Pastrnak contract will dictate Bruins’ path

The Boston Bruins seem to have reached a crossroads.

On one hand, they are coming off of a 107-point season where they had one of the 10-best records in the league and were a Game 7 loss away from advancing in the playoffs. They were still an excellent team and a legit contender in a tough division and conference.

But they are also on the verge of some pretty significant changes with a lot of question marks heading into the offseason and start of the 2022-23 season.

They are already in the market for a new head coach after the surprising dismissal of Bruce Cassidy.

There is also the very real possibility that Patrice Bergeron could opt for retirement instead of re-signing for another year.

Adding to that uncertainty is the offseason surgeries for Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, and Mike Reilly, all of whom could miss the start of the season. Marchand and McAvoy may not be back until December. Those would be two very significant absences to start the season.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

Then there is the gigantic elephant in the room, which is a new contract for star winger David Pastrnak. That situation, perhaps more than any other, could dictate what path the Bruins ultimately take over the next couple of seasons. Pastrnak is one of the best players in the league, is in the prime of his career, and is going to be eligible for a new contract extension this offseason as he enters the final year of his current six-year, $40 million contract. He will be eligible for unrestricted free agency after it expires.

Given his talent, production, age, and overall importance to the team it is pretty obvious the Bruins are going to try and get him signed beyond this season. Players like him do not tend to hit the open market and there would be no reason for the Bruins to not make an effort to get him signed. But making the effort and actually signing are two very different things.

Earlier this week The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa speculated that if the Bruins can not agree to a new deal with Pastrnak this offseason they may have no choice but to trade him and kickstart a full blown rebuild. With players like David Krejci and Zdeno Chara already gone, and Bergeron potentially riding off into the sunset of retirement a Pastrnak trade for future assets to replenish a barren farm system would definitely signify that start of an overhaul. You do not trade a player like that and expect to get better in the short-term.

But that is still dealing with a pretty significant hypothetical. There is still a very real possibility that Pastrnak re-signs, in which case he becomes the new franchise cornerstone (and a darn good one) that the Bruins can build around long-term. Even if the Bruins eventually hit a downturn in the next couple of years with Bergeron’s inevitable retirement, Marchand and Taylor Hall slowing down, and the depth around them still not being replenished you could always still trade a player like Pastrnak in the future. He is going to retain a lot of his value for several more years because he is still only 26 years old and not showing any signs of slowing down. You do not want to trade a player like that until you absolutely, positively have to trade them.

[Related: Bruce Cassidy eager to coach as early as 2022-23 season]

Right now in the short-term things look a little chaotic for Boston.

They do not have a head coach, two of their best players (Marchand and McAvoy) will be sidelined for at least a couple of months to start next season, Bergeron’s plans are still unknown, and they have to figure out what to do with Pastrnak.

If Bergeron returns and Pastrnak is able to be re-signed, there is enough talent here to get them through the first part of the season until McAvoy and Marchand return and remain a playoff team.

But if Bergeron returns and Pastrnak’s contract situation does not get resolved, the Bruins might have no other choice than to start tearing it down to the ground and trying to restock the cupboards long-term.


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    Sharks goalie James Reimer declines to wear Pride jersey

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    San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer didn’t take part in pregame warmups, saying the team’s decision to wear Pride-themed jerseys in support of the LGBTQ community runs counter to his religious beliefs.

    Reimer said in a statement Saturday that he made the decision based on his Christian beliefs, adding that he “always strived to treat everyone with respect” and that members of the LGBTQ community should be welcome in hockey.

    “In this specific instance, I am choosing not to endorse something that is counter to my personal convictions, which are based on the Bible, the highest authority in life,” Reimer said.

    Reimer is the second NHL player this season to refuse to take part in warmups with Pride-themed jerseys, with Philadelphia’s Ivan Provorov declining to in January. Reimer was not slated to start in Saturday night’s home game against the New York Islanders, which is Pride night.

    Additionally, the New York Rangers opted not to wear Pride jerseys or use Pride stick tape as part of their night in January despite previously advertising that plan.

    The Sharks said in a statement that they are proud to host Pride Night, saying the event reinforces the team’s commitment to inclusiveness.

    “As we promote these standards, we also acknowledge and accept the rights of individuals to express themselves, including how or whether they choose to express their beliefs, regardless of the cause or topic,” the team said in a statement. “As an organization, we will not waver in our support of the LGBTQIA+ community and continue to encourage others to engage in active allyship.”

    The You Can Play Project, which works to promote inclusiveness in sports, said the organization was disappointed in Reimer’s actions.

    “Religion and respect are not in conflict with each other, and we are certainly disappointed when religion is used as a reason to not support our community,” the organization said. “Wearing pride jerseys, like any celebration jersey worn, is not about the personal feelings of an athlete; rather the communication from the team that a community is welcome in the arena and the sport.”

    Panarin, Shesterkin lead Rangers to 6-0 rout of Penguins

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    NEW YORK — Mika Zibanejad had a goal and two assists, Artemi Panarin scored twice and Igor Shesterkin made 33 saves as the New York Rangers routed Pittsburgh 6-0 on Saturday night for their second win over the Penguins in three days.

    Vladimir Tarasenko, Chris Kreider and Jacob Trouba also scored for the surging Rangers, who have won nine of their last 11 home games and are 12-4-0 in their past 16 at Madison Square Garden.

    Shesterkin won his fifth straight and posted his second shutout this season. He nimbly denied Pittsburgh forward Mikael Granland with a sprawling save five minutes into the third period to preserve the shutout, the 10th of his career. His other one this season was a 1-0 home win over Philadelphia on Nov. 1.

    “When you put in hard and honest work, miracles happen,” Shesterkin said through a translator. ”We played wonderfully today – scored many, many goals. Honestly, I hope the fans loved it. We’re playing for them.”

    The Penguins lost their third straight and trail the Rangers by 12 points for third place in the Metropolitan Division. Pittsburgh, still in wild-card position, is trying to reach the playoffs for the 17th straight time.

    “Tonight was a humbling experience for all of us,” coach Mike Sullivan said. ”At this time of year, you have to have a short memory. We still have control of our destiny.”

    Patrick Kane and defenseman K’Andre Miller also had two assists apiece as New York improved to 7-1-1 in its last nine home games against Pittsburgh. The Rangers are five points behind the second-place New Jersey Devils, who lost at Florida on Saturday.

    “This was a big game for our goalie and our team,” Panarin said. “If you work at playing the right way, you have opportunities for goals.”

    Since Dec. 5, when they turned around their season with a 6-4 comeback win at home over St. Louis, the Rangers are 29-9-5.

    As he did on Thursday when the Rangers beat the Penguins 4-2, Zibanejad opened the scoring. He got his team-leading 36th goal at 5:10 of the first, beating Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry. Trouba and Miller assisted.

    Panarin made it 2-0 at 19:49 on the power play, whipping the puck past Jarry from the left circle off a pass from Adam Fox.

    Tarasenko increased the lead at 3:54 of the second with his fifth goal since joining the Rangers in a trade with St. Louis on Feb. 9. Tarasenko has points in 10 of his first 18 games with the Rangers.

    Kreider made it 4-0 at 6:43 with his 31st goal and third in two games against the Penguins. Kane and Vincent Trocheck assisted on Kreider’s 260th career goal, which moved the Rangers forward within two of Vic Hadfield for fifth place on the franchise list.

    New York won Thursday when Kreider scored the go-ahead goal in the third and added an empty-netter.

    After Casey DeSmith replaced Jarry in net following Kreider’s goal, Trouba beat the replacement with a sharp-angle shot at 8:39 for his eighth to increase the margin to 5-0. Trouba has points in six of his last eight games.

    Panarin scored again at 16:38 of the second – his 22nd goal of the season – to make it 6-0, with assists to Kane and Filip Chytil.

    “We’re building chemistry, building every day and every game,” Kane said.

    Panarin has points in eight of his last 10 games and leads the Rangers with 77 points overall, while Kane has seven points in his last six games.

    “It’s nice to see that many great players on your team,” added Panarin, whose first two NHL seasons were played alongside Kane with the Chicago Blackhawks. “We’re happy tonight.”

    Zibanejad assisted on goals by Tarasenko and Trouba and has 25 points – including 14 goals – over his last 20 games.

    “It was just one of those nights when the puck goes in for us,” Zibanejad said. “And obviously Igor gives us a boost making all those saves.”

    NOTES: The Penguins were missing defenseman Jeff Petry after he was hit with an unpenalized elbow from Rangers forward Tyler Motte on Thursday. … Pittsburgh also scratched defenseman Jan Rutta and forward Dalton Heinen and played defenseman Mark Friedman for the first time since Feb. 11. … The Rangers were without injured defenseman Ryan Lindgren for the 10th straight game.


    Penguins: Host the Ottawa Senators on Monday.

    Rangers: Host the Nashville Predators on Sunday night.

    Coyotes sign Shane Doan’s son to entry-level contract

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    TEMPE, Ariz. — Josh Doan is following his father’s footsteps into professional hockey.

    The Arizona Coyotes signed the 21-year-old forward to a three-year entry-level contract, beginning with the 2023-24 NHL season. He will report to the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL and play his first game against the Calgary Wranglers.

    Doan’s father, Shane, played 21 seasons with the franchise, many of those as captain, and followed it from Winnipeg to the desert in 1996. Shane Doan now serves as Arizona’s chief hockey development officer.

    The Coyotes drafted Josh Doan in the second round of the 2021, but he opted to play for the hometown Arizona State Sun Devils.

    Josh Doan set school records for goals (12) and assists (25) as a freshman last season. He had 16 goals and 22 assists in 39 games with Arizona State this season.

    The 6-foot-1, 183-pounder also played two seasons for the Chicago Steel of the USHL.

    Blackhawks forward Cole Guttman has shoulder surgery

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    CHICAGO — Chicago Blackhawks forward Cole Guttman had surgery on his right shoulder.

    The team said the operation was performed in Los Angeles. Team physician Michael Terry said the 23-year-old Guttman is expected “to be out of hockey activities for approximately four months.”

    Guttman had been a pleasant surprise for rebuilding Chicago. He made his NHL debut last month and finished the season with four goals and two assists in 14 games.

    Guttman was selected by Tampa Bay in the 2017 draft. He agreed to a two-year contract with Chicago in August 2022 that had a $950,000 salary cap hit.