Nothing about what happened Monday with Patrice Bergeron and the Bruins should surprise anyone.
The B’s announced Bergeron will return for a 19th season. The news came after Bergeron went through his own thought process on whether he even wanted to play, and then general manager Don Sweeney also needed to find a way to get the captain back under a tight budget.
The unsurprising result is Bergeron coming back for at least one more season to play for the only team he’s ever known. The details of the contract are wildly team-friendly for the reigning Selke Trophy winner who is coming off one of the best seasons in his Hall of Fame career.
The club announced Bergeron will have a base salary of $2.5 million and could make up to $5 million in 2022-23 if he hits incentives. According to TVA Sports’ Renaud Lavoie, the base is technically $1.5 million with another $1 million in a signing bonus. Bergeron, according to Lavoie, can make an additional $2.5 million … if he plays 10 games.
It’s the ultimate team move for the ultimate team player.
First, the mechanics of such a deal. The NHL collective bargaining agreement allows teams to sign players aged 35 or older (Bergeron is 37) to one-year deals with incentives. Using those incentives, teams can go over the salary cap by 7.5%, and those overages are added to the following season cap tax. So, for a player like Bergeron, you give him easily attainable incentives (like 10 games played) knowing he’ll hit it and get his money but it keeps the cap number low.
The Bruins did the same thing with David Krejci, who also is returning for at least one more season.
All of that makes sense. The Bergeron-ness of it all is how the Bruins captain just took a hilariously team-friendly deal. Even with those easy-to-achieve incentives, Bergeron is one of the best bargains in hockey.
Dom Luszczyszyn, who covers NHL analytics for The Athletic, pointed out Monday morning a player with the production Bergeron accounted for in 2021-22 has a market value of nearly $14 million.
Was anyone going to give 37-year-old Patrice Bergeron, with his history of injuries, a contract worth $14 million per season? Almost certainly not. What it does illustrate, however, is how much earning potential Bergeron left on the table to return to Boston.
Bergeron would have been a nice little addition to a team like the New York Islanders, who currently have $11 million in cap space. Or, perhaps Bergeron would have been open to a new challenge and joining Claude Giroux somewhere like Ottawa, which is close-ish to his native Montreal.
But that was never going to happen. Bergeron made it clear that if he was going to play again in 2022-23, it was only going to be with the Bruins. A return to Boston also is a tacit endorsement of the organization’s short-term chances to contend. Commanding more money than was available would have hampered those chances, so it’s not surprising at all to see him take way below market value.
The benefit from the team side of things is clear, too: They have one of the best players in the world back under contract, and it’s done in a way that allows them to remain competitive for one more season, at least. Bergeron’s leadership is also vital in helping onboard new head coach Jim Montgomery.
That we’re not all surprised to see a player of Bergeron’s ilk return on such a team-friendly deal speaks volumes about the Bruins legend.