Boston Bruins Training Camp is presented by AT&T.
BOSTON - The Bruins arrived at Warrior Ice Arena on Thursday morning for the dawn of a new season. As always, it was a day full of anticipation, excitement, and hope. Visions of opportunity and fresh starts were abound.
And it didn't take long for those positive feelings to escalate even further.
As the team kicked off camp with off-ice testing, it was announced that the Bruins had signed David Pastrnak to a six-year contract worth $40 million (or an average annual value of $6.67 million). After a long summer of negotiations, it was the perfect way for the 2017-18 campaign to begin.
"I've always said, 'We are going to find a deal,'" said Bruins general manager Don Sweeney, who credited Pastrnak's agent J.P. Barry for maintaining a strong level of communication throughout the process. "It took time right up against it. There wasn't a deadline - we didn't look at it that way. We had a strong level of communication. I just think the work paid off for both sides to find a good a landing spot.
"I know both sides are extremely happy to have it resolved and get the full complement of camp, which I think everybody would acknowledge is in the benefit of everybody's interests."
Video: Bruins sign David Pastrnak as Training Camp opens
The 21-year-old is expected to fly back to Boston from his native Czech Republic on Friday and could be back on the ice by the weekend.
"It's nice to be a full team again and have him back," added Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. "It's always nice when you don't have players missing more time, whether through injuries or negotiations, for example. I'm sure everybody's happy and I'm sure David is also very happy to have security and commitment from the team. And I'm sure the team is happy as well.
"It's nice to have all the guys being together and just focusing on training camp and the work we have ahead of us for the preseason and the regular season."
Pastrnak entered the offseason as a restricted free agent after posting a career-high 34 goals and 70 points last season. The new deal makes him the fourth-highest paid Bruin, behind David Krejci, Tuukka Rask, and Patrice Bergeron.
"We are a better team with him in the lineup," said head coach Bruce Cassidy. "I think that is obvious. It will be great to see him. I think the players will feel the same way. Good for Donny to get it done."
The contract carries Pastrnak through the 2022-23 season, during which he will be just 26 years old. After his breakout campaign in 2016-17, the Bruins believe they are locked in for some of the winger's most productive years.
"We feel and have felt all along that David is a big part of what we are trying to do and trying to build here," said Sweeney. "He is a motivated player. He made a hell of a jump last year. It's my belief he's earned the opportunity to be in the top five of those guys coming in on entry-level, and we paid him accordingly.
"That is a huge commitment from the organization and I'm appreciative of the support that I get as a general manager in that regard."
At the same time, the Bruins are eager to see Pastrnak, who has just one full season under his belt, continue to grow his game.
"We want to see that next progression for him as well, and teams are going to play him differently and harder," said Sweeney. "He will have to accept that and get past that. All young players have to go through that. He loves hockey. It's infectious for him to be on the ice and to be an impact player, and obviously he backed it up with the year that he had."
Cassidy had begun crafting alternative lineup plans in the event that the negotiations lingered further into the season. But with Pastrnak set to arrive ahead of the first preseason games, Cassidy is sticking with Plan A, which has Pastrnak playing alongside his countryman Krejci as he did for much of last season's second half.
"They speak the same language on the ice, both in the style of play and to be able to communicate," said Cassidy. "I think Krech likes having guys with speed to open up ice for him to draw opposition players to him and dish pucks. And Pasta has become a really high-end shooter, his shot has really grown over the years, and David Krejci has always excelled in getting pucks to those kinds of players.
"And they like to score, they think offense, and guys like that like to play together."
With Pastrnak now on board, the focus turns to building off last season's return to the postseason.
"I've said it all along, I wasn't necessarily worried about it too much," Bergeron said of the negotiations. "It was getting down to the wire, but that being said, I know that David wants to be here and wants to be a part of the solution and win with us.
"[I'm] just happy that we can keep building something with him being a part of it. It's important to build from what happened at the end of the year last year and we need everyone to do so."
Video: Don Sweeney discusses David Pastrnak signing