Boston Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk is entering what could be the most pivotal season of his NHL career.
The 26-year-old veteran is expected to play an even larger role in driving offense next season following the summer departures of forwards Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Taylor Hall, Tyler Bertuzzi and others. If the Bruins are going to have a top 10 offense again, DeBrusk will need to score 30-plus goals and create chances for teammates more consistently.
He's also entering the final year of his contract. DeBrusk is able to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time next offseason. He doesn't want the situation to get to that point, though.
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"I'm hoping to stay [with the Boston Bruins]. It's the only team that I know and the team that I grew up with," DeBrusk told NHL.com's Derek Van Diest at the Perry Pearn 3 vs. 3 Hockey Camp earlier this week.
"Hopefully it goes in that direction, and we'll see how it goes. That's why I have an agent (Rick Valette), and I told him I wanted to stay out of this one and in time, it'll be nice when it all gets done."
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DeBrusk current contract -- a two-year, $8 million deal -- was signed on trade deadline day in 2022. The Bruins wisely decided to keep DeBrusk, and he has rewarded that faith by becoming a better two-way player and a quality goal scorer. He scored 27 goals in just 64 games last season and was a strong fit in new head coach Jim Montgomery's system.
Keeping DeBrusk won't be cheap. Players with the ability to score around 30 goals per season typically make over $6 million per year.
DeBrusk is trying his best to focus on hockey while his agent works with the Bruins to figure out a contract both sides find acceptable.
"It's not my first time going through this," DeBrusk told Van Diest. It's my third time my contract is up with them. I kind of know what to expect, although it's a little bit different with now being a UFA. I'm not too focused on that. I've kind of tested the waters before and I'm just going to focus on hockey."
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney has often re-signed core players before they start the final year of their contract, although David Pastrnak was an exception last season. It would be wise for the Bruins to get a deal done with DeBrusk ASAP because the longer they wait, the more expensive it could get.