to earning a massive paycheck this season, and he’s doing it with his characteristic joie de vivre while he’s on the ice.
Like, fans flipping him off in Tampa Bay can’t even get him down.
A smiling David Pastrnak: “You could see that? That was pretty funny. You could tell he felt bad about it because he pulled it right back down pretty quick” pic.twitter.com/NEhXTxivCj
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) November 22, 2022
“It’s obviously confidence, joy for me,” said Pastrnak back in October just when this season was getting going. “I work on my game every day. I’m feeling old, but I’m still pretty young. I definitely think I can get better. I’m trying to do that every day.”
The joy, the game-breaking ability and the career-long association with a Boston Bruins organization that drafted and developed him is almost exactly the same as Bogaerts with the Red Sox. So in that sense this entire situation is the nightmare scenario that Boston Bruins are afraid might play out with their star right winger.
Just look at what Bogaerts’ departure has done to those around the Red Sox that expected this to somehow get done after Mookie Betts similarly moved on from the Red Sox organization a couple of years ago.
State of the Nation — Xander Bogaerts is gone. pic.twitter.com/I8ToJeP0BT
— Jared Carrabis (@Jared_Carrabis) December 8, 2022
This could be a window into the way Boston Bruins fans will be reacting seven months from now if Don Sweeney can’t find a way to lock down Pastrnak to a long-term, big money deal he’s absolutely earned at this point.
Certainly, there is a conventional belief right now that $10 million plus per year players don’t allow NHL teams to ice a deep, Cup-worthy roster under the current salary cap. No NHL team with a $10 million per season player has ever won the Cup to this point in NHL history with teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning getting all of their players signed for a little bit less than that significant amount.
Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy all signed with the Lightning for $9.5 million per season, and there’s little doubt the Boston Bruins were hoping for that kind of salary structure in Boston after signing Charlie McAvoy to that kind of contract last season.
But eventually an NHL team will win a Cup with a $10 million per season player as the salary cap ceiling goes up, and in a few years a Pastrnak contract signed now for $10-11 million per season could be looking like a bargain if he keeps up his current level of play.
Either way, the Boston Bruins are getting a front row seat witnessing the kind of handwringing that’s going on with the Red Sox after losing Bogaerts this winter. And it’s something they’ll be aggressively trying to avoid with a player in Pastrnak that should be a part of their long-term plans just like Bogaerts should have been on Lansdowne Street.