Tuukka Rask

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Big, bad contracts? Bruins’ salary cap situation after Pastrnak signing

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With a $6,666,666 cap hit, David Pastrnak‘s six-year contract might seem like a deal with the devil for the Boston Bruins. All things considered, it’s actually pretty reasonable, though.

Pastrnak is 21, and he only reached the legal drinking age in the U.S. on May 25. His youthful potential makes him stick out like a sore thumb on a Bruins roster that is, well, a little … veteran-heavy.

(It’s really experienced; yeah, that’s the way to put it.)

This Pastrnak contract seems like a solid excuse to examine the Bruins’ salary cap structure, continuing what’s become a running series at PHT.

Expensive old guys (and David Pastrnak)

Let’s begin with aging players whose contracts aren’t so scary … at least not right now.

Patrice Bergeron – 32 years old, $6.875M cap hit expires after 2021-22

Here’s a quick summation of my opinion regarding Bergeron: I once argued on Rotoworld’s Podcast that he probably belonged on the NHL’s list of the 100 greatest players of all-time. Bergeron can do it all, and figures to remain a serious difference-maker for some time.

Even so, Bergeron’s dealt with some troubling concussion issues, and has a lot of NHL mileage on his body. He’s been a fixture since 2003-4, after all.

There’s some concern that he’ll regress sharply, but here’s the thing: Bergeron is a steal right now, so the Bruins might just have to pay more in the future for getting a huge bargain in the past.

Pastrnak – 21, Mark of the Beast cap hit runs through 2022-23

It’s a near-certainty that Pastrnak’s numbers were inflated by his time with Bergeron and Brad Marchand, but such logic didn’t hurt Leon Draisaitl‘s wallet (i.e. the Connor McDavid bump), now did it? Injuries and other bad bounces can change things fast, but as it stands, this seems like a nice value.

Marchand – 29, $6.125M through 2024-25

The Bruins must have breathed a sigh of relief that they were able to re-sign Marchand at a reasonable cap hit, even as he was erupting from “really good and really annoying” to “really, really, REALLY good and really annoying.”

It’s easy to forget how frequently Marchand’s name landed in trade rumors when his points-to-agitation ratio wasn’t quite as helpful to the Bruins’ cause.

Right now, Marchand is a steal, probably an extreme one. He’s dangerously close to 30, and that’s a long contract, so that deal could be a problem in the future (especially considering how he likes to mix it up).

Tuukka Rask – 30, $7M through 2020-21

As the Bruins have declined from a contender to a team scraping to make the playoffs, the hype has fizzled for Rask to an extent. That’s just a nature of hype, though, because Rask remains one of the best workhorses in the game.

The problem remains similar: he’s getting up there in age. The term is both good news (not agonizingly long if he really slips) and bad news (four years, so if he does slip, the Bruins must find answers in net).

Old, expensive guys: part yikes

Matt Beleskey might not qualify as “old” at 29, but his contract is aging like reverse-wine with three years left at $3.8M. David Backes is 33 and costs $6M for four more years. Yeah, not good.

David Krejci straddles the line between those two groups. He quietly had a solid season in 2016-17, but at 31 and with a $7.25M cap hit, his contract might be something the Bruins regret. Especially if he really starts to hit a wall with four years remaining.

Decisions on defense

Reports indicate that the Bruins have at least discussed an extension with 40-year-old, bedrock defenseman Zdeno Chara. His $4M cap hit for next season is very nice, yet you wonder if Boston would be dancing around mines if they pull the trigger on a deal without being confident about his long-term viability.

(It would also provide cruel comedy if they’re proactive in re-signing a 40-year-old man after waiting until training camp to sign a 21-year-old rising star.)

Boston’s defensive future is fuzzy, as they only have two blueliners (Torey Krug and Kevan Miller) locked down for three years. Everyone else is on one or two-year pacts.

There are other young players to assess, from prospects to Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano.

(Opinion: Vatrano could be in for at least a moderate breakthrough in 2017-18, so the Bruins might be wise to at least explore a cheap extension sooner rather than later. Or, you know, they could pay a lot of money for another rare, precious young scorer. That seems to be going well for them.)

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So … yeah, the Bruins seem like a mess, at least when you take a view beyond the next season or two.

On the bright side, their best players are locked up at good-to-great rates, at least as of 2017. It’s not all bad, but you still have to wonder if management has the right vision for the future of this franchise.

Pastrnak becoming highest-paid Bruins player wouldn’t bother Marchand

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The Boston Bruins boast several veteran players who are getting paid nicely, but David Krejci leads the pack with a $7.25 million cap hit.

There’s a very, very strong chance that David Pastrnak will receive a deal that carries a larger AAV, particularly after Leon Draisaitl received an eight-year deal that carries an $8.5M cap hit.

MORE: Pastrnak is a star, so the Bruins should pay him as such.

One could picture the Bruins’ brass asking Pastrnak: “How would Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask, and Patrice Bergeron feel about making less than you?” After all, we’ve seen top players serve as useful “ceilings” for teammates’ paydays before; just think about how happy the Pittsburgh Penguins were to give Sidney Crosby a deal with an $8.7M cap hit.

(Yes, Evgeni Malkin makes a bit more per season, but you wonder if 87 kept 71 under the $10M threshold.)

Anyway, as persuasive as that hypothetical argument might be, Marchand told the Boston Herald’s Matt Kalman that he won’t begrudge Pastrnak if he garners a richer deal. There seems to be a “rising tides lift all boats” logic to the star-pest’s take.

“We all want to see each other be successful,” Marchand said. “He had a great year last year so we’ll be very happy for him with whatever he ends up getting. The contract that he signs, Pasta’s going to make a lot of money, he’s a phenomenal player, he’s 21 years old, he’s going to have a long career. We all like to see each other be successful and do well and that’s the way the game goes.”

Marchand, 29, probably isn’t sweating things too much right now.

While $6.125M is a bargain for a player who’s blossomed into an elite winger in the NHL, that contract runs through 2024-25, giving him long-term security. It was a nice boost from the $4.5M cap hit his previous deal carried, and it made sense for Marchand to sign at the time, particularly when you consider how dangerous his agitating style can be.

(One angry opponent could conceivably have had enough with his antics and that extension could have been in danger.)

Marchand spoke to the Boston Herald about timing with these deals, and it’s clear with Pastrnak and Draisaitl that they’re benefiting from their teams not doing the work to get their extensions done as early as possible.

In each case, those forwards took full advantage of “prove it” seasons, with some nice help from linemates such as Connor McDavid and Marchand.

Marchand might wish that his contract situation lined up a bit differently, but it would be silly of him to hold it against Pastrnak. Luckily, Marchand seems to take the same, sober stance.

Besides, if “Pasta” boils down under the pressure of a new deal, the Boston media will probably do the agitating for him.

More on Pasta talk

“No timetable” for a deal yet.

Pastrnak might want an eight-year term.

$6M per season might not cut it.

Malcolm Subban ready to compete for Bruins’ backup goalie job

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The Boston Bruins have a pretty wide open competition for the No. 2 goaltending job behind starter Tuukka Rask.

Competing for that spot are Anton Khudobin, the player that held that position for most of last season, Zane McIntyre, and 2012 first-round pick Malcolm Subban.

From the time he was drafted Subban was thought to be the future of the position in Boston but his stock seems to have dropped a bit in recent seasons and he now finds himself in danger of being passed over on the organizational depth chart. He spent the 2016-17 season in Providence where he split time with McIntyre, with McIntyre getting the better of the play, finishing with a .930 save percentage in 31 games (to a .917 save percentage for Subban in 32 games).

“I believe I can play,” Subban said this past week, via the Boston Herald. “I know my talent better than anyone else and I believe I can play. I want to come in to camp and prove that. Obviously, it’s easier said than done. Everyone in camp believes they can play or else they wouldn’t be here. I’m just trying to prove I can play in the NHL, or get an opportunity at least.”

Throughout his pro career Subban has posted okay numbers in the American Hockey, but nothing that really jumps off the page. He has only appeared in two NHL games with both of them ending badly for him, allowing a total of six goals on 22 shots in his two appearances. The most recent appearance came during the 2016-17 season when he allowed three goals on only six shots in an ugly loss to the Minnesota Wild.

The Bruins re-signed Subban — along with McIntyre — to a two-year contract this summer.

Solidifying the backup goalie spot should be a pretty big priority for the Bruins because it was a major sore spot during the 2016-17 season.

Even though his production has slipped a bit in recent seasons Rask can still be a top tier starting goalie in the NHL. But he has been counted on to carry a massive workload due to the lack of quality play behind him.

The Bruins managed to win just seven games last season when Rask did not start, while his backups managed to post a miserable .888 save percentage.

A capable backup that can give Rask a bit of a break during the season will not only give the Bruins a better chance to win when he is not in the lineup, it might also help improve his play simply because he would not be run into the ground.

Report: Pastrnak’s agent to ask Bruins about eight-year deal on Friday

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The Boston Herald’s Steve Conroy caught up with Bruins exec Cam Neely and David Pastrnak‘s agent J.P. Barry, and there are some awfully interesting updates regarding the rising forward’s negotiations.

Most pressingly, Barry told Conroy that the two sides are set to speak again on Friday, and there will be an argument made from Pastrnak’s side for an eight-year deal.

Barry backed up reports that a six-year, $36 million contract (which included a $6M cap hit) wouldn’t be enough.

Somewhat refreshingly, Neely addressed one of the burning questions head on: how would Leon Draisaitl‘s eight-year deal with an $8.5M cap hit figure in?

“If it looks like an abundance of players and the market has shifted, then you should look at it, but if it’s one player that you’re hanging your hat on then I don’t know if that’s a market shift,” Neely said. “I don’t know if the market has really shifted as much as people think.”

Interestingly, Neely also noted that while there was some early talk about a shorter “bridge” contract for Pastrnak, there hasn’t been much dialog in that regard recently.

All things considered, it might not be easy to talk Pastrnak’s price down that far from the Draisaitl price point. The two players generated similar numbers in 2016-17, although perhaps there could be some argument that a center might be worth more than a winger.

Neely mentioned that the Bruins’ own spending wouldn’t factor in much, yet that could conceivably be a useful talking point.

After all, Draisaitl could point to Connor McDavid‘s $12.5M and say, “I might not be worth that, but I’m worth about two-thirds, right?”

The Bruins’ highest cap hit is David Krejci at $7.25M, with Tuukka Rask at $7M. Theoretically, Neely and/or GM Don Sweeney could ask Pastrnak how much more he’s really worth than, say, Patrice Bergeron or Brad Marchand.

The fact that Pastrnak is an RFA (with quite a few RFA years to burn) also gives the Bruins leverage, whether the Oilers took advantage of their own leverage with Draisaitl well enough or not.

At least Bergeron provides some optimism, as CSN New England’s Joe Haggerty notes.

It’s all pretty fascinating stuff, although one can understand Bruins fans getting a little uneasy as this all drags out.

Who will step up and give the Bruins some decent backup goaltending?

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This post is part of Bruins Day on PHT…

The past three seasons combined, only one NHL goalie, Washington’s Braden Holtby, has played more minutes and made more saves than Tuukka Rask.

In a related story, the Bruins haven’t had a reliable backup for three years running.

In 2014-15, it was Niklas Svedberg that lost the trust of then-head coach Claude Julien.

The next season, Jonas Gustavsson played well at times, but not well enough overall.

Which brings us to last year, when Anton Khudobin was brought back to Boston, only to end up on waivers by January.

Rask, meanwhile, had to play, and play a lot. He started out in excellent form, but as the minutes piled up, his numbers began to suffer.

It got to the point in late March that Bruce Cassidy, Julien’s mid-season replacement, had to admit that Rask had been “overplayed.”

“He’s a guy that’s played a lot of hockey this year,” Cassidy said, “and he’s not a 240-pound goaltender that can handle all of the games, all of the workload every year. We know that. I’m not going to put limitations on him, but we probably overused him at the start of the year. At this time of year, it gets tougher and tougher with any player that’s been overplayed.”

Credit to Rask, who wasn’t the reason the B’s fell to Ottawa in the first round. If anything, it was all the injuries to the blue line that hurt the Bruins the most. For his part, Rask finished the playoffs with a .920 save percentage.

But with a decent backup, the B’s might’ve been able to get home-ice advantage in the playoffs. A rested Rask might’ve been even better when the games really mattered.

Next season, the Bruins are likely to start with the same tandem of Rask and Khudobin, the latter of whom still has a year left on his contract.

But if Zane McIntyre or Malcolm Subban can outplay Khudobin in the preseason, the No. 2 job could easily be taken from the veteran.

Based on his AHL numbers, McIntyre has a decent shot of doing just that. In 30 games for Providence last season, the 24-year-old had an impressive .930 save percentage.

Of course, McIntyre also got into eight NHL games last season, and his save percentage was a ghastly .858. So there’s that to consider as well.

As for Subban, his only two NHL starts have been nightmares, and his AHL numbers have actually fallen since his first two years as a pro. But there’s still a sliver of hope for the 23-year-old. One never knows when a goalie could get hot.

For the Bruins’ sake, it doesn’t really matter which goalie emerges as the backup, as long as one of them does a decent job and keeps 30-year-old Rask fresh.

Recall 2010-11 when it was Rask who played the role of reliable backup, keeping Tim Thomas fresh for his Conn Smythe Trophy-winning performance in the playoffs.

That’s what the B’s need in 2017-18 — a reliable backup. If they get one, it’ll be the first time they’ve had that in a while.

Combined, Boston’s backups went a miserable 7-11-2 last season.