WILMINGTON, Mass. — The Boston Bruins have prioritized signing their core players to long-term contracts throughout general manager Peter Chiarelli’s tenure.
The most recent extensions signed were by centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, as well as reigning Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Tuukka Rask.
One player signed for just two more seasons is first-line left winger Milan Lucic. At a news conference Friday to discuss the six-year, $43.5 million extension signed by Krejci, Chiarelli was asked about Lucic’s future with the Bruins.
“Well, he?s another guy that we like, and obviously I consider him a part of the backbone of this franchise,” Chiarelli said. “So eventually we?ll get around to that.
“We’ve got a lot of things we have to do and that?s the business of hockey, and you know unfortunately, and this doesn’t apply to (Lucic), this is generally speaking, unfortunately when you?re in the position of success that we’ve had and players are at an age that they?re commanding, based on their years of service, they?re commanding certain salaries, you have to make tough decisions. But, you know, for (Lucic), we?ll get him done when his time comes around.”
Lucic currently has a salary-cap hit of $6 million, and given the direction player salaries and the cap are trending, he’s likely to receive a decent raise with his next deal. The 26-year-old is one of the NHL’s best power forwards, combining incredible toughness and underrated offensive skill. He has scored 24 or more goals in three consecutive non-lockout seasons, and his playoff scoring average (0.66 points per game) is nearly double his regular season mark (0.36).
Replacing Lucic wouldn’t be easy. So many players are drafted with the label “the next Milan Lucic” and many of them fail to come close to the Bruins forward’s level — look at Zack Kassian.
Intimidation is still a valuable component of today’s NHL, even though the game is trending more toward skill, speed and puck possession. Lucic is willing to drop the gloves when necessary — he has averaged 7.42 fights per season in his seven-year pro career — and he always comes to his teammates’ defense.
Lucic’s contract isn’t a priority right now. Chiarelli still needs to sign restricted free agents Torey Krug and Reilly Smith. Boston also has 10 players eligible for free agency next season, and a few of them, including Johnny Boychuk, Dougie Hamilton and Carl Soderberg, could command substantial raises.
“It?s a fine line keeping the core together and making the right decisions, and we don?t always make the right decisions,” Chiarelli said. “But what I?ve seen in these players that have given us service, and I?ve seen them in the trenches for a number of years, it makes it easier for me to make the decision.
“You know in this cap world, we?re going to have difficult decisions to make going forward even. And it?s stuff that we?re prepared to do but we have to be fully informed.”
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