By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
Here’s something you don’t hear every day, Bruins’ general manager Don Sweeney just won one for the home team. And as a guy who has the David Backes (5 years and $30 million) and Matt Beleskey (5 years and $19 million) contracts on his resume, that is saying something.
The signing of David Pastrnak to a devilishly ominous six year, $6,666,666 per season salary after having one good year – somewhere, Harry Sinden is choking on his bourbon and rye – is actually a remarkable feat, when viewed in the wacky world that is the NHL’s second contract under this absurd collective-bargaining agreement.
Nevertheless – as Bill Belichick likes to say, “you do business, as business is being done” – and to that extent, Sweeney outdid himself. Whereas, former B’s and current Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli seemingly offered restricted free agent center Leon Draisaitl’s agent a blank check, and asked him to fill it in, Sweeney actually brought the market back to earth somewhat; if that is even possible, the way unproven players are cashing in on their first kick at the cash filled can in hockey these days.
There is no doubt that the Bruins are a better team with Pastrnak manning the right side on one of their top two lines, but never in the history of a franchise that took Hall of Famer Ray Bourque to arbitration – when he was head and shoulders above any other defenseman in the league – has someone got paid so much for so little actual production from the traditionally tight Jacobs family.
And Pastrnak ought to know – or should be told, if he doesn’t – with a big paycheck, comes big expectations, especially in Boston. Just ask Red Sox reject David Price about that.
Should he struggle in his first year with a fat wallet, he will hear it. Maybe not right away, but if he is sitting at 10 goals and 15 assists in January, the same fans who are cheering his signing, will be questioning whether or not he is performing to his price.
On the other hand, if the newly minted 6.66 million-dollar man takes it to another level this season, Bruins fans who have been weary of Sweeney’s tenure as general manager, will be calling the signing a stroke of brilliance by the B’s brass.
Perhaps more importantly for the future of the franchise, this signing has allowed Sweeney to set an almost Sinden-esque ceiling for future second contracts for the Bruins. If Charlie McAvoy, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Anders Bjork, Jake DeBrusk, Zack Senyshyn, or any of a handful of other prospects that the NHL prognosticators say could develop into key pieces for the Black and Gold; Pastrnak’s decision not to go for every last dollar – I can’t believe I just typed that with a straight face – will heavily influence the negotiations, at least by the stand point of the team.
At the end of the day – at least for now – the signing of the seldom-checking Czech is a win-win scenario for both sides. The kid gets his payday – albeit too early for my taste – and the team gets a guy whom they will rely on heavily to put pucks in the net; something that proved to be a challenge last season for the Bruins, for the start of training camp.
For both parties involved, the game has changed. The 21-year-old one-year wonder – who is now the third highest-paid player on a team that includes Stanley Cup champions Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Zdeno Chara on its roster – will now be asked to be accountable to his contract, and not just be a young talent on the rise.
And the franchise will be looking to a kid, who seemingly only has to shave once a month, to shoulder a large load – while being a foundation piece of the next wave of talent – of carrying the once proud team on Causeway Street back to Cup contention.
Only time will tell if both sides get what they wanted from each other when the put pen to paper on Thursday. I guess that’s why they play the games, right?
For his sake, as well as Sweeney’s, Pastrnak better be “game on” from the get go. Otherwise, much like the Sox pouting Price, he might just find out the hard way that money can’t buy you love in Boston.