Jake DeBrusk is the victim of a lot of things that aren't in his control.
The only NHL regular of Boston's three first-round picks in 2015, he didn't choose to go against the chalk and take a couple of guys higher than they were projected. It isn't his fault that players rated higher than him and drafted after him have been better NHLers.
It also isn't his fault that he's been all the Bruins have had at wing outside of the [only calling it this because people get unnecessarily upset about it] Perfection Line. There's Pastrnak and Marchand, two of the best wings in the world, then there's been a drop-off to DeBrusk and a hundred-mile drop-off to anyone else.
But DeBrusk is a good player and a more than solid option as a middle-six left wing. Lament his streakiness or wish that he was something different, but the guy is 24 years old and averaged 20 goals a season over the course of his recently expired entry-level contract, and that's with one of the seasons cut short.
If the Bruins were serious about making a big splash this offseason, DeBrusk would have been one of their best chips, but perhaps they aren't.
So if DeBrusk isn't a trade chip, what is he, and for how much? The Bruins signed right wing Craig Smith to provide some desperately needed help at the position, leaving DeBrusk to probably remain Boston's second-line left wing.
The flat cap and Boston not exactly being flush with cap space suggests something of a bridge deal for DeBrusk. Still, anything DeBrusk signs should carry at least $4 million a year. Vegas gave Alex Tuch $4.35 million a year for seven years when his career-high was 15 goals. DeBrusk has surpassed that in each of his three seasons, so a deal with that type of term would have to carry a much heftier average annual value.
Given the cap crunch, I'd say the Bruins should go shorter. Four years at around $4.5 million per would be splendid if DeBrusk would take it, but that might not be realistic. If they just want to get something done quickly, though, shorter years and shorter money can be the common ground for RFAs.
A shorter deal lets the Bruins evaluate what DeBrusk is in the long term. He's a 20-goal guy, but is that his ceiling or can he push for 30-plus the way he did two years ago, when he scored 27 goals in 68 games? Paying him like the latter in order to buy up more years of free agency would be a risk, and teams don't appear to be taking risks given how up-in-the-air finances are to project right now. Let's just hope that this doesn't end up being the Bruins' biggest move this offseason.
The thing to remember is that DeBrusk just turned 24 years old. The big 2018-19 season followed by a step back makes it easy to think we've seen the best of him. Maybe we haven't.