It’s become abundantly clear that the Bruins are placing the weight of the 2022-23 season on the please-play-forever, one-two punch of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. But Wednesday failed to come with any clarity for either player’s status, as the Bruins concluded Day 1 of free agency with neither player signed to a new deal.
“Nothing’s changed,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney confirmed shortly after 5 p.m. Wednesday. “There’s no update as of right now in terms of finalizing anything.”
The lack of movement on Bergeron is a little interesting. As of Tuesday night, reporting from Quebec seemed to indicate that Bergeron was hours away from signing a new deal with the Bruins. That’s something that’s been in the works for weeks. The Bruins had also previously mentioned that they hoped to get a decision from their captain before the start of free agency.
But while B’a are still waiting, they’re certainly not panicking when it comes to No. 37.
“As I referenced the other day, I think we’re in a really good place with Patrice,” Sweeney offered. “[It’s] just the timing and working out the details of his contract and allowing him to declare he’s good to go. Could be any timeframe there. Just working through some of the stuff, letting this day pass and again, he’s the only one who’s going to make that final announcement, because he’s the one with the final say.
“He’s dictating his timeline, but the conversations have gone well, so I’m not overly concerned about it.”
When it comes to Krejci, there’s a bit more of an unknown at play here.
“We’ve had numerous discussions [with Krejci] throughout the day,” Sweeney noted. “Going to try to continue to try to find some common ground there. Remains positive, but I just don’t have a clear cut answer for you.”
Interesting note for those of you who like reading into things: “Try to find some common ground.” Now, this could mean absolutely nothing. Or it could mean that the Bruins and Krejci aren’t exactly on the same page when it comes to the parameters of a return to the NHL following a year back home for HC Olomouc.
The Bruins could give Krejci exactly what he wants upon a return to Boston, and that’s the spot between Taylor Hall and David Pastrnak on Boston’s second line. But make no mistake about it, the Bruins need Krejci waaaaaaay more than Krejci needs the Bruins. Beyond the obvious comfort of being back home and closer to his family as a top draw for Olomouc, the 36-year-old Krejci sold his Boston home following his move to the Czech League, and there’s no doubt that the grind of a Czech League season isn’t nearly as taxing as that of an 82-game marathon of the NHL.
Sweeney and the Bruins are basically asking Krejci for a huge solid when it comes to a Boston return.
That said, reading between the lines —the Erik Haula trade, the lack of signings that eat into the NHL roster, and Sweeney’s general attitude towards the decisions — it stands to reason that the Bruins believe that Krejci wants to be back in Boston.
But given Boston’s cap space situation, Sweeney admitted that the team will have to get creative with their contracts.
When I asked if they were going to have to get creative (think Jarome Iginla’s one-year, bonus-laden deal in 2013-14), Sweeney acknowledged that the deals would likely be “tilted towards the performance side of things.”
To try my best to not give you an ice cream headache, it basically mean this: To get Bergeron and Krejci back, the Bruins are almost certainly going to structure these contracts as one-year deals with very low cap hits that are loaded with easily-attainable performance bonuses that will be due at the end of the year or come off next year’s cap as overages. (This is something you can do with both Bergeron and Krejci, as they’re over 35 years old.) The performance bonuses in the contract could be as simple as a $1,000,000 bonus for appearing in five games, and so on and so forth. That bonus money will be due, but the cap hit reflected on the books will remain the same for the season. It’s basically kicking the bill down the road.
Any other potential player movement would be based on how the Bruins structure those deals, and the Bruins have been pretty open about not wanting to strip away any pieces from their NHL roster right now.
The sooner this is done, the sooner the Bruins can map out the money math.
But the important thing is that the Bruins clearly and ultimately feel that it will indeed get done.
“The talks have been positive [and] I’m not a guy to focus on the negative or bad side of it,” said Sweeney. “I’m attacking it as it comes and taking my indications from them. Hopefully I find closure here in the shorter term versus the longer term.”
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. He has been covering the Bruins since 2010, and has been a member of the Boston chapter of the PHWA since 2013. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.