Bruins

What kind of payday awaits Jake DeBrusk in this unforgiving free-agent market?

(Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images)

It should come as little surprise that Jake DeBrusk's pending contract stands as one of the last dominos yet to fall in what has been an eventful offseason for the Bruins.

Even before COVID-19 and the subsequent squeeze on the NHL's revenue streams flipped the league's offseason market on its head, negotiations between player and team when it came to DeBrusk's next payyday were expected to be far from succinct — given the wide variance in both term and average annual value (AAV).

When it comes to the baseline numbers, the 24-year-old winger has more than deserved a bump up in the pay scale from the $832,500 in total salary he earned in 2019-20. Those trademark cold spells notwithstanding, the production is still there when it comes to DeBrusk staking his claim as a legitimate top-six forward — with the gregarious winger lighting the lamp 62 times in 203 career games with Boston.

Had it not been for various ailments robbing him of 14 games during the 2018-19 season, DeBrusk (27 goals) very well could have been just the 12th Bruin under the age of 23 to tally 30+ goals in season   — joining some pretty elite company in Dit Clapper, Bobby Orr, Barry Pederson, Tom Fergus, Cam Neely, Bryan Smolinski, Jason Allison, Joe Thornton, Patrice Bergeron, Phil Kessel and David Pastrnak. 

A mid-season halt due to the pandemic prevented DeBrusk (19 goals, 35 points in 65 games) from surpassing the 20-goal mark in 2019-20, although Boston's expectations had him more in line for another potential 30-goal campaign, or so they hoped.  In what has been a recurring trend for the energetic DeBrusk, prolonged stretches of ineffective play have so far thwarted his chances of taking another major step forward in his young career.

Through the first seven games of the 2019-20 season, DeBrusk only managed to secure one assist before finally lighting the lamp against Toronto on Oct. 19, 2019. Prior to the season coming to a halt in March, DeBrusk only accrued one point (a goal vs. Tampa Bay on March 3) over his final 14 games — with his recent slide even prompting Bruce Cassidy to slot DeBrusk out of the top-six unit and down with Charlie Coyle during Boston’s last regular-season matchup on March 10 against Philly. 

Still, even with the warts in his game, DeBrusk is still a 24-year-old winger boasting plenty of speed, a set of silky mitts and a stat line that averages out to 20 goals scored per season in his time up in the NHL ranks.

In other words, the guy is still going to get paid this fall.

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"I’m a younger player and this is my first deal after my entry level so obviously these years are kind of years that shape you as a pro and help you understand what it takes to win and what can happen in the business side of things," DeBrusk said of his contract and what he can give Boston when asked back in September. "So I feel confident in my play, I guess I feel confident in how I can help this team, I know what kind of player I can be. And this year I don't think it could be replicated to be honest with you.

"I mean for how the common perception is, I'm still one goal away from 20 goals and that's one thing I looked at you know once the first pause happened was I felt like I was completely different than what I guess that said. It's not easy to do in this league but I definitely have a lot better and I haven't even really tuned into that yet, which is frustrating, but I think that these learning experiences from my struggles have really helped me or will help me as a pro when I continue on here."

Even in the stagnant bear market that the Bruins and the NHL currently find themselves in, DeBrusk will still command a solid portion of the remaining $6.6 million in available cap space that the Original Six franchise currently holds this offseason.

But just how sizable will DeBrusk's payout actually be, especially in this market?

Let's take a look at some comparables: