After Boston Bruins' elimination, focus shifts to future of captain Patrice Bergeron, 37, but 'it's too early right now' to make decision

With Boston's season ending Saturday, the question now is whether it is also the end for Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron.

The 37-year-old center, who will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, declined to engage in contract extension talks during the season. After the Bruins' 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, Bergeron hugged every teammate as he left the ice, a tradition of his. But was it for the last time?

"It's too early right now [to say]," Bergeron said. "It's too fresh. It still stings obviously from a hard-fought series, and we came up short. I'm going to have to think about it, but I'm not there right now."

Bergeron was visibly emotional in the postgame media availability, not only when reflecting on his future, but on the series that had just concluded. Boston fought its way back from a 2-0 series deficit, and the effort still resonated. He notched one assist in the Bruins' Game 7 loss and finished the series with three goals and seven points.

"It's always hard to come up short, but it's something that we can be proud of, how we battled," Bergeron said. "We came up short tonight; we needed a little more. It stings, and it's not the feeling that you want."

Bergeron can take his time deciding what's next. If Bergeron does call it a career, the four-time Selke Trophy winner -- awarded to the league's best defensive forward -- will retire with 1,216 regular-season appearances, 400 goals and 982 points. In the postseason, Bergeron helped the Bruins win the 2011 Stanley Cup title and was part of two other Eastern Conference championship teams in 2013 and 2019.

Underscoring the gravity of Bergeron's impact on the Bruins, teammate and forward Brad Marchand couldn't hide his own emotions when discussing what might be next for him.

"Whatever happens, he's earned the right to make whatever decision he wants and take the time he needs," Marchand said. "I guess time will tell."

"I hope [it's not the end]," coach Bruce Cassidy said, when asked if he thought Bergeron was done. "He means so much to this franchise."

Whatever direction Bergeron takes will impact the Bruins' path forward as well. They're heading home unsatisfied, while Carolina advances to the second round against the winner of Sunday's Game 7 contest between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers.