NHL: Boston Bruins at Florida Panthers

The Bruins’ Jake DeBrusk warms up before a game last year. The forward signed a two-year extension.

The Boston Bruins took care of one more important piece of business on Monday, inking restricted free agent Jake DeBrusk to a two-year extension worth an annual cap hit of $3.675 million.

There was some talk that DeBrusk had been looking for as much as $5 million per year on a longer term deal but, without arbitration rights, he had little leverage in negotiating and wound up settling for what appears to be a fair bridge deal for both sides.

In his three years in Boston, DeBrusk has shown to have good wheels and a nice scoring touch and, if he can add some consistency to his game, he should be in a good position to cash in on his next deal. According to puckpedia.com, DeBrusk’s deal will be $2.5 million for the upcoming season — whenever that starts — and $4.85 million for 2021-22. He’ll still be a restricted free agent on completion of the deal, but he will have arbitration rights.

GM Don Sweeney said there had been some discussion of a longer-term deal but, because of the uncertain landscape amid the ongoing pandemic, it was the club’s desire to steer it to a shorter-term extension.

“We had initial talks (with DeBrusk’s camp), as we did with Brandon (Carlo) and Charlie (McAvoy) and young players we think are part of our future, our core, that we’ll look to try and do longer term and sometimes it just doesn’t work,” said Sweeney. “And in this case, I think a little of the unknown landscape had me pivot back to shorter-term to allow us flexibility now and then moving forward, and obviously allowing Jake for the next platform, his ability to take it to another level with a little more certainty as to where things may head financially with the league.

“I think at this point in time, two years felt like the right number, and we’re fortunate that (agent Rick Valette) and Jake saw the common ground and were happy to get it done. He’s really being recognized at the top of that peer group of his comparable and we’re happy to put him there.”

If DeBrusk, 24, can straighten out some of the valleys in his game, he should be in a good spot in the summer of 2022. And Sweeney sees room for growth in other areas beyond the consistency issue.

“I think Jake has a chance to continue to expand his game,” said Sweeney. “He has an innate ability to score goals. Some guys take three chances, Jake might only take one, and he can finish. That’s been proven over the course of his career so far. For the speed Jake brings to the table, there’s no reason why Jake can’t kill penalties. There’s no reason that Jake can’t be an even better net-front presence this year, where he scored a bunch of goals this year but also missed opportunities.

“That’s that inside presence, that ability to get inside the dots with consistency. Being a little more of a threat on a forecheck as an F1. With his speed, his abilities that he has and the talents, (he can) continue to commit himself on the physical side of things, to continue to improve as an overall adult and player in this league.”

Taken with the 14th overall pick in the 2015 draft, DeBrusk’s best season came two years ago when he potted 27 goals. He was on his way to his second 20-goal season — he had 19 in 65 games — when play was halted due to the pandemic last March.

The only in-house piece of business left for B’s general manager Don Sweeney to take care of would be to re-sign Zdeno Chara, if in fact that is meant to be. Chara’s agent, Matt Keator, reiterated on Monday that the captain was going to wait to see what format the season would have before making any kind of decision.

The NHL and NHLPA are still negotiating that format.

The B’s have roughly $3.6 million of cap space left. Chara’s last one-year contract, with bonuses included, was for $3.75 million.

Said Sweeney: “(Chara) continues to evaluate what the landscape of the league looks like and we’ll see where it goes. We’ve had constant communication and hopefully we’ve got a target date here at some point in the near future and we’ll see what the league determines.”