One of the biggest storylines for the Boston Bruins this season is taking place off the ice. Instead, it’s progressing at the negotiating table, as Bruins management and Torey Krug decide whether they have a future together.
Krug has made it clear that he loves wearing black and gold. He stated as much earlier this week during a Zoom interview call with Bruins media:
“For me personally, I really hope I did not play my last game as a Boston Bruin,” Krug said, per NBC Sports Boston. “It’s been a special place for me and my family to grow. My love for the game and playing in front of these fans has been very special to me. But [this situation] hasn’t given me any clarity,”
The Bruins brass had been pretty quiet about negotiations with Krug until Friday when general manager Don Sweeney issued his own update. That update, if we’re being honest, doesn’t sound very promising as far as progress goes:
“I dearly hope Torey hasn’t played his last game this year or going forward,” Sweeney said, per WEEI. “He’s been a big part of any success we’ve had as an organization. He’s a special player, both on and off the ice. He means a lot in the locker room. … In a cap world, we have to try to fit the pieces together. We’ve had very, very good discussions with Torey’s group, but we just haven’t found a landing spot. That’s understandable given the circumstances of where the cap is and his value, both to us and also in a potential open-market type situation.
“We’re hopeful that we will find a resolution with Torey, but at this point in time we haven’t been able to do so. But it’s been very amicable and we’ve made our feeling perfectly clear that we respect and acknowledge what Torey has done and what he’s capable of doing for us as a member of the Boston Bruins, and we hope that continues.”
With Krug’s future in Boston uncertain, we decided to come together and share our thoughts on his contract negotiations, and his prospective future with the Bruins. The Hockey Writers’ Bruins team answered the following question: Will the interrupted season affect whether Krug will re-sign with the Bruins and what sort of deal do you expect him to sign?
I honestly don’t think the season being interrupted will have any real impact on what happens between Krug and the Bruins. It seems to me that he has more or less drawn a line in the sand indicating what kind of deal he is looking to get, and the Bruins most likely are not going to give it to him. Krug will likely need to be willing to accept something in the $6 million to $6.5 million range if he truly does want to remain in Boston, instead of the $8 million he is rumored to be asking for.
Even though the positions are different and the going rate for defensemen is crazy right now, I just don’t see the Bruins agreeing to pay Krug nearly $1.5 million more per year than David Pastrnak.
Regardless of whether the rest of the 2019-20 season is canceled or not, Krug does have a little bit of leverage on his side. The Bruins have defensive depth, yes, but it has become painfully obvious that the power play suffers mightily when he’s not playing. That, coupled with the facts that high-scoring D-men don’t grow on trees and that he has been a major part of a team that went to the Stanley Cup Final last season and likely would have won the Presidents’ Cup this year, make a strong argument in Krug’s favor. I do think he’ll get the contract he wants. But I don’t think it will be with Boston.
The Bruins were the best team in hockey prior to the season being suspended. Part of that success came from the excellent special teams the Bruins’ put on the ice, both in terms of their power play and their penalty kill. While Krug hasn’t been a contributor to the latter, he’s certainly been a mainstay on the former.
That power-play prowess alone makes him a worthwhile player for a team, either the Bruins or otherwise, to look at in the offseason. For that reason, it’s obvious that he’s going to command upwards of $6 million per season on the open market and that number will almost certainly exceed the $7 million or $8 million annual mark if we’re being honest.
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This interrupted season presents a lot of interesting questions and while I can’t pretend to know how things will play out, I definitely think the Bruins could still explore something along the lines of a six-year, $42 million extension if they really want him to be a mainstay for the remainder of this team’s Championship Window and beyond.
Will that dollar value or that term get a deal done? I don’t know. But I think anything more in either regard would be worrisome due to the team’s depth on defense – especially on the left side, Krug’s age – the Michigan-native will be 29 years old when his current deal expires, and Krug’s deficiencies on the defensive-side make for a long-term deal at that cap hit concerning. Still, it’s hard to look past the 50-plus points that Krug has put up every season for the last four years – he currently sits at 49 points in 61 games this season, so I’m counting that as 50 for the sake of simplicity, including his 14-goal, 59-point campaign that came in the 2017-18 season.
He’s one of the best offensive defenders in the game and he’s a game-changer on the back-end because of that offensive ability. He’ll be hard to replace but it’s also a long-term decision to set a hard-cap on what kind of deal he’s offered. While six-years still seems like it’s too long based on the reasons mentioned, it’s the absolute minimum Krug should accept given what he’s accomplished. Realistically, he should be seeking a deal upwards of $7.5 million and in the seven to eight-year range, assuming the Bruins are in the mix.
The Krug situation is a messy one for the Bruins. One one hand, as Carrie and Brandon mentioned, Krug’s skill operating a power play is tough to come by. Yes, the Bruins have other players who are capable of running a power play – Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk are the two obvious choices. That being said, neither of those players is as effective in the role as Krug. The former Michigan State Spartan led Bruins skaters in power play time on ice per game (3:53) for a reason. If you simply plug McAvoy or Grzelcyk on the top pairing, it’ll take a hit.
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That skill-set can and will draw Krug a lot of attention on the open market. Carrie and Brandon already got into some more specific numbers talk, so I’ll avoid that for the sake of repetition, but what I will say is this: the optimistic projections to increase the salary cap that were discussed in early March are sure to take a hit from the coronavirus’ impacts. That means that the Bruins, who were already in a tight situation to squeeze in Krug’s contract, will have even less breathing room than they might’ve expected.
Krug actually addressed this in his aforementioned Zoom interview call:
“But now the season is on pause and I’m definitely wondering what’s going to happen,” he said, per NBC Sports Boston. “But in terms of clarity, there pretty much has been none. I can’t put any assumptions on it, but I can only guess that things are going to look different from a salary cap perspective next season. Team structures as well are going to be affected by it, but I have no clarity about it. I wish I had a better answer for that, but it’s just the reality of the situation.”
At the end of the day, you do have to prioritize some players over others. While it would be nice to throw Krug money and keep his assets, you have to consider what type of cap situation that will put the Bruins in for the future.
While Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Matt Grzelcyk are set to be restricted free agents when their deals expire, you’ll eventually have to pay them. With the defensive depth that the Bruins have and players like Urho Vaakaneinen working their way toward the NHL, you have to consider where everybody fits in. Krug’s skill-set is worth a good amount of money right now, but his defensive game will become more of a question mark as he ages, and the Bruins will be eager to avoid an ugly contract a few years down the road with a young core that will need paying.
Krug wants to stay in Boston. The Bruins want to keep Krug around. But reaching a middle ground that both are okay with? That’s seeming less and less likely by the day.
I don’t think that the interruption will affect whether he re-signs or not. I believe he will listen to the Bruins and that he wants to stay. The ball will be in Don Sweeney’s court.
As far as what type of contract he could get, I expect a six-year deal with an annual salary of $6-7 million per year. It could come down to how high Sweeney and Bruins want to go.
Cam is a Broadcast Journalism student at the University of Maryland. He’s the Boston Bruins Beat Writer at The Hockey Writers, and is an avid college hockey fan. Find him on Twitter @CamHasbrouck!