As training camps draw closer all eyes in the NHL are starting to turn to the situation in Boston where restricted free agent David Pastrnak remains unsigned.
According to general manager Don Sweeney, there is no timetable on when a deal is going to be reached and there seems to be a bit of a gap between the two sides when it comes to the type of contract Pastrnak is going to get.
The Bruins have reportedly offered a seven-year deal worth around $6 million per year, while Pastrnak would reportedly prefer a deal closer to the eight-year pact Leon Draisaitl received from the Edmonton Oilers. Given their ages and overall production to this point, as well as the market for RFA’s of that skill level, it is not a completely unreasonable ask.
There are a couple of problems for the Bruins here, and a big one is simply the optics of the situation.
The Bruins have a 21-year-old player that appears to be on the verge of stardom in the NHL. He not only can be a young, cornerstone offensive player, he already is one. They also have more than enough salary cap room to fit him in.
What keeps the Bruins from getting the benefit of the doubt in this situation (at least from this perspective) is the track record they have in dealing with young, cornerstone offensive players. They tend to toss them aside, having traded Joe Thornton, Phil Kessel, Blake Wheeler, Tyler Seguin and standout defenseman Dougie Hamilton all within the past 12 years (and with three different general managers completing those trades). It creates the perception that the organization as a whole doesn’t properly value high end talent and would rather trade it away — often times for pennies on the dollar — than pay market value to keep it.
The argument against paying Pastrnak a deal similar to the one Draisaitl received, for example, is that the team is paying for potential. He might not pan out. It might not be a great value.
Pastrnak at this point in his career has one monster season and a couple of half seasons where he flashed star potential.
But his production puts him in some pretty rare and special company when it comes to impact players.
Over the past 20 years there have only been 10 players that have appeared in at least 170 games and scored at least 59 goals by the end of their age 20 season: Sidney Crosby, Ilya Kovalchuk, Steven Stamkos, Marian Gaborik, Jeff Skinner, Evander Kane, Jordan Staal, Vincent Lecavalier, Nathan MacKinnon and … David Pastrnak. The only player on that list that really didn’t continue on the same path that they showed early on has been Kane, and a lot of that has been due to injury and health.
What stands out about Pastrnak on that list is how little ice time it has taken him to reach that level compared to some of the others. Via Hockey-Reference.
On a per-minute basis his production is off the charts for someone his age.
Players that produce at this level at this age tend to be good enough to sustain it.
It’s not paying for potential. It’s paying for what a player will do for you instead of what a player has done for you.
The Bruins have been fortunate to get some tremendous bargains with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron over the years, and giving Pastrnak $7-8 million per season right now might look like a little bit of an overpay. But not every contract has to be below market value. Plus, if Pastrnak continues on his current path — and there is every reason to believe that he will given what he has done so far, his ability to generate shots and his possession numbers — that contract, too, could look like a bargain in the near future.