PRAGUE -- Veteran Bruins center Patrice Bergeron has agreed to a three-year, $15 million contract extension that will be made formal at a news conference here early this afternoon (local time).
Quebec-based RDS first reported the contract extension late last night (EDT) and GM Peter Chiareilli confirmed the signing at approximately 5 a.m. (EDT) when he arrived at O2 arena for his club's workout.
What was it about this great city that helped get the deal done...the fine wine?....the outstanding architecture?
''No,'' said a beaming Chiarelli, ''it was the Czech beer!''
Chiarelli and Bergeron both acknowledged that the negotiation took some time, typical of the back-and-forth in multimillion-dollar deals. His career nearly ended from a crushing blow to the head he sustained in Oct. 2007, Bergeron noted that the Bruins' patience with his recovery during that time played a factor in his decision to extend his deal now.
''They thought of the human being before the hockey player,'' he said. ''That was something special for me.''
Similar to Bergeron, team captain Zdeno Chara also is entering the final season of his contract and is due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2011. His agent, Matt Keator, has been in discussions with Chiarelli about extending Big Z's contract.
The The Trencin Tower of power told the Globe/boston.com here Sunday that he would like to ink a new pact with Boston that extends to on or about his 40th birthday,
Bergeron Tuesday night put on a brilliant offensive display, connecting for five points (2-3--5) in a 7-1 victory over the Liberec White Tigers in Boston's final pre-season tuneup at Liberec, Czech Republic. When the puck drops for real tomorrow, he'll probably be centering the same line, with Blake Wheeler on the left and Mark Recchi on the right.
''He's young,'' said Chiarelli, ''and we still think he has some offensive upside.''
Head coach Claude Julien said he felt that Bergeron's total offensive production has been impacted by the fact that he always thinks ''team first'' and that perenially he has not been paired all the time with the club's top-producing wingers.
The contract numbers represent a small drop in pay for Bergeron, who this year will make $5.75 milion. However, the 25-year-old pivot, will see his cap hit raise slightly, from $4.75 million, over his current deal.
If the slight softening in numbers serves as any guide in the Chara deal--and that is speculative--Big Z could be looking at a new deal that pays him about the same $7.5 milion-a-year average as the deal he signed in summer 2006. Something in the neighborhood of 7 years/$50 million could get it done, which would mean both Bergeron and Chara would be in the fold with little or no increase in their cap hits.
Tight up against the league salary cap as the new season starts, the Bruins should be in a better cash-flow situation going into 2011-'12. Michael Ryder and Marco Sturm, who tie up a combined $7.5 million in cap dollars, are both expected to be elsewhre following this season.