It seems like forever since the Detroit Red Wings were linked to all the top pending free agents every year. Back when they were perennial playoff contenders, the summer months signaled a time when fresh faces signed on in Hockeytown to pursue a Stanley Cup championship.
Nowadays, the Red Wings are mostly stuck sifting through the bargain bin.
However, this offseason looks like it could be a change of course. The top defender slated to hit the open market is 29-year-old Torey Krug of the Boston Bruins. As is regularly mentioned whenever Krug’s Bruins play the Red Wings, Krug is a native of Livonia, Michigan and attended Michigan State University. Plus, Krug has a prior history with Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill during their season together with the Indiana Ice of the USHL.
All of this is to say that the Red Wings might have an “in” when it comes to this particular free agent. But is Krug worth the financial commitment it will take to bring him to the team? How can he help a franchise with deficiencies throughout their lineup?
Offense From the Back-End
Krug has established a reputation as a premier offensive defenseman in the NHL. He has averaged around 48 points per season during his seven full seasons in the league (including the abbreviated 2019-20 season). He has a collective Corsi-for percentage of 55 percent, meaning that he does a good job of directing play in the right direction.
He has also played a key role in the Bruins’ power play during his tenure in Boston. Around half of his total points in the NHL have come with the man-advantage – although some might say that it’s easy to rack up points in that situation when you’ve got guys like Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak to feed. Adding Krug would be an instant boost to the Red Wings’ power play, which ranked 29th in the league this season.
The trick to this is that Krug needs to be saddled alongside a stay-at-home defenseman that allows him to be aggressive on the forecheck and in the offensive zone. In Boston, his primary partner has been Brandon Carlo. If the Red Wings do land Krug, it would be wise for them to put him in a similar situation.
With guys like Niklas Kronwall, Trevor Daley and Mike Green vacating the lineup over the last year, there is a bit of a leadership vacuum on the Red Wings’ back-end. The most senior member of their defensive unit is 30-year-old Danny DeKeyser, and he joined the Red Wings near the end of the organization’s glory days. The Red Wings could use somebody with big-game experience on the blue line.
This is especially so because the Red Wings expect that some of their defensive prospects will be ready to challenge for a full-time job starting next season. The key prospect in question here is Moritz Seider, the team’s top pick of the 2019 Draft. Given Krug has played in two Stanley Cup Finals, he could be a guy that really helps Seider get acclimated to the grind of the NHL.
In fact, Seider and Krug could come together to form a solid pair for the Red Wings. While Seider is adept in most areas of the ice, he doesn’t have the same offensive “jump” that Krug does. Perhaps Seider could become the Red Wings’ version of Carlo, though Seider’s ceiling is likely way higher.
Jeff Blashill may not have a ton of fans around Hockeytown, but he could be instrumental in bringing Krug back to the Mitten State. When asked to talk about his relationship with Krug, Blashill made his admiration for the small-sized defender known:
“Torey’s one of my favorite players I’ve coached, I’ve ever coached….He’s a baller. When the game’s on the line, he’s got ice in his veins….I can’t say enough good things about Torey. He’s a great person, plays with an edge. I like him a lot.”Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill
For the Red Wings, adding Krug gives their coach a player that he likes and is likely willing to lean on in many situations. Every team needs those anchors that help stabilize their team. There is no doubt that Blashill would welcome Krug not only as a go-to guy, but also as a leader for the Red Wings.
Krug remembers Blashill as the coach who went to bat for him and really gave him the chance he needed in order to continue to pursue his hockey dream. Although many fans were unhappy when they learned that general manager Steve Yzerman was going to pick up the option in Blashill’s contract, maybe their anger will subside a bit if Blashill is a reason that Krug signs with the Red Wings.
Winning Is Fun!
Perhaps the biggest impact that Krug could have on the Red Wings is that he would instantly improve the roster. When you improve your roster, you tend to win more games. For a team that only won 17 games this season, more victories would certainly be welcome.
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However, Krug is not the silver bullet that would fix all of the Red Wings’ problems. Adding Krug means more goals for the Red Wings, and fewer times being shut out because of it. That doesn’t necessarily mean more wins, but it definitely means more competitive hockey games.
If Krug can come in and help make the Red Wings competitive again, he’ll quickly endear himself to the organization and its fans. A local kid who makes an impact for the team he grew up cheering for? Sure it’s a bit cliché (we’re looking at you, John Tavares) but it certainly sells jerseys!
At What Cost?
In order to sign a player in free agency, you need two things:
- A roster spot
- Cap space
Luckily for the Red Wings, they have both. Though they have plenty of bodies available on the blue line, Krug would immediately become the team’s top guy for the time being. As for cap space, the Red Wings finally have some financial flexibility after years of being pressed hard against the cap. The ability to add players like Krug is why having cap space is so important.
And if they do pull it off and Krug becomes the newest member of the Red Wings this fall, they’ll be setting themselves up for success down the road. He immediately adds firepower to a team whose lack of offense made this season hard to watch at times. Going into the future, he provides a veteran presence for a team that is slowly trending younger.
There is no doubt that the Red Wings could use a player like Torey Krug. Despite this, it’s up to Krug to determine whether or not this fit works for him. After a long season filled with losses, convincing Krug to come back home would be a BIG win for the Red Wings and their fans.