NHL Rumor Mill – April 26, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – April 26, 2022

The possibility of Patrice Bergeron departing the Bruins as a free agent this summer plus the latest Sharks speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy acknowledged it seems like a given Patrice Bergeron will either sign a one-year contract with the Bruins this summer or retire as a Bruin. However, he feels there’s a slight chance the 36-year-old future hall-of-famer could test the market if the club fails to go on one more serious Stanley Cup run over the next two months.

Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron (NHL Images).

Numerous sources tell Murphy that Bergeron will draw plenty of interest from other clubs if he tests the market on July 13. One of them could be the Montreal Canadiens. His former agent, Kent Hughes, is now the Canadiens’ general manager.

Murphy doesn’t expect Bergeron to “go to the dark side” by signing with the Bruins’ biggest rival. Nevertheless, he wouldn’t blame him if he decided to sign with a Stanley Cup contender.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can understand a bit of nervousness among Bruins fans over Bergeron’s future. After all, long-time captain Zdeno Chara was cut loose two years ago and wound up signing with the Washington Capitals last season and the New York Islanders this season.

Chara, however, was a fading star when he and the Bruins parted ways. Bergeron may have slowed slightly but he remains among the NHL’s elite two-way forwards and the Bruins’ first-line center. I daresay management has a strong desire to keep him in the fold beyond this season.

It’ll come down to what Bergeron seeks on his next contract. If he wants a deal beyond three years in length and demands a big raise over his current $6.875 million, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney will thank him for his years of service and bid him good luck in his future endeavors. If Sweeney low-balls Bergeron with a one-year deal at a considerable pay cut, the Bruins captain will walk.

I don’t see either scenario unfolding. The two sides agreed to shelve contracts talks until the season is over. Bergeron’s made no secret of his love of being a Bruin and playing in Boston. I can see them working out a two-year deal with an annual cap hit between $5.5 million and $6 million annually.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien wonders what it’ll take for the San Jose Sharks to rebuild, rather than retool after how this season went down for them. He believes they can only blame so much on bad luck, pointing out that Pacific Division rivals such as the Vancouver Canucks and Vegas Golden Knights could be sturdier next season.

O’Brien pointed out the Sharks still missed the playoffs this season despite career years from rising stars like Timo Meier and bounce-back performances from veterans like Erik Karlsson and Logan Couture. He wondered how much of their failure to reach the postseason can be laid at the feet of head coach Bob Boughner.

Given Doug Wilson’s resignation as general manager, O’Brien speculates the only rebuild could come in the front office. They might have to shed some salary to re-sign restricted free agents like Mario Ferraro and recently-acquired goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen.

O’Brien suggested trading Meier, a restricted free agent next summer who’ll be in line for a raise over his current $6 million annual cap hit, if they wanted to jump-start a rebuild, along with attempting to move Couture and Brent Burns if they don’t want to be part of a rebuild. He also wondered if they would attempt to buy out Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As O’Brien pointed out, Sharks ownership isn’t interested in a rebuild. Whoever takes over from Wilson as general manager will have to find a way to retool the roster into a playoff contender. That could involve replacing Boughner as head coach.

Retooling the roster won’t be easy with veteran core players like Couture, Burns and Karlsson carrying expensive contracts with no-move or no-trade clauses. We can rule out the possibility of Meier hitting the trade block this summer. Buying out Vlasic will be expensive for next season ($3.687 million) and in 2024-25 ($4.187 million) and 2025-26 ($5.187 million) before dropping to a more affordable $1.687 million annually over the remaining four years.

The Sharks will have to make a cost-cutting deal or two to free up cap room for guys like Ferraro, Kahkonen and unrestricted free agent Alexander Barabanov. Fortunately, they won’t break the bank. Trade candidates could include a goalie like James Reimer or Adin Hill, winger Kevin Labanc and defenseman Radim Simek.