Slightly more than two years after making him the No. 2 pick in the NHL draft, the Bruins today boldly secured speedy forward Tyler Seguin to their growing cadre of core players with a six-year contract extension that will pay him an average $5.75 million per season.
Seguin, 20, is the second long-term deal written in less than a week by GM Peter Chiarelli, who late last week added four years to Brad Marchand's contract, tying up the rablerousing left winger at a price of $4.5 million per season through 2016-17.
Similar to Marchand's deal, Seguin's new pact will not start until October of the 2013-14 season, ostensibly making him a Boston mainstay through the 2018-19 NHL season.
Part of the factor in Seguin's high-end payout: under current CBA language, he would have been eligible for unrestricted free agency after his seventh year in the league. Ostensibly, the Bruins "bought" two years of free agency from the player who last season led the club in scoring (81 games, 29-38--67).
Given that the NHL is in CBA negotiations with its players, Chiarelli acknowleged that the optics of Seguin's deal may be difficult for some to accept.
''We've tried to maintain our core--that's generally what teams do,'' said the GM. ''We aren't splitting any atoms here...we are trying to lock up younger players.''
Later during a media conference call that began just after 3 p.m., Chiarelli added, ''I know the optics don't look great (due to CBA negotiations), but I've got to do my business as usual.''
Seguin's new pact will pay $4.5 million the first year, with an increase to $5.5 million in year No. 2. It maxes out at $6.5 million a year.
Out of the last lockout, 2004-05, players under contract were made to take 24 percent pay cuts when play resumed. No mention of such discounts has been made in current CBA talks, but Seguin acknowledged the risk that the deal he signs today could be given a haircut tomorrow.
"It's a fair deal," he said, noting he has trust and faith in the union's negotiating team. "It's what I am living in."
Chiarelli's moves to tie up core players to long-term deals is the polar opposite approach of how the Bruins ran their business ahead of the 2004-05 lockout, when they watched the likes of Sergei Gonchar leave for Pittsburgh, Michael Nylander for the Rangers, and Mike Knuble to the Flyers.
It was management's belief in the summer of '04 that a new CBA would flood the market with free agents, thus lowering asking prices throughout the league. Instead, they saw core members sign elsewhere to long-term deals, and the free-agent market was woefully thin on talent when a new CBA finally was forged after the lost season of 2004-05.
Now, with yet another lockout looming, perhaps as early as this weekend, Chiarelli and team owner Jeremy Jacobs have been proactive in securing the club's nucleus. Team captain Zdeno Chara and versatile veteran Patrice Bergeron both signed long-term extensions ahead of the 2010-11 season.
With two strokes of his pen, Chiarelli tied up Marchand and Seguin for a total of 10 years employment, at a total cost of $52.5 million. The old ways of doing business on Causeway Street are long gone.
It's possible that Chiarelli's next target to tie up long-term will be hard rock left winger Milan Lucic, among the game's boldest fighters. No. 1 goalie Tuukka Rask, who signed a one-year extension ($3.5 million) earlier this summer, is eligible to work out a long-term deal as soon as the new calendar year.
At some point, money could get tight, the Bruins already at the high-end of player payroll even before the Seguin signing. If there is a player vulnerable to being traded, it's center David Krejci, who shares the top pivot's role with Bergeron. Seguin is a natural center, though he's never played that role regularly since his arrival. If the Bruins get squeezed on bucks, look for Krejci to go and for Seguin to switch to slot duty.
Chiarell noted during the call that a new CBA or other financial concerns could force him to make trades to remain under the salary cap.
"If we have to shuffle players or delete from the roster," he said, "To get to the [allowed] level of salary, it will be hard to do (from an emotional aspect), but...."
Chiarelli went on to note that he prefers to have players under contract, giving him tangible assets, rather than to be left at the whim of CBA negotiations or changes in market forces.