Earlier this month, Patrice Bergeron contemplated the idea of being a lifelong Bruin.
Now he’s set up to achieve that goal.
On Friday, the Bruins signed Bergeron to an eight-year, $52 million extension. The eight-year term, like the one goaltender Tuukka Rask signed Wednesday, is the maximum to which a team can re-up its players.
“We love the organization, we also love the city,” Bergeron said on a conference call Friday. “It really feels like home now. We don’t want to go anywhere else. So it was an easy decision for me and my family.
“Early on I wanted to stay in Boston. I said that when I signed my three-year deal. That’s why I signed an extension before going on the market, because I wanted to stay in Boston. Now it’s the same thing here — I want to retire as a Bruin.”
And the Bruins want the same.
“We’re obviously very happy to get him signed,” general manager Peter Chiarelli said. “He embodies a lot of what the Bruins stand for. He’s a responsible player. He’s a hard player. He’s a leader. He’s a clutch player. He’s just got a classic way of carrying himself that I like to be part of and the Bruins like to be part of.”
The contract will expire after the 2021-22 season. Bergeron will be 36 years old. The alternate captain, if he remains with the Bruins through the end of the deal, would have been in Black and Gold for half of his life.
Bergeron’s extension will be effective in 2014-15. This season will be the last of his three-year, $15 million contract.
“Patrice really helped us in the team-building aspect, too,” Chiarelli said. “I give a lot of credit to him because he sees what we’re trying to do here and the [average annual value] is nice for team building and it’s something that helps us in future years.”
The cap hit will be $6.5 million per year, third on the team to Rask ($7 million) and Zdeno Chara ($6,916,667). The deal is front-loaded, with Bergeron earning $38 million over the first five years and $14 million in the final three, according to an industry source with firsthand knowledge of the contract.
Chiarelli praised Bergeron multiple times for his willingness to sign rather than hit the open market. The Bruins have most of their key players signed long-term.
“I try and be proactive on our core guys,” Chiarelli said. “I want to try and get these guys locked up — I call them pillars of the team.
“He’s a leader, he stands for what we stand for, he’s proud to wear a Bruins logo, he sets a great example — all these things.
“He knows that he could have gotten more on the open market, no question.”
Bergeron, who turns 28 on July 24, has established himself as one of the NHL’s elite two-way centers. Chicago’s Jonathan Toews may be Bergeron’s closest rival. This past season, Bergeron was runner-up to Toews for the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive forward. Bergeron won the Selke in 2011-12.
Bergeron had 10 goals and 22 assists in 42 regular-season games in the lockout-shortened season. He centered the second line, mostly between Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin.
But in the playoffs, Bergeron elevated his performance. He had nine goals and six assists in 22 games, and played a critical role in the Game 7 rally against Toronto in the opening round.
In the Stanley Cup Final, Bergeron sustained torn rib cartilage in Game 4, a broken rib in Game 5, and a punctured lung and separated shoulder in Game 6.
Monday will mark three weeks since the collapsed lung, and Bergeron said he is feeling better, but that he is still not supposed to increase his heart rate until the four-week mark.
“It’s more about the lung and making sure,” Bergeron said. “They put a hole through my rib cage to get the air out and make sure that my lung was going back to its place and staying there. So now the four weeks is to make sure that everything heals and that it doesn’t collapse again.”
He said he has been able to do some rehab on the shoulder, and expects to be ready for training camp in September.
The primary concern of Bergeron’s extension is his concussion history. He suffered the fourth concussion of his career April 2, missing six games. Bergeron’s major concussion took place Oct. 27, 2007. The injury ended his season.
Chiarelli said that while there is always risk in giving a long-term deal to a player, he was willing to accept that risk in this case because of Bergeron’s character and resiliency. But, he added, “it certainly wasn’t something we took lightly.”
The deal means the Bruins are largely set for the near future, with $65.7 million (over the cap) committed for next season, and $57.5 committed for the following season.
And it gives them a chance to continue to compete for another Cup.
“They’re a huge reason why I wanted to be in Boston for a while,” Bergeron said. “We have a great team, a competitive team every year. We all want to win. You can see the desire in every player.
“It was a very easy decision for me and my family to stay in Boston. I love the city and the people and the organization and my teammates. It was a very good decision and I’m very happy to say that I’ll be a Bruin for a long time.”