On Friday, David Krejci made it official when he announced that he would not return to the Boston Bruins for a 16th NHL season. The veteran center is returning home to his native Czech Republic to continue his career. The decision leaves a gaping hole in the middle of the Bruins’ second line with wings Taylor Hall and Craig Smith.
It’s a hole that general manager Don Sweeney needs to fill, but do the Black and Gold might have their answer already on the roster, or do they look outside of the organization for help? Let’s take a look at the options Boston has when training camp rolls around in September at Warrior Ice Arena.
The first option right now would be Charlie Coyle. Is he a top-six center? His contract that carries an annual average value (AAV) of $5.25 million says so, but after struggling through the shortened 2020-21 season there is some doubt. He did play well when he was moved up there by coach Bruce Cassidy when Krejci was injured and he would have better wings beside him in Hall and Smith.
The other internal options have questions surrounding them as they were just signed as free agents on July 28. Veterans Nick Foligno, Erik Haula, and Tomas Nosek are all left-shot forwards and versatile that were inked to contracts. Foligno is 33 years old and can play center and both wings in all situations. Haula is another center and wing that won 55-percent (%) of his faceoffs last season for the Nashville Predators, while Nosek can also play both center and wing, while he won 51.7% of his faceoffs for the Vegas Golden Knights. Last season, Krejci won 54.2% of his faceoffs.
The Bruins also have Curtis Lazar on the roster after he was acquired in the Hall trade last season with the Buffalo Sabres, but he is more of a fourth-line forward at either center or wing. Last season he solidified the fourth-line center position with Chris Wagner and Sean Kuraly.
Does this open the door for one of the Bruins’ top prospects in Jack Studnicka? Last season he made the roster at the beginning of the season as a right wing, but struggled. When injuries mounted, he slid into the middle on the bottom-six and performed much better at his natural position. Asking him to move up behind Patrice Bergeron on the depth chart is a big ask for the 22-year-old, but he would have two talented and proven wings in Hall and Smith.
Can the Bruins Fill Krejci’s Spot in a Trade?
There were some high-profile center’s available at the start of free agency, but the Bruins ended up passing on the likes of Phillip Danault, who ended up with the Los Angeles Kings, and Mikael Granlund, who returned to the Nashville Predators. If they are going to find a replacement for Krejci from another team, it’s going to have to be through a trade with some pieces that have.
One name that could be available in a trade and who the Bruins were linked to prior to free agency is 25-year-old Christian Dvorak of the Arizona Coyotes. The 6-foot-0 and 195-pound Dvorak, who was selected 58th overall in the 2014 Entry Draft by the Coyotes, would be what the Bruins are looking for. He played in all 56 games last season for Arizona with 17 goals and 14 assists and won 52.1% of his faceoffs. Even more, when Hall was in Arizona for the 2019-20 season, Dvorak was his center and they would have instant chemistry in Boston.
Will the Bruins replace Krejci internally with what’s already on the roster or look to fill his spot through a trade? That remains to be seen, but as it stands now, the top-six for Boston has a missing piece that needs to be found if they want to be a team that is contending for a Stanley Cup in 2021-22.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.