Since bursting onto the NHL scene with the Boston Bruins during their 2012-13 Playoff run, Torey Krug has been a staple on the team’s blue line. Undersized compared to an average NHL defenseman at 5-foot-9, the 27-year-old has been able to consistently provide the Bruins with offense from the defensive zone. Despite what Krug brings to the team, general manager Don Sweeney will be faced with a tough decision about his future this offseason.
Krug’s Offense Not Easily Replaced
Krug almost single-handedly revived the Bruins’ power play when he joined the team. They struggled during the 2012-13 season and scored on just 14.8 percent of their attempts, 26th in the NHL. The next season, with the addition of Krug, the power play ranked third in the league at 21.7 percent. This season, the Bruins are scoring on 26.7 percent of their opportunities, second in the NHL behind the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Since his first full season with the team in 2013-14, Krug leads all Bruins defensemen in scoring with 279 points in 449 regular-season games. That’s good for 0.62 points-per-game. The team’s next highest scoring defenseman during that span: Zdeno Chara with 160 points in 414 games.
Matt Grzelcyk comes up most often when talking about who could replace Krug, and at first glance, the comparison makes sense. He’s another undersized, offensive-minded defenseman who is a few years younger and much cheaper than Krug. It sounds like a no-brainer, but the stats tell a different story.
Prior to Tuesday night’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes, Grzelcyk had recorded 29 points in 120 games, with seven of those points coming on the power play. Krug had 40 points in his first full season with the Bruins. Grzelcyk has an opportunity to set a new career high in points this season. He has 14, just one point back of the mark he set last season, while Krug has 46 points this season and is on pace to tie his career best of 59.
Rather than comparing Krug to Grzelcyk, he should be compared to some other players from around the league. Krug has scored at a similar pace to Tyson Barrie and Drew Doughty throughout his career. That type of production is not easy to replace, especially not at a discount. Some people may not like it, but Krug at his cap hit of $5.25 million per season is a bargain for the Bruins.
Bruins Face Salary Cap Struggles
Aside from some people complaining about him not being strong enough defensively, the other gripe against him is his cap hit. Some people argue that Krug is overpaid, but the reality is that he is actually on a pretty team-friendly contract. When considering his ability to quarterback the power play in addition to his speed and playmaking in transition, Krug is worth every penny of his salary.
In a league where scoring has become the main focus, Krug gives the Bruins just that. He has consistently been among the highest point scorers on the team during his career, and his offensive upside is a perfect fit under head coach Bruce Cassidy’s system. Krug is still under contract for next season, but there has been some talk of Boston looking to move the blueliner this summer in order to free up some cap space for the younger defensemen on the team.
The biggest concern for the Bruins right now is signing Charlie McAvoy to an extension as soon as possible and the 21-year-old is not going to be cheap. He is looking for a contract similar to the one that Aaron Ekblad signed with the Florida Panthers in 2016, which would be in the range of $7.5 million per season for eight seasons. The Bruins also need to re-sign Chara and Brandon Carlo this summer, with Carlo set for a significant raise from the $789,167 he earned this season.
Luckily for the Bruins, the salary cap is expected to increase from $79.5 million to around $83 million next season. While nothing is official yet regarding the salary cap, having a little bit of money to spend will help the Bruins find a way to keep their defense intact. Whatever the front office does this offseason, trading Krug is a mistake that would haunt the Bruins well beyond next season.