Patrice Bergeron plans to meet with the Bruins next week regarding his future, but the hockey world is speculating that he will return.
Several well-connected sources told the Globe this week they believed Bergeron has decided to give it another shot, and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported that as well. One source with close knowledge of the team’s search for a new coach said the Bruins’ decision-makers were hopeful: “I think everyone felt like he was going to come back.”
A text to Bergeron Wednesday seeking comment was not returned. On Friday, a team spokesman said Bergeron was “on vacation right now,” and the “tentative plan” was for him and general manager Don Sweeney to meet next week.
Sweeney told Bergeron to take all the time he needs, but he no doubt would like to have a firm answer before the NHL Draft, which is July 7-8 in Montreal. Free agency opens July 13.
The Bruins captain is without a contract for 2022-23, which would be his 19th season in Black and Gold. After this year’s first-round exit at the hands of the Hurricanes, he took time to ponder his situation. He had surgery May 31 to repair a tendon in his left elbow, which is expected to heal in time for September training camp.
Bergeron’s return would be invaluable to the new Bruins coach, who could be in place by the end of next week. David Quinn, Jim Montgomery, and Jay Leach appear to be the leading candidates, with Joe Sacco and Toronto assistant Spencer Carbery also of interest.
In Bergeron, the next coach would have an elite No. 1 center and defending Selke Trophy winner atop his lineup sheet. Bergeron, whose processing power is rivaled by few in the sport, would help translate the new coach’s tactics for his teammates.
Bergeron turns 37 on July 24. As he is over 35, he is eligible for performance bonuses that the Bruins could carry over to next season. A one-year deal — as Worcester Telegram & Gazette reporter Joe McDonald speculated Bergeron might sign — would follow the path of the last Bruins captain. Before signing successive one-year deals with the Capitals and Islanders, Zdeno Chara inked a pair of similar contracts with the Bruins.
The Bruins have less than $2.4 million in salary-cap space, according to CapFriendly. They have some $22 million coming off the books next summer, before offering raises to David Pastrnak (current cap hit: $6.667 million) and Jeremy Swayman ($925,000). A new contract for Pastrnak could come in north of $9 million a season, possibly reaching eight figures.
Bergeron’s last contract, signed in July 2013, was for eight years and $55 million. It cost the Bruins $6.875 million on the salary cap. He has earned north of $95 million in his career, which began when he made the roster as an 18-year-old in 2003.
Considered the finest two-way forward of his generation, Bergeron won his record fifth Selke Trophy this season, and put up 25 goals and 40 assists in 73 games, while dealing with an elbow issue he said dates back a couple years. He went 3-4—7 in the seven-game loss to Carolina in the playoffs.