By Howard Ulman
---- — BOSTON — Bruins star Patrice Bergeron signed an eight-year, $52 million contract extension on Friday, the latest move by the Eastern Conference champions to get long-term commitments from key players.
The new deal for one of the NHL’s best two-way forwards begins after next season when Bergeron’s three-year, $15 million contract expires.
Just two days earlier, Boston tied up goalie Tuukka Rask for eight years, the longest period allowed for a team to re-sign its own players, for $56 million. Rask had been a restricted free agent.
Bergeron said last week he was “very confident” he would get an extension.
“It would mean a lot,” the alternate captain said. “It’s a team that believed in me when I was 18 and when I was coming up and now, like I said before, it’s my home. I feel like it is, and I love the city. I love the people, definitely love the organization.”
The Bruins’ hopes for their second Stanley Cup championship in three years ended on June 24 when they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games. But Bergeron was outstanding throughout his 22 playoff games, tying for the team lead with nine goals, including two game-winners in overtime.
The second-line center played the last game of the finals with a broken rib and separated shoulder. After that 3-2 loss, when Chicago came from behind with two goals in the last 1:16, he was hospitalized with a punctured lung. He was released two days later.
Bergeron, 27, said he won’t need surgery and expects to be ready for the start of training camp.
A talented playmaker and checker, Bergeron won the Selke Trophy in 2011-12 as the top defensive forward in the NHL.
He led the league in 2012-13 in faceoff percentage, winning 62.1 of them. In his nine seasons, all with the Bruins, he has 153 goals and 280 assists. He had 10 goals and 22 assists last season.
In 83 playoff games, Bergeron has 20 goals — none bigger than the two he scored in Game 7 of the opening round this season against Toronto.
The Bruins won three of the first four games before the Maple Leafs won the next two and led 4-1 with less than 11 minutes left in the third period. Nathan Horton cut the lead to 4-2, Milan Lucic scored an empty-net goal with 1:22 left and Bergeron tied it with another empty-netter with 51 seconds remaining in regulation.
Then he won the game — and the series — with a goal at 6:05 of overtime.