It’s been an offseason of change for the Bruins.
Devastated by a busted ‘all in’ year, the Bruins had to go let almost every single free agent depart for greener pastures and went bargain-bin hunting to build out their 2023-24 roster. The team also dealt with the retirement of both David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron, and have seemingly embraced the idea of turning the page to a new era. (Not that they had a choice, really.) Add it up and that’s one hell of a set of summer storylines.
But there is one under-the-radar storyline that’s loomed over the club this summer, and that’s the Boston future of top-six winger Jake DeBrusk.
Entering the final year of his most recent contract with the Bruins — a two-year, $8 million extension signed just before the 2022 trade deadline — DeBrusk could be set to cash in after a career-high 27 goals and 50 points in 2022-23. But if DeBrusk has it his way, that payday is going to happen in Boston and with the only NHL team he’s ever known.
“I’m hoping to stay [with the Boston Bruins],” DeBrusk said in an interview with NHL dot com’s Derek Van Diest earlier this week. “It’s the only team that I know and the team that I grew up with. Hopefully it goes in that direction, and we’ll see how it goes. That’s why I have an agent, and I told him I wanted to stay out of this one and in time, it’ll be nice when it all gets done.”
Reading into words can often be a futile exercise, sure, but a couple of things that stuck out there? The fact that DeBrusk outright opens with the fact that he wants to stay with the Bruins, and that he noted that it’ll be nice “when it all gets done.” When talking about contracts, words matter. It would’ve been infinitely easier for DeBrusk to say something like, “Yeah, we’l see what happens there. I sit these things out.” Now, he did mention that he’s leaving it to his agent, but that was sandwiched around comments that indicate that Boston is where DeBrusk wants to be.
That’s probably exactly what Don Sweeney and the Bruins want to hear, too.
While it’s safe to say that words are just words until proven otherwise, the sides have clearly come a long way since DeBrusk’s trade request, which was formally made during the 2021 offseason and went public shortly into the 2021-22 season following a healthy scratching. (DeBrusk officially rescinded the trade request in 2022.)
The Bruins have also seen some downright fantastic results from DeBrusk since late February 2022, with DeBrusk scoring 43 goals and 75 points in 96 games since his move to Boston’s top line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
His 43 goals are the second-most on the Bruins over that span (David Pastrnak led all Boston scorers with 74 goals), and were actually the 43rd-most in the entire NHL. 36 of those 43 goals have come at even-strength play, too, making DeBrusk the league’s 22nd-highest even-strength goal scorer over that span. And when you factor in the injuries that put DeBrusk on the shelf for a month and a half last year, those are some undeniably elite numbers as a goal-scoring threat.
DeBrusk has also returned to the table as a notable playoff threat, with six goals and 10 points in his last 14 playoff games.
And as someone who has thrived on both the left and right side, DeBrusk’s long-term fit with the Bruins shouldn’t be up for debate. The Bruins will also have more than enough cap space to hammer out a deal with DeBrusk, with Boston currently slated to enter the 2024 offseason with over $28.5 million in projected cap space, and that’s without factoring in what many expect to be a pretty sizable increase to the NHL’s salary cap next year.
What’ll be worth watching here is how eager the Bruins are in getting an extension done with DeBrusk.
Beyond the obvious of the Brandon Hagel extension in Tampa potentially setting the market for DeBrusk, Sweeney has been proactive (Brad Marchand signed his most recent extension during the B’s training camp and Charlie McAvoy signed his just days into the 2021-22 regular season), and he’s also been willing to negotiation in-season like he did with David Pastrnak ahead of Pastrnak’s record-breaking contract with the club.
The only important news within that, though, is that DeBrusk is more than willing to meet ’em at the negotiating table.