By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Charlie McAvoy still has one of the brightest futures of any young defenseman in the National Hockey League. And the Bruins blue liner has made it clear that he wants that future to play out in Boston.
Speaking to reporters during breakup day on Friday, still obviously crushed by losing Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final to the Blues, McAvoy gave a quick no when asked if he's thought about his contract status. The 21-year-old is a restricted free agent and will remain under Bruins control after the team extends him a qualifying offer.
It's likely that McAvoy does not sign the qualifying offer and ends up either signing a lucrative long-term extension with the Bruins, or a shorter "bridge deal" to buy both sides time on negotiating a bigger contract. But McAvoy made it clear to reporters that at this point in his career, he wants to earn his own place in Boston's championship culture that it's built with 12 major sports titles since 2001.
"I don't want to go anywhere. [Boston] is the best place on earth," McAvoy said. "This is home for me now. I live here in the summer. I love it here. I want to be here forever. I think losing in the manner that we did, I want to just win so bad, to just be a part of it, just to join - just a city full of champions and everyone here is winners and they all won at one point and I just want to be a part of that so freaking bad. We just have to believe that we'll be back."
It's quite possible that by the time the Bruins make it back to the Stanley Cup Final, McAvoy will have established himself as an elite defenseman in the NHL and one of the Bruins' principal leaders. He was able to lean on current captain Zdeno Chara in the early part of his career. Some of this year's playoff run felt like a passing of the torch.
The question, now, is what McAvoy would command in a long-term extension. That's where it gets a little complicated. McAvoy is essentially a must-sign for Bruins GM Don Sweeney, but he's not a slam dunk to be among the highest-paid defensemen in the league right now. He still hasn't played as consistently as you'd like out of a No. 1 defenseman, or proven able to make it through a full regular season without a long-term injury.
Still, McAvoy certainly has the highest ceiling of anyone on the team and remains just 21 years old. It's possible that the comp for his next big contract is Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who has yet to score more than 39 points in a season but still earned an eight-year, $60 million extension - $7.5 million per season.
That AAV would make McAvoy the Bruins' highest-paid player. He may deserve that status eventually, but signing such a deal would have to involve projecting out over the future. If McAvoy consistently plays at the level he displayed in the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he might even become a strong value at $7.5 million annually when a veteran champion like Drew Doughty is making $11 million per season.
Either way, figuring out the financials for McAvoy's future won't be easy for the Bruins. But it's a great development that McAvoy didn't hem and haw or say anything cryptic when talking about his future in Boston. Even with devastating defeat fresh in his mind, he wants to stay. He wants his first Stanley Cup to come with a spoked B on his uniform.
"Obviously the result wasn't what we wanted," McAvoy said, "but just the experience - just kind of knowing now what it takes, and we're going to have a bad taste in our mouth for a while - I can just hope that next year we come back and have a chance again to change the ending."
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].