BOSTON -- The Bruins are getting the gang back together, signing captain Patrice Bergeron and center David Krejci -- both members of their 2011 Stanley Cup championship team -- to one-year deals Monday.
Almost three months after he left the ice without any certainty that he would return, Bergeron signed a one-year deal with the Bruins. A few hours later, the team announced that Krejci, who played last season in his native Czechia, will also be back for the 2022-23 campaign.
"Obviously, we're great friends and we go way back," Bergeron said in a video conference with reporters. "I'm super excited to get going with him and also the rest of the guys."
Bergeron got a $2.5 million deal with up to $2.5 million in incentives, and Krejci gets $1 million with the potential for $2 million more. Bergeron is fourth on the Original Six franchise's all-time scoring list with 982 points, and Krejci is ninth with 730.
"Obviously, I wanted to play. But I wanted to play with the Boston Bruins and that's because I believe in this team," Bergeron said. "A historical team is the only motivation you need, to leave this jersey in a better place."
The Bruins also announced a one-year deal for forward Pavel Zacha with a cap hit of $3.5 million. Zacha, 25, scored 15 goals with 21 assists for New Jersey last year. Boston acquired him in the offseason in a trade for forward Erik Haula.
Bergeron, 37, and Krejci, 36, led the Bruins to the 2011 NHL championship and two other trips to the Stanley Cup Final. Boston was eliminated in the first round of this year's 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, a five-time Selke Trophy winner as the top defensive forward, was his first call. Team CEO Charlie Jacobs said Bergeron, who was unsigned and contemplating retirement, was expected to return.
"So, fingers crossed," he said in July.
"The fire, desire and passion were too strong for me to take that path right now," Bergeron told reporters. "I'm not ready, I guess, for the next step of my life. I still have some in the tank, something to give."
Bergeron has 400 goals and 582 assists in 18 seasons -- all with the Bruins, who selected him in the second round of the 2003 draft. Since then, he has established himself as the league's dominant two-way forward and 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 to the Hockey Hall of Fame as soon as he is eligible -- now, that won't be until at least 2026.
Krejci has 215 goals and 515 assists in 15 years in the NHL -- also all with Boston -- and led the Bruins in scoring during the 2011 Stanley Cup run with 12 goals and 11 assists in 25 postseason games. Playing for HC Olomouc in his homeland last season, he led the team with 20 goals, 26 assists and 46 points in 51 games.
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 Bruins with 47 playoff goals and 123 points.
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 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.
Bergeron was the last Boston player off the ice in Carolina, leading his teammates through the handshake line and giving each of them a hug. He said he hadn't decided about his future.
"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. It would have been nice to make a good run for him."
Bergeron, Krejci and Marchand are the only players from the 2011 Stanley Cup team left on the Bruins roster. Longtime captain Zdeno Chara left as a free agent in 2020 and goalie Tuukka Rask abandoned his comeback from hip surgery in the middle of this past season.
The Bruins have 26-year-old David Pastrnak on offense, 24-year-old Charlie McAvoy on defense and 23-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 34.
Losing Bergeron would have meant 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."