The Boston Bruins completed what will likely be their final piece of offseason business Friday, announcing an eight-year, $52 million extension for 27-year-old center Patrice Bergeron. The deal will keep Bergeron in black and gold through the 2021-22 season.
"I've been a Bruin since the start of my career and they're a team that believed in me as an 18-year-old coming in, and I'm really happy now to say I will hopefully retire a Bruin. That's the goal, and that's what I want," said Bergeron, who will be 37 in 2022.
The 2021-22 season would be his 18th with the Bruins.
"We're obviously very happy to get him signed," general manager Peter Chiarelli said Friday. "You never know now, but to finish his career with the Bruins, we obviously really like him as a player. 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, and he has a classic way of carrying himself."
Bergeron, who will get married in just over a week, will make $5 million next season in the final year of his previous deal before the new contract begins in 2014. Starting in 2014-15, the assistant captain will carry a $6.5 million annual salary-cap hit.
Chiarelli has been proactive in trying to lock up young, core players in recent years. He signed goalie Tuukka Rask to an eight-year deal earlier in the week and in recent seasons gave defenseman Zdeno Chara and forwards Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic and David Krejci long-term deals.
"I call them 'pillars of the team,'" Chiarelli said. "You have the ability to extend multiyear deals going into the last year, so we took advantage of that timing. He's a leader. He stands what we stand for, and he's proud to wear a Bruins logo. He sets a great example."
When talks of an extension first began, both sides knew Bergeron would be able to earn more once he became an unrestricted free agent after the 2013-2014 season.
"There wasn't any question that he would be able to get more on the open market, so 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."
Bergeron had 10 goals and 22 assists for 32 points during the shortened 2013 regular season and added 9 goals and 6 assists for 15 points in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
After the Bruins' Game 6 elimination in the Stanley Cup finals, Bergeron was hospitalized with a collapsed lung. He played the game with a broken rib and torn rib cartilage and dislocated his shoulder in the contest.
More than two weeks after Boston's season came to an end, Bergeron is feeling better but is still unable to increase his heart rate due to his lung. After four weeks of rehab, he'll be able to slowly begin working out.
"It's going well," he said of his rehab. "It's going the way it should be. It'll be three weeks next Monday, and I have another week after that because I need to be off for four weeks. I spoke to the doctors earlier this week and they said I shouldn't do anything for four weeks. It's longer than expected, but things are going well and I'm feeling good. I can't wait to start working out again and getting started for next year."
Bergeron has suffered some significant injuries in his career and has a history of concussions. The Bruins said they took that into consideration before agreeing to the new contract. Ultimately, the intangibles he brings outweighed the risks.
"When you're looking at giving a long-term contract to a player, you look at everything and you accept a lot of the risks," Chiarelli said. "But with a person of Patrice's character, a person like Patrice who we obviously closely monitored his recovery over the years, it's not without risk.
"Patrice is a terrific character guy and he's shown his resiliency, so we're comfortable with the risk. It certainly wasn't something that we took lightly, but we felt so strongly [about] Patrice as a player and a person, so we would accept some of these risks."
Coach Claude Julien was asked Thursday what a long-term deal for Bergeron would mean for the team.
"He's such an elite player for what he does, and I don't know that there's too many guys in this league that does what he does as well as him," Julien said. "You can get those star players that score 50 goals a year; you can get those kinds of players. But what he does, I think he's the best at it. Two-way conscientious player, wants to produce and also wants to prevent goals, wants to be the best at faceoffs, wants to be the best at everything."
Chiarelli said Thursday that locking up Bergeron was the last major item on his offseason to-do list and that he was planning a quiet summer.
"We're going to stand pat," Chiarelli said. "We've got some good young players that are already in the organization and just acquired, so as of right now, you never know what can happen the rest of the summer, but it will slow down. It has slowed down."