In a move appropriate for these times, Matt Grzelcyk is staying home.
The Bruins and their most homegrown player agreed on a four-year contract extension Saturday, keeping Grzelcyk in the fold for a $3.6875 million salary cap charge (total value: $14.75 million). He will make $2.25 million in salary in 2020-21, then escalating to $4M, $4.25M and $4.25M in successive years.
He grew up a Black and Gold diehard in Charlestown, about a mile from TD Garden, where his father, John, has spent decades on the bull gang. Aside from a run with the US National Team in Ann Arbor, Mich., Grzelcyk did his schooling at Boston University, way out west (read: Allston).
His latest deal keeps him in town until age 30. The big question: What kind of player will he be by then?
“I think it’s a little bit to be determined,” general manager Don Sweeney said on a Zoom call after the deal was announced. “It’s player-driven.”
Grzelcyk, 26, filed for arbitration and had a hearing scheduled for Tuesday. The sides did not exchange briefs, the pre-hearing process that typically features one side lowballing and the other side asking for the moon. Feelings can get hurt that way. Grzelcyk and the Bruins did not grind each other in that manner.
“We had a gap,” Sweeney acknowledged, but said it came together thanks in large part to Peter Fish, Grzelcyk’s Boston-based agent, and Sweeney’s staff, including capologist Evan Gold.
More money isn’t all that’s coming Grzelcyk’s way.
He will have a major opportunity next season, with Torey Krug gone and Zdeno Chara’s future yet to be determined.
Grzelcyk has mostly been a third-pair blue liner, but as of now is the team’s No. 1 left-side option. If the season began tomorrow, he would likely pair with ex-BU partner Charlie McAvoy. The two played point on the second-unit power play the last two years. Krug’s absence means one of them will get a chance to play with David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci on the first PP. Coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed in a Thursday chat with the Globe that Grzelcyk would be first up.
Last year, in Grzelcyk’s third full year in the league, he chipped in four goals and 17 assists in 68 games (all career highs). He averaged 18:04 of ice time in the regular season, and played a strong game other than a January dip during which he took a seat in the press box.
Among the 164 defensemen that played more than 700 minutes at 5 on 5 (i.e., regulars), Grzelcyk ranked 42nd in shot share (51.64 percent Corsi). He was 10th among those defenders in expected goals percentage (55.92), meaning that when Grzelcyk was on the ice, the Bruins were getting a much greater portion of the good shots than they allowed.
That matches with the eye test. Though he’s 5 feet 9 inches and 174 pounds, Grzelcyk has rabbit-quick feet and a long lance of a stick that he uses to escape danger, transition the puck, and feed the forwards. He can take it himself, too; just ask P.K. Subban, whom Grzelcyk danced around for a top-shelf goal in New Jersey last November.
He has the skill. He has the security. And now, he has the chance.
Still some money left
The Bruins have a projected $6.658 million in cap space after signing Grzelcyk. Asked if the Bruins are done adding, Sweeney said he’s still looking at depth signings and trades. “I wouldn’t say we have anything imminent,” he said … Sweeney still has to sign restricted free agent Jake DeBrusk, who could come in above the $4 million mark annually … Sweeney said the Chara negotiations are not holding up his business. He’s waiting on the captain to decide what he wants to do … Grzelcyk, a third-round pick (85th overall) in 2012, has a 10-44—54 line in 197 career games. He has 4-6—10 in 43 playoff games.