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It’s buyer beware when paying top dollar to young NHL stars

With only 51 games of NHL experience under his belt, how will the Bruins approach Jeremy Swayman's contract extension?John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

David Pastrnak and Jeremy Swayman aren’t the only contract extensions being sketched out in dry-erase markers on Don Sweeney’s board in Brighton. It only seems that way.

Throughout the organization, including the NHL and AHL, the Bruins have 11 forwards — four of them established NHLers — 10 defensemen, and one goalie signed beyond the upcoming season. Sweeney has plenty to worry about beyond those two critical deals.

As it relates to Swayman, he now has another contract model to follow.

Jake Oettinger’s three-year, $12 million deal in Dallas is now the going rate for a franchise-goaltender-in-training, especially for a team hoping to lock up a star winger.

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This past week, the ex-Boston University stopper agreed to what looks like an ideal bridge deal for the Stars, who come to TD Garden on Oct. 25. They commit a decent number to a promising young netminder for the length of Jamie Benn’s $9.5 million deal, which comes off the books in 2025. If Oettinger winds up being a genuine No. 1, Dallas can extend him for major dough in three seasons.

There is evidence that Oettinger, whose last appearance was a 64-save effort in a Game 7 loss to Calgary, is a slightly better bet than Swayman at this point. His .954 save percentage in the first round of the playoffs led all goalies, while Swayman was .911 against Carolina. Oettinger has a .913 mark in 77 regular-season games, plus 54 games of AHL seasoning. Most of Swayman’s pro experience has come at the NHL level (.920 in 51 games; he has 14 games in the AHL). Both are 23.

The other comparable for Swayman — contractually — is Carter Hart, who was 22 last year when he signed a three-year bridge deal at $3.979 million per. Hart was coming off a poor third season (.877 save percentage) and started his extension with a slightly better performance (.905) on a much worse team. He took 31 losses in 44 starts.

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It seems NHL shooters have figured out Hart. They have yet to solve Swayman or Oettinger to that degree. There typically is a market correction with young goalies, who are then forced to adjust to a league that has a book on them.

That has yet to happen with Jason Robertson, a rising star whom Dallas hopes to lock up long term. He is likely to earn at least $9 million a year on a max deal, or north of $7 million on a bridge deal.

The 23-year-old winger, who worked last season on an expiring rookie contract ($795,000 cap hit), had 41 goals and 79 points in 74 games. Robertson has been nearly a point-per-game player (58-67—125 in 128 games) in his two seasons.

Matthew Tkachuk got one of the biggest contracts of the summer.Sydney Walsh/Associated Press

Three high-scoring, 21-year-old wingers from the bonanza RFA class of 2019 — Alex DeBrincat (three years, $6.4 million AAV with Chicago), Patrik Laine (two years, $6.75 million AAV with Winnipeg), and Matthew Tkachuk (three years, $7 million AAV with Calgary) — could help set the market for Robertson on a bridge.

The Stars were overjoyed to see Robertson, a 2017 second-round pick, blow up in the OHL, then become a finalist for the 2021 Calder Trophy that went to Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov. That doesn’t mean his team’s owner will give Robertson what he wants.

The Stars’ Tom Gaglardi, playing hardball on a podcast this past week, dismissed the idea of young scorers who want “seven million” after scoring 40 goals in their third seasons.

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“The veterans who don’t score a lot are getting squeezed,” Gaglardi said on the “Cam and Strick” show. “I don’t like it. I think there are a lot of players in the league making a million dollars who are better players, and the guys who can put the puck in the net are getting too big a piece of the pie.”

Funny, because he did the same thing a few years ago — twice.

The eight-year, $78 million extension the Stars handed Tyler Seguin in September 2018 looked like a quality bet. He was averaging about a point per game when that was rarer than it is now, and was coming off a 40-goal, 78-point season. Seguin produced 33 goals and 80 points the following year, before a hip injury muted his output (101 points in 153 games since, including three appearances in a lost 2020-21 season).

Benn also looked like a sure thing when his eight-year, $76 million deal went down in July 2016. He was an elite power forward who, in three seasons as captain, averaged 37 goals and 85 points. His 87 points in 2014-15 earned him the Art Ross Trophy, despite playing through hip trouble all season. He wound up having double hip surgery — hello, Brad Marchand — and posted career highs in goals (41) and points (89) the following season.

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But Benn has broken the 30-goal, 70-point barrier once since and hasn’t scored 20 goals in three seasons. That $9.5 million AAV has been one of the least efficient contracts in the game, followed by Seguin’s $9.85 million.

Huge pieces of the pie, now all but spoiled. But the cafeteria line keeps moving, and Pastrnak is one of those next in line.

WHEN WILL SABRES LEARN?

Big contracts haven’t paid off

Tage Thompson has plenty of talent, but the Sabres have a rough record with big-money extensions.Joshua Bessex/Associated Press

Speaking of bad bets, haven’t the Sabres learned a single rotten thing about giving big money to players who ride a shooting percentage heater?

There was Ville Leino in 2011. Buffalo handed the ex-Flyer a six-year, $27 million ticket after he broke out for 19 goals and 53 points on a career-high 16.2 percent shooting. They bought out the contract after three seasons, Leino delivering 10 goals in 137 games as a Sabre.

Before the 2018-19 season, they traded for Jeff Skinner, who promptly broke out for 40 goals on a career-best 14.9 shooting percentage. They extended him for eight years at $9 million per season, with a full no-move clause.

Now, here’s Tage Thompson. He has a good shot. He has seemingly learned how to use it. He’s the default No. 1 center on a rebuilding team.

And Thompson, who turns 25 on Oct. 30, is locked in for seven years at $7.14 million per. That comes after the big center, his scoring output peaking in the low teens across his first four seasons, busted out for 38 goals and 68 points, placing him at the top of anyone’s ranking of most improved players. He shot 15 percent last season, nearly double his previous high.

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Thompson, drafted 26th overall — three spots ahead of Trent Frederic — in 2016, isn’t a power forward. At 6 feet 7 inches and 218 pounds, he is built like an NBA wing, which is fitting for someone who spent a couple years at UConn before turning pro. He does get to the net, where his hands are quick and sharp.

Last year Thompson outscored Ryan O’Reilly, whose point totals have declined — 61, 54 (in 56 games), and 58 — in St. Louis since he scored a career-high 77 points in his Blues debut in 2018-19. The previous summer, O’Reilly and Thompson were traded for each other in a megadeal.

It’s September, the NHL’s month of hope. While Buffalo won’t have the goaltending to make a playoff run, it’ll take another year of Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power gaining steam and Thompson adding to his résumé. Maybe Skinner, making $9 million per through 2027, will duplicate last year’s 33-goal season. It would be his second time topping 30 goals since he signed that whopper of a deal.

Stranger things have happened.

ETC.

Knight solidifies her place in game

Hilary Knight is one of women's hockey's all-time greats.Joshua Bessex/Associated Press

Hilary Knight, who set the women’s world championships career scoring record in the United States’ win over Hungary Thursday, has carved out a place in the game in media, and if she wants it, an NHL front office. But where does she rank all time among women’s hockey legends?

Hayley Wickenheiser, the Canadian whose record Knight broke, would be high on anyone’s list. Same with Cammi Granato, the pioneering captain of Team USA in the 1998 Nagano Games, and Canadian Angela James. It’s tough to keep Marie-Philip Poulin (three gold medal-winning goals for Canada) off the mountain, as well as Americans Kendall Coyne Schofield and Brianna Decker and Finnish stalwart Jenni Hiirikoski, the latter long considered the best female defender in the world.

Knight’s power game was unmatched, on and off the ice. Now playing at 5-11 and 172 pounds, she was a dominant 185 around the time of the 2014 Olympics — and with her appearance in ESPN’s Body Issue, she helped change the public conversation about female athletes.

Sullivan sticking around with Penguins

The Penguins, who haven’t won a playoff series in four years, don’t feel Mike Sullivan is the problem.

They extended their coach for three seasons. It was reported that Sullivan, who has been in place since 2015, had two years left on his deal. That would keep him around through the end of Sidney Crosby’s current deal (2025) and perhaps that of Evgeni Malkin (2026). Kris Letang is signed through 2028.

They wouldn’t likely be upgrading that spot if they moved on from Sullivan. Good on the Penguins for not making Sullivan one of the many coaches across the league fired for shaky goaltending or injury woes (Peter DeBoer’s ears are itching).

Due in part to its high-wire act in net, Pittsburgh has one playoff series win (2018) since capturing back-to-back Stanley Cup titles under Sullivan in 2016 and ‘17. Last year, the trio of Louis Domingue, Casey DeSmith, and Tristan Jarry submitted a collective .903 save percentage in a seven-game first-round loss to the Rangers, a year after Jarry (.888) face-planted in a six-game series against the Islanders.

Easy to wonder what could have been with Sullivan, the Marshfield native who spent two seasons coaching the Bruins (2003-06, with a lockout sandwiched in between) and was dismissed by incoming general manager Peter Chiarelli. His replacement, Dave Lewis, lasted one dismal season.

Sullivan still keeps tabs on the Bruins. His 25-year-old daughter, Kiley, recently got engaged to longtime boyfriend Charlie McAvoy. The two met while students at Boston University.

Loose pucks

Patrick Kane's time in Chicago looks to be coming to an end.Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

It seems probable Patrick Kane will play games this season for an Atlantic Division team. Buffalo has more than enough cap space ($19 million or so) to bring him home, where he could jockey with Alex Tuch for the title of biggest childhood Sabres fan. If Toronto can create room for some of Kane’s $10.5 million cap hit, adding Kane would give the Maple Leafs their most Cup-worthy squad in decades. If Chicago can hold its nose and send a franchise icon to Detroit, the Red Wings could move their rebuild into overdrive … The IIHF said the 2024 World Cup of Hockey, to be held over 17 days in February at sites in North America and Europe, will include “at least eight national teams.” That makes it sound like Team North America, the 23-and-under squad (Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, Auston Matthews) that lit up the 2016 World Cup in Toronto, and the melting-pot Team Europe won’t be participating. The big five — Canada, US, Finland, Sweden, and Czechia — are locked in, and Germany, Slovakia, or Switzerland could be riding the cut line. Will Russia be allowed in? If not, could that open the door for Latvia to join the party? ... Six years after a summer free agent frenzy that saw him spurn the Bruins for the Rangers, Jimmy Vesey is trying to resurrect his career on Broadway, via a tryout deal. The North Reading product, who won the 2016 Hobey Baker Award while at Harvard, has put up 45 points in three seasons with Buffalo, Toronto, Vancouver, and New Jersey since his career-high 35-point season with New York in 2018-19 … Among the most interesting changes employed by 3ICE, the summertime three-on-three league: “jailbreak” penalty shots (player shoots, rest of skaters chase him) in lieu of power plays, almost no faceoffs, and pucks that go off the netting remain in play. Can’t see the NHL adopting any of them, though … Joe Whitney, ex-of Boston College and most recently of the Iserlohn Roosters in Germany, led the league in scoring. The 34-year-old had 39 points in 23 games … Sartorial updates: Citing fan demand, the Hurricanes will wear their black uniforms at PNC Arena next season. They had worn red at home since leaving Hartford in 1997 … The Sabres are bringing back their red-and-black Buffalo head jerseys from the Dominik Hasek era as alternates to their usual blue-and-gold sweaters. Hasek, now 57, might be a better option than what the Sabres currently have in goal … If you’ve not had enough jersey talk, the Bruins are expected to be among the clubs rolling out a different Reverse Retro design. It is based on the emo-looking “Pooh Bear” alternates from late Ray Bourque-early Joe Thornton era (1995-2006), because the kids of that time are now jersey-buying adults … Pavel Zacha will wear No. 18 with the Bruins, who already have someone wearing the No. 37 he wore in New Jersey (and the reversed No. 73, for that matter). Other Bruins (and wannabe Bruins) with updated jersey numbers heading into camp include John Beecher (now 19, was 50), Fabian Lysell (now 21, was 68), and depth additions A.J. Greer (10), Vinni Lettieri (95), Connor Carrick (58), Kai Wissman (60), and Keith Kinkaid (30) … If Lettieri cracks the varsity lineup in that No. 95 sweater, he would become the highest-numbered Bruin on record (Tomas Nosek wears No. 92, nearly two decades after Michael Nylander’s brief stint here) … Former Bruin Lee Stempniak was named director of player development for the Coyotes. Well-traveled (10 teams) during his playing days, Stempniak was hired last year by Arizona as a data strategist, after a stint as a volunteer assistant coach at the Rivers School in Weston … RIP to Orval Tessier, the 1983 Jack Adams Award winner with Chicago and briefly a Bruin (1955-56, 1960-61). He was a high-scoring minor leaguer on Kingston Frontenacs teams of that era (teammates included Harry Sinden and Willie O’Ree). He was also Bruce Cassidy’s first NHL coach, with the then-Black Hawks in 1984 … Lexington’s Will Smith, a 6-foot, 172-pound forward who split last year with the US Under-17 and Under-18 teams, could be the top American player taken in the 2023 NHL Draft. Other contenders for top American in ‘23: Wisconsin-bound forward Charlie Stramel, who has Trent Frederic’s build; and assist machine Hunter Brzustewicz, a defenseman who will jump from the USNTDP to OHL Kitchener … Smith has another year with the U18s before heading to Boston College in the fall of 2024. Joining him will be another top US prospect for 2023, Amherst’s Ryan Leonard, younger brother of John Leonard (Nashville). The rise of those two, both born in the winter of 2005, brings us closer to an NHL where the youngest rookies were born after the lockout. Yikes.


Matt Porter can be reached at matthew.porter@globe.com. Follow him @mattyports.