On Thursday, the Boston Bruins announced that they’d re-signed forward David Krejci to a three-year extension worth $15.75 million ($5.25 million annually). This puts an end to speculation that the Czech center was on the trade block and solidifies the Bruins core for years.
Of course there is no shortage of individuals questioning the signing. Some argue the Bruins could have pushed the price down if they lengthened the term to five or more years. Others reason that Krejci’s offensive potential doesn’t compare with the individuals in his cap hit range (as a result, a bad signing).
Krejci’s production in the past three-plus years has been excellent. He’s one of only 44 players to have 200 points since 2008-09. Only eight of the players ahead of him have lower cap hits – and of those only two are younger than Krejci (Bobby Ryan and Loui Eriksson), who’ll be 25 until the postseason.
Even if one considers the talented company that surrounds Krejci to be above his offensive capabilities, remember that many signed their deals two or more years in the past and what looks like a bargain now was not so just a short while ago: For example, Martin Havlat signed a six-year, $30 million dollar deal with Minnesota in the summer of 2009 when the cap was just $56.8 million (8.8% of the available cap), now that would equate to a $5.66 million dollar hit.
There are more extreme examples, too. Paul Stastny makes $6.6 million dollars now, but when he signed the deal in November of 2008, the cap was $56.7 million (making his deal account for 11.6% of their available projected space). At today’s cap numbers, that would be worth almost $7.5 million.
Still, it’s correct to say that Krejci’s contract puts him alongside many individuals who have proven themselves to be superior offensive players. However, regular-season production is only part of the picture.
The B’s Czech center has more to offer than straight offensive production: He’s solid on the faceoff dot, he’s a talented penalty killer and his two-way game is truly underrated. He fills gaps effectively on the backcheck and is capable of creatively picking opponents pockets or throwing solid hits.
Furthermore, Krejci has proven time and again that he’s a clutch performer: Since 2008, only thirteen players have more playoff points than Krejci, and only eleven players have more goals. With 0.85 points per game in that span, he ranks 31st among players who’ve played in fifteen or more playoff games.
Even though it’s probable that the Bruins could have decreased the hit if they lengthened the term, this deal is very safe in that it allows for some decision-making down the road with regards to the progress of Tyler Seguin and some of the other youngsters in Boston’s pipeline. It’s not by any means a small cap hit but it’s manageable and certainly tradable if necessary.
The contract isn’t perfect. It’s going to be a partly responsible for a very difficult offseason for the Bruins in 2013. However, it’s erroneous to say it’s anything but a good deal for the Bruins now or in the immediate future.
When the Bobby Ryan-palooza started in earnest this past week, there were rumors that the B’s were very interested. Sending a talented roster player back was a necessity in any sort of deal (in addition to a pick and someone like Dougie Hamilton), and Krejci appeared like a prime target.
Now that his contract status is cleared up, it’s extremely doubtful that he’ll be traded in the coming months (but not impossible – just ask Devin Setoguchi). Aside from prospects, the B’s are even more unlikely to part with anyone from their roster, now.
One player who’ll still find his name in trade rumblings until he re-signs is goaltender, Tuukka Rask. With Tim Thomas just earning the NHL’s first star for the month of November, he doesn’t appear to be ready to hand over the reins anytime soon. Tuukka is definitely ready to be a starter, now, so it’s hard to see him willingly costing himself future value (by re-signing) without some assurances about becoming the starter in the near future.
Even if trading Tuukka becomes a consideration, the Bruins won’t find many takers for the value they’d want in return. There are understandably fewer teams in the market for a new starter than another forward and the B’s future cap situation limits the dollars they could take back.
Seguin Wingin’ It
By locking up Krejci , the B’s have four top-nine centers on the books for 2012-13. The other pivots are Patrice Bergeron, Rich Peverley and Tyler Seguin. It’s hard to imagine that the nineteen year-old would get more opportunities at the dot with his career 48 percent draw rate and faceoff kings like Pevs and Bergy in front of him. Even if he were to cede dot-duties to a winger, Krejci and Bergy are firmly entrenched in the top-six and unlikely to see time at any other position.
With the success he’s had playing on Bergeron’s right in the past month, one would think that it’s not a bad move for the B’s young scoring leader. However, we’ve seen players who move away from their natural center position struggle to regain their capabilities in the middle. It’s not a certainty that he wouldn’t move back to it in the future at some point (due to injury, trade, etc.) but it appears that the Bruins are quite satisfied with him where he is.
Playing on the wing will afford some opportunities for Seguin to grow as a player. He needs to work on his play along the walls and playing wing will likely give him more opportunities to develop that area of his game. Additionally, the position of winger will allow him to develop more as a sniper and less as a distributor – though he’s showed an aptitude for both in his still-young career.
With the re-signing of Krejci, the Bruins 2012-13 cap payroll balloons to $52.8 million (including $4 million for the likely LTIR-bound/potentially retired Marc Savard) with only thirteen full-time Bruins still under contract. This isn’t the death sentence it seems at first glance, as the majority of those still unsigned are bottom-liners (Chris Kelly, Dan Paille, Greg Campbell, Shawn Thornton, Benoit Pouliot) and mid-pairing defensemen (Joe Corvo, Johnny Boychuk).
It’s fair to say that the B’s are probably pretty happy with their fourth-liners. They work really well as an ‘energy line’ and Campbell and Paille are very solid on the PK. Thornton’s getting on in years but his role as a locker-room leader and a no-nonsense pugilist are very key elements of the B’s identity. With modest to significant ‘cost of living’ increases, all four should be back for somewhere between $3.5 and $4 million.
The Boychuk and Corvo negotiations are probably going to produce more than their share of disagreements within the community. Johnny Rocket’s dynamic ‘gambler playstyle is polarizing but the fact that he’s getting the third-most icetime of any Bruin this season should confirm Coach Claude Julien’s faith in his capabilities. Corvo hasn’t had a bad start but his play has in no way assured a re-signing by the Black and Gold. With Dougie Hamilton tearing up the OHL, one (probably Corvo) will walk while the other signs for around $3 million a year.
Chris Kelly is a tough one to figure out. Going into this season, I’d have argued that he was destined to be on his way to another organization next summer. However his outstanding two-way play (he deserves some Selke consideration) coupled with a shockingly productive start (16 points and +16 in 23 games for a guy who’s never touched 40 points) lead one to believe he could be around in 2012-13. I doubt he’ll keep up his current pace but he could easily be back for at or just below $3 million next year.
Of course, Tuukka Rask is the B’s only RFA (other than the likely one-and-done Pouliot) and will command a healthy raise over his current $1.25 million salary. But even if he gets a ridiculous bump (to $3.5 million) the Bruins will likely have room to manage it.
This leaves the B’s with two open slots among their eighteen skaters to fill with cheap vets or some of their more NHL-ready youths. They’ll still be about a million under the cap and ready to contend for another Cup.
The problem comes a year later when the B’s have to re-sign Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, Tim Thomas, Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin. Unless the cap goes through the roof, I have a difficult time believing that there will be room to get all those core components back on the books without having to make some tough decisions about the rest of the roster.