The Bruins and Danton Heinen agreed to a two-year contract late Tuesday, one which will pay the second-year winger an average of $2.8 million through 2021.
The pact let the club and Heinen, 24, avoid salary arbitration.
Last week, the left-side shooter from Langley, British Columbia was one of 40 restricted free agents to exercise that option. Tuesday, the NHL Players Association set a hearing date for Aug. 3. Everyone can now take those hours off.
Among comparable forwards in this RFA class, Heinen — who made $925,000 last year at the end of his entry-level contract — came in behind ex-Harvard forward Alex Kerfoot, who joined his new club, Toronto, on a four-year deal worth $3.5 million. Heinen will earn more than Tampa center Cedric Paquette (two years, $1.65 million per) and San Jose winger Kevin Labanc, who surprised many by signing for one year at just $1 million.
The fourth-round draft pick (116th overall) in 2014 produced a 11-23—34 line in 77 games last season, often riding his off (right) wing on the third line with trade deadline additions Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson (now with Buffalo).
He could see duty on the third line again — perhaps with Coyle and another winger to be named later — or get another shot at a top-six job, a role at which he had a few tries last season.
Heinen’s rookie season saw him put up 16-31—47 totals while forming another effective third line, with David Backes and Riley Nash (now with Columbus).
Had the Bruins and Heinen gotten to the hearing, the club would have the option to pick between one or two years at the salary the negotiator decides.
They could also have walked away from the award, which would have made Heinen an unrestricted free agent.
General manager Don Sweeney also continues to try to find common ground with RFA defensemen Charlie McAvoy, 21, and Brandon Carlo, 22, both of whom are expected to earn significantly more than Heinen.
McAvoy could push $7 million a season with his next contract, while Carlo could be in the $3 million-$4 million range. Neither of them have arbitration rights.
If they cannot reach a deal with the latter two, they have until Dec. 1 to sign, or they must sit out the 2019-20 season.
The last big-ticket RFA dealing with the Bruins was winger David Pastrnak, who held out until Sept. 14 before signing his second contract.
Pastrnak, then 21, was coming off a 34-36—70 season and signed a six-year, $40 million pact. His $6.67 million annual cap hit was, and remains, the team’s fourth-highest, trailing David Krejci ($7.25 million), Tuukka Rask ($7 million) and Patrice Bergeron ($6.875 million).
According to CapFriendly, the Bruins have some $7.35 million in cap space after signing Heinen. That is not likely enough to fit both McAvoy and Carlo under budget, making it likely the Bruins will pursue a trade.
Backes (two years left at $6 million), John Moore (four years at $2.75 million) and Kevan Miller (one year at $2.5 million) are among the higher-paid Bruins for their roles on the team, though any trade partner would not freely accept them. Backes was a healthy scratch nine times in the playoffs, and neither Miller (knee) nor Moore (shoulder) are expected to be healthy by training camp, which begins in early September.