Nick Goss

Should a Jeremy Swayman extension be next on Bruins' to-do list?

Swayman became eligible for an extension on Jan. 1.

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The Boston Bruins have locked up a couple key pieces of their core over the last few years.

Charlie McAvoy signed an eight-year, $76 million contract extension in October of 2021. It was a well-deserved deal for one of the NHL's best defensemen. Superstar right wing David Pastnak signed the largest deal in B's history -- eight years, $90 million -- last March. Pastrnak is a top-five offensive player and was a Hart Trophy finalist last season.

Could Jeremy Swayman be the next core player to reach a long-term extension with the team?

The 25-year-old goaltender became eligible to sign an extension on Jan. 1.

Swayman made some interesting comments after Saturday's overtime win against the St. Louis Blues on the road. When asked about being selected to the All-Star Game for the first time, he unexpectedly brought up the arbitration process he went through over the summer.

“First and foremost, it couldn’t have happened without the team in front of me,” Swayman told reporters. “I’m so lucky to have such a defensive-structured team that takes pride in the D-zone and, of course, gets it done in the offensive zone. So huge kudos to them for allowing this to happen. But yeah, after dealing with what I did this summer with arbitration, hearing things that a player should never hear, it feels pretty special to be in this situation. So, I’m extremely honored and I’m really excited to join (Pastrnak) and (coach Jim Montgomery).”

Arbitration is always a tough process for both sides, but especially the player. It's not easy having yourself compared to your peers. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported in August that the two sides were $2.8 million apart in their filings (Bruins $2 million, Swayman $4.8 million). An arbitrator ultimately landed in the middle and awarded Swayman a $3.475 million salary on a one-year deal.

Both the player and team typically try to avoid arbitration because it's so uncomfortable. In this instance, the Bruins were very tight against the salary cap and any savings they could get were really important. Although, it was Swayman's side that filed for arbitration in this case. Swayman did say in August after the process was completed that there was "no ill-will" toward the team.

It's not abundantly clear why Swayman would randomly mention his arbitration several months after it happened, especially in the context of an All-Star Game question. Is he trying to send some sort of message to the Bruins?

In regards to a potential contract extension, it's not easy to determine what Swayman is actually worth.

For starters, his stats are pretty good. Among the 51 goalies with at least 3,000 minutes played since the start of the 2021-22 season, Swayman ranks No. 5 in save percentage (.917) and No. 3 in GAA (2.38). He has played like a top 10 goalie since the beginning of the 2022-23 campaign. He tied for fourth in both save percentage and GAA last season.

One unknown is how he would handle a full starter workload long term. Swayman has never played more than 41 games in an NHL regular season. He has appeared in 101 games since the start of the 2021-22 season, which is the 27th-most over that span. Starting goalies typically play between 50 and 65 games. There were 17 netminders who played 50 to 65 games last season.

Swayman has played really well in the NHL, but it's a small sample size. He's in just his third full season at this level.

Jeremy Swayman
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 27, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman (1) makes a save during the second period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

What are some good contract comparables for Swayman?

Vancouver Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko signed a five-year, 25 million extension in March of 2021. Demko's stats when he signed that deal were a little worse than Swayman's stats right now. Although, it's looking like a great deal for the Canucks based on how well Demko is playing this season (.919 save percentage). Demko was 25 when he signed that deal, which is the same age Swayman is now.

Islanders netminder Ilya Sorokin, who finished second in Vezina Trophy voting last season, signed an eight-year, $66 million extension ($8.25 million per season) last July. Sorokin has the second-best save percentage (.921) since the start of 2021-22. Sorokin turned 28 a month after signing this extension. He's three years older than Swayman and was closer to unrestricted free agency.

Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry signed a five-year, $26.875 million ($5.375 million per year) extension last July. Swayman's stats are better than Jarry's. Predators goalie Juuse Saros signed a four-year, $20 million extension in August of 2021. He was 26 years old at the time. Saros is one of the top goalies in the sport and has started a league-high 163 games since the beginning of the 2021-22 season.

A long-term deal worth between $6-8 million per year would make sense for both the Bruins and Swayman. It's important for the Bruins to make him a part of their future long-term. He is a very good goaltender and his age fits the timeline of their other core pieces, including McAvoy (age 27), Pastrnak (age 26), Pavel Zacha (age 26) and Hampus Lindholm (age 29).

If the Bruins sign Swayman for less than $8.5 million per year, and he continues to develop at his current pace, the contract will soon become a bargain, especially with the salary cap projected to rise substantially in the coming years.

Speaking of the salary cap, the Bruins are much better equipped to pay Swayman going forward than they were last summer. Boston is projected to have around $25.8 million in cap space in the offseason, per CapFriendly, with Swayman and Jake DeBrusk as the most notable internal free agents. So the Bruins have plenty of cap space to get a deal done with Swayman.

Swayman will again be a restricted free agent in July unless he signs an extension before then. It would behoove the Bruins to get something done soon and eliminate any potential distractions.

In the meantime, Swayman can help his case by continuing to play at a high level, and with Linus Ullmark currently injured and out of the lineup, this is a chance for the University of Maine product to establish himself as the undisputed No. 1 goalie in Boston's net.

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