SUNRISE, Fla. — After strolling up to his designated interview station in a white suit covered in watercolor blue brushstrokes, David Pastrnak was ready to hear it.
“Shoot,” he said, smiling.
It took two questions before someone mentioned his contract.
The Bruins All-Star right winger, whose six-year, $40 million deal expires after this season, knew that talk was coming. He parried the first attempt, in which someone asked in a roundabout way if he might consider the Bruins’ much-heralded locker-room chemistry when deciding his future.
Someone asked a pair of questions previewing the event. In another couple of exchanges, Pastrnak praised Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark and his teammates for the weekend, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Aleksander Barkov. He told everyone how much fun it was to play with David Krejci and the rest of the Bruins’ Czechs. There were more questions about his team’s record start.
“It’s funny sometimes what confidence can do in hockey,” mused Pastrnak, who competed Friday in the breakaway challenge at the NHL All-Star Skills competition. dressed as “Happy Gilmore”, wearing the Adam Sandler movie character’s Bruins jersey and using a golf putter to put a puck into the net.
Before that scene, when asked directly how he felt that his contract situation was still unresolved, Pastrnak said it didn’t matter.
“You know, obviously, I feel fine,” he said. “There’s no rush. In the middle of the season, you’re focusing on hockey and everything. You don’t really think about the contract situation. It’s in the hands of your agent and management and [Bruins general manager] Donnie (Sweeney). I’m just thinking about hockey and playing, honestly. That’s pretty much all I’ve been doing.”
On an episode of his “32 Thought” podcast released Friday morning, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said the Bruins and Pastrnak’s agent, J.P. Barry, are “moving towards getting (a deal) done,” and that the Bruins have “bent to Pastrnak.”
The hockey world is here in South Florida this week, and while Friedman didn’t say he spoke with Barry directly, he insinuated he spoke with several player reps.
“I think we’ll find out that when this one is over, we will find out that David Pastrnak pushed the Boston Bruins in a position they didn’t think they would get to and didn’t want to be in,” Friedman said on the podcast. “What’s the biggest weapon you have in a negotiation? The willingness to say no.
“I think David Pastrnak had a willingness to say, ‘Look, if you guys aren’t willing to do this, it’s going to be a problem.’ I think he pushed the Bruins into an area that maybe they didn’t want to go, and I think it’s going to get done because they recognized it has to get done. That’s my opinion.”
Friedman also mentioned that Boston will not trade Pastrnak. “That’s crazy talk,” he said.
Asked during his Friday media scrum if the negotiation was nearing the finish line, Pastrnak deferred.
“J.P. and Donnie talk every day,” he said. “I actually haven’t talked to J.P. for a while because of the tough schedule we had. Gonna give him a call. And I think he’s here, so we’re going to meet up.
“You know, we’ll see. There’s not much time to think. I was just playing and grinding and now finding a little bit of relax time.”
Now, the toughest question: how did Pastrnak decide on his suit?
“Wanted something bright since it’s a nice sunny day,” said Pastrnak, who wore a white T-shirt and sneakers. “I like blue. Nice and easy.”
Three related fun facts:
1. Pastrnak has a Czech tailor who does most of his suits.
2. “Krejci” is Czech for “tailor”.
3. David Krejci is not Pastrnak’s Czech tailor.
Ullmark looking sharp
Ullmark, who wore a silvery-blue paisley number with a matching fedora, nicknamed his getup “Wannabe Pasta.” He said he was “vibing hard.”
Pastrnak on his netminder’s look: “He’s good. Special. Looks like a lot of money was floating.”
Ullmark has been a big-money goalie this season, which has him at the top of the Vezina Trophy leaderboard (NHL-best 26-4-1, 1.90 goals-against average, .937 save percentage). The Swedish stopper, in his first All-Star appearance, competed in the Tendy Tandem, a new event that paired each division’s goalies, one as a shooter, one as a stopper.
Ullmark was the triggerman, stopping pucks behind the net and trying to score on an empty net at the other end. On his first four attempts, he missed twice and hit the net twice with wristers. On his fifth, he fired a 200-foot slapper wide.
“It’s about enjoying the moment,” Ullmark said during an in-arena interview, after being booed by the hometown crowd in Pantherland.
Coaching isn’t easy
Atlantic Division coach Jim Montgomery began the day coaching his son J.P.’s youth team to a win in nearby Coral Springs. The Bruins bench boss quipped that coaching kids is tougher than coaching NHLers … Pastrnak, on the Bruins’ mind-set at the All-Star break: “We drew a red line after the first half and start from zero” … The night got off to an eye-popping start when former UMass star Cale Makar, going first in the fastest skater competition, wiped out around the first turn. Makar skidded and slid into the corner, bumping the boards, but was OK. His time (23.3 seconds) was nearly as slow as the recently retired P.K. Subban, who was emceeing the event for ESPN and did a preview lap of the course for the broadcast … Before taking his breakaway attempt on celebrity goalie Roberto Luongo, Toronto’s Mitch Marner was shown on a beach in a “Miami Vice” skit. He took the ice in a James Crockett suit, and floated a weak forehander on Luongo. The reception for the whole thing was a bit lukewarm … As is tradition, the hometown crowd’s divisional opponents — the Atlantic — were booed during introductions … American women’s stars Alex Carpenter of North Reading, and Hilary Knight participated in the Tendy Tandem event along with Canadians Emily Clark, Rebecca Johnston, Sarah Nurse. The latter, using a “Forsberg” move on Igor Shesterkin, was one of the few to score.
Matt Porter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyports.