Over the last few years, Don Sweeney’s trading partners across the NHL have inquired about Jake DeBrusk. No general manager has made Sweeney change his mind: He wants DeBrusk here long-term.
He will be here for at least two more seasons.
On Monday, the club announced a two-year, $7.35 million deal with the 24-year-old, who will cost $3.675 million against the salary cap. In a Zoom discussion afterward, Sweeney said a longer, larger pact was on the bargaining table.
“It’s probably on me,” he said, that they didn’t go long.
While he didn’t drill down on specifics, Sweeney said the Bruins “pivoted” to a short-term deal because of the league’s uncertain financial landscape. Since March 12, the only NHL games have been contested inside fan-free bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto. The league and its players association have yet to agree on a framework for 2020-21. If and when the season begins, fans will be limited in number, if they are allowed in the building at all.
“There are a lot of unknowns,” Sweeney said. “With all the positive news associated with vaccines and a hopeful climate that could potentially exist, we get back on track. But we have some ground to cover.”
This deal, Sweeney said, gives the team flexibility in the near future. If DeBrusk can fulfill his projected role of two-way, high-scoring wing, he will take home a much larger cut in two years, when the league should be in a post-pandemic recovery.
For now, he gets a raise on his second contract commensurate with his production (62 goals, 120 points in 203 games). DeBrusk, who turned 24 last month, will make $2.5 million in salary. He will be an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent in 2022, when his salary will rise to $4.85 million.
By then, the Bruins also will need to extend rising star defenseman Charlie McAvoy, whose salary will have escalated to $7.3 million. Patrice Bergeron will be an unrestricted free agent. David Krejci and Tuukka Rask will be unrestricted free agents after this season, as will Jaroslav Halak.
Monday’s signing gives the Bruins about $3.7 million of cap space, according to PuckPedia, with Zdeno Chara still unsigned. Chara’s most recent deal came in at $3.75 million, including $1.75 million in performance bonuses. Chara, per Sweeney and his agent, Matt Keator, wants to see the framework of 2020-21 before deciding if he will return for a 23rd NHL season.
DeBrusk was on pace for his second 20-goal season in his three-year career when the NHL paused on March 12. He produced a 19-16—35 line in 65 games, playing mostly with David Krejci and shuttling between the first and second power play units.
He has a reputation as a streaky player, but he always seems to get hot in the postseason. DeBrusk has 14 playoff goals and 23 points in 49 playoff games, including a 4-7—11 line in the Bruins’ 2019 run to the Stanley Cup Final. He scored 27 goals and 42 points in 68 games that regular season.
The most accomplished to date of Boston’s three first-round picks in 2015, DeBrusk since his rookie year of 2017-18 ranks fourth on the Bruins in goals (62), fourth in power-play goals (17), sixth in points (120), and eighth in assists (58). He is tied for third in game-winning goals (14).
Sweeney said contract negotiations have been “a little more pragmatic” this offseason, “in terms of what players as individuals are dealing with, what teams are dealing with, and being cognizant of the financial landscape. Like I said, we’re happy where we’re at. We’ve put him at the top of his peer group and I think Jake has a chance to go forward and really, depending on obviously where the league goes, to take it to a level beyond this. Well beyond this.”