A day after Bruins GM Don Sweeney publicly announced that he had no plans of trading David Pastrnak, shooting down rumors from the prior day, the chip we have been waiting for has fallen. Across the continent Peter Chiarelli and the Edmonton Oilers signed restricted free agent Leon Draisaitl to a massive eight-year deal that carries a cap hit of $8.5 million dollars per year.
We wrote back in July how Chiarelli Is Still Screwing the Bruins with the payment to Connor McDavid directly leading to his eventual overpayment of Leon Draisaitl. Again, McDavid is not an over payment, but it raised the salary ceiling which allowed for Draisaitl to sign for an AAV of $8.5 million today.
Draisaitl and Pastrnak were the last big RFA’s left to sign and we all knew one would have a direct result to the other. Draisaitl and Pastrnak’s stats are very similar. Pastrnak has scored 59 goals and 64 assists for 123 points in 172 NHL games. Draisaitl has 50 goals and 87 assists for 137 points in 191 games. Draisaitl (.717) has a slight advantage over Pastrnak (.715) in points per game.
Big deals for young players such as Draisaitl pay for their future production and the growth in their game, not what he has done up to this point. At years 6-8 the contract could be fantastic if Draisaitl continues to improve and becomes the key 2 in the lethal 1-2 center punch that Edmonton believes they have. In that case Draisaitl’s new deal is not an over payment.
Where I think the Oilers may be okay was also said on NHL Network Radio. Boomer Gordon said, “you do not get into cap trouble by paying your stars. You get into cap trouble by overpaying the middle class.” I am paraphrasing here, but I agree with him. Look at the last few Stanley Cup winners in Chicago and Pittsburgh. They have paid their stars and filled the rest of their lineup with lower paid players and college free agents. The Bruins on the other hand, who gave a $6 million a year deal to David Backes, is a perfect example of overpaying the middle class. In fairness to Backes, the Bruins were a different team with him this year. They had a different attitude and never folded up like a cheap tent when they were met with adversity. I do not think the Bruins would have made the playoffs without Backes but his $6 million per is still an over payment. Leon Draisaitl carries some significant risk at eight-years, but he is not a middle class overpayment.
Regardless, I can guarantee that David Pastrnak and his agent were popping bottles of champagne when news broke about the Draisaitl contract. Does this mean that Pastrnak is going to ask for the same money? I am not so sure, but I’d lean towards no. Pastrnak is a right wing. Draisaitl plays center. Typically centers get paid more than the wing. But does the position that Pastrnak plays mean he is worth $2.5 million less than Draisaitl? I don’t think so. I do think that Draisaitl is a more complete player than Pastrnak and playing center certainly helps that. But Draisaitl’s contract now puts Pastrnak more in the $7-7.5 million range instead of the $6-6.5 million range.
Lastly, this brings me to the Bruins rumored internal salary structure where they do not want to sign Pastrnak to a contract bigger than the one Brad Marchand signed last pre-season. To me, this absolutely makes no sense. The market dictates how much a player is worth and Brad Marchand took a massive home town discount at $6.125 million AAV rather than test the open market. Thanks to primarily the contracts that Peter Chiarelli has given out this summer the market for Pastrnak looks to be about a million more than what Brad Marchand signed for almost a year ago. If this “we can’t pay him more” salary structure does exists why does David Krejci have a bigger cap hit than Patrice Bergeron? Bergeron is way more important to the Bruins than Krejci is.
To make a deal work for both the Bruins and Pastrnak might have to go back to the drawing board. The Bruins could pony up and do a massive eight-year deal like Draisaitl at somewhere in the neighborhood of $7.5 million cap hit, which would make Pastrnak the highest paid Bruin player. Although a stretch another option could be going with a shorter contract, maybe four years, which would buy Pastrnak out of all of his RFA years at a lower AAV in the $6-$6.5 million range. Another possible option is signing a one-year contract to get Pastrnak into camp on time like the Bruins did with Riley Smith back in 2014. Then they signed him to contract in the middle of the season (another over payment by Chiarelli).
Either route the Bruins go Pastrnak is going to be paid very well for his services and he is most likely going to have a higher cap hit than Brad Marchand. It would be nice if it was under $7 million per season, but Chiarelli being Chiarelli, has now set the market for comparable players at a higher number.
Oh the joys of being a Bruins fan.
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