Patrice Bergeron, the fulcrum of the Boston Bruins' most successful teams for nearly the last two decades, said Monday he could not see himself playing somewhere else and dispelled the idea that Montreal might be a free-agent destination for him.
Speculation over Bergeron's future began almost immediately after the Bruins' season ended in a first-round defeat against the Carolina Hurricanes, when the unsigned captain led the team through the end-of-series handshake line and then waited to give each of his own teammates a hug as they left the ice.
For his part, since stepping off the ice, Bergeron had been largely non-committal about what his future would hold, saying it was "too early" to make a decision right after the series ended, a sentiment he reiterated on Monday.
"I don't know, to be honest with you," Bergeron told reporters on Monday when asked about a timeline for his decision. "I think it's just more time...I'm gonna need some time to think about a lot of things and come up with the best decision for myself and my family."
In the absence of a definitive answer, rumours have swirled. During an appearance on NBC Sports' Boston Sports Tonight show, Tony Amonte, the former NHL player who skated 17 seasons in the league, floated the idea of Bergeron heading to Montreal.
The theory, which Amonte characterized as "rumblings" as opposed to reporting, stemmed from Bergeron's former agent, Kent Hughes, now acting as the general manager of the Canadiens, and Bergeron having grown up watching the Canadiens. This last point painted an incomplete picture, as despite growing up in Quebec and likely watching many of the team's games, Bergeron grew up in a suburb of Quebec City (L'Ancienne-Lorette, Que.) and has said he was a Quebec Nordiques fan.
"No," Bergeron said when asked if he could envision a non-Boston future. "I’ve been here for my whole career. Obviously it’s a special place for me. It’s not on my mind right now. I just need to take time and regroup."
When speaking off to the side with Matt Porter, a writer for the Boston Globe, Bergeron more specifically addressed the Canadiens rumour, saying he could see how the dots were connected but that he was not entertaining the idea.
The Bruins have seen the core players from their three Stanley Cup Final appearances depart over recent years. Zdeno Chara, the towering defenceman who preceded Bergeron as captain, left as a free agent in 2020, David Krejci decided last summer to play at home in the Czech Republic this season, and Tuukka Rask's attempted comeback from his surgery didn't pan out.
Given the turnover, the team has been vocal about wanting Bergeron back — if that's what he wants.
“Obviously, I pushed my case on him to come back,” Brad Marchand, Bergeron's longtime teammate said. “He’s the backbone of our team. He’s obviously the biggest part of our team. 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.”
Together, Marchand and Bergeron forged one of the league's most productive duos for nearly a decade, playing pivotal roles in the Bruins ending their 39-year Cup drought in 2011.
Nearing age 37, Bergeron — who has spent his entire 18-year career with the Bruins — showed this season he still has more to give on the ice, too. He finished the regular season with 25 goals and 40 assists in 73 games while adding another three goals and four assists during the playoffs.
“He means so much to this franchise. We all want him back,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “But I have no inkling. I have not addressed it with him.”