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Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron returning for 19th season

BOSTON (AP) — Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron is coming back for another season.

Almost three months after he left the ice without any certainty that he would return, the five-time Selke Trophy winner signed a one-year deal with the Bruins on Monday. It will pay him $2.5 million, with another possible $2.5 million in incentives.

Bergeron, 36, led the Bruins to the 2011 NHL championship and two other trips to the Stanley Cup Final during an 18-year career as the league’s dominant two-way forward. Boston was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Carolina Hurricanes on May 14 and fired coach Bruce Cassidy three weeks later.

Jim Montgomery was hired to replace Cassidy, and the new coach said at his introductory news conference that Bergeron was his first call. Team CEO Charlie Jacobs said Bergeron was expected to return.

“So, fingers crossed,” he said in July.

It worked.

Bergeron has 400 goals and 582 assists — all with the Bruins, who selected him in the second round of the 2003 draft. Since then, he has established himself as one of the most respected players in the game.

When he does leave, the Bruins are expected to retire his No. 37, making him the 12th player so honored. He is a likely first-ballot inductee for the Hockey Hall of Fame as soon as he is eligible.

But now that won’t be until at least 2026.

Bergeron is third in Bruins history with 1,216 games played, and fourth in goals, assists and points. He is second all-time for the Original Six franchise with 47 playoff goals and 123 points.

Boston Bruins' Patrice Bergeron is shown during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Saturday, April 16, 2022, in Boston. Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron is coming back for another season. Almost three months after he left the ice without any certainty that he would return, the five-time Selke Trophy winner signed a one-year deal with the Bruins on Monday, Aug. 8, 2022.

Bergeron’s 11 straight seasons as a Selke finalist — including this year — is the longest streak of top three finishes for an NHL award, breaking Wayne Gretzky’s record of 10 years in a row as an MVP finalist. (Gretzky won the Hart Trophy nine times.)

Bergeron played 2021-22 without a future contract for the first time in his career, scoring 25 goals with 40 assists and helping the Bruins reach the playoffs for the 14th time in his 18 seasons. They were eliminated by the Hurricanes in seven games.

“That’s why this one probably hurts more, the unknown for next year with him,” forward Brad Marchand, the second-longest tenured player on the roster, said after the Game 7 loss.

“He’s done so much for this group and sacrificed so much,” Marchand said. “It would have been nice to make a good run for him. So, it’s disappointing.”

Bergeron was the last Boston player off the ice in Carolina, leading his teammates through the post-series handshake line with the Hurricanes and then remaining on the ice to give each of his teammates a hug.

But he said he hadn’t decided about his future.

“It’s tough when it ends like that,” Bergeron said after the game. “It stings. It’s not the feeling that you want. But that being said, we did it together.”

Bergeron and Marchand are the only players from the 2011 Stanley Cup championship team left on the Bruins roster. Longtime captain Zdeno Chara left as a free agent in 2020, David Krecji opted to play at home in the Czech Republic last summer and goalie Tuukka Rask abandoned his comeback from hip surgery in the middle of this season.

The Bruins have 25-year-old David Pastrnak on offense, 24-year-old Charlie McAvoy on defense and 22-year-old Jeremy Swayman in net. Hampus Lindholm, 28, was acquired midseason to shore up the defense, and Marchand is still one of the league’s most dangerous scorers at 33.

But losing Bergeron would have been the end of the most successful era in the team’s history since the Big, Bad Bruins of Hall of Famers Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Gerry Cheevers and John Bucyk.

“He’s the backbone of our team. He’s obviously the biggest part of our team,“ Marchand said after the playoff exit. ”So, yeah, we want him to come back. Whatever happens, he’s earned the right to make whatever decision he wants and take whatever time that he needs.”

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More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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