In a series of “Debunked” articles, we’ll take a look at some of the hot and heavy Bruins rumors from this summer and just how much truth there is — or isn’t — to the grist in the rumor mill.
Let’s start off by saying that it was patently ridiculous that David Krejci was ranked second on the B’s list of players who didn’t meet expectations last season. It was part of the 2019 New England Sports survey and had the playmaking center second behind only the aging, declining David Backes as an underachiever on last season’s team.
Sure, Krejci wasn’t great in the playoffs with just four goals in 24 postseason games, and he didn’t lead the playoff field in scoring as he’d done in each of the other two postseasons when the Bruins made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. But we’re still talking about a player who had a bit of a middle-aged renaissance last season with 20 goals and 73 points in 81 games during the regular season. It was his best season in more than a few years and was the ceiling for reasonable expectations for a player at the tail end of his prime at 33 years old.
In other words, Krejci stayed healthy, productive and consistent all season while dealing with a revolving door of right wingers including Karson Kuhlman, the immortal Joakim Nordstrom, Backes and Ryan Donato among others. It boggles the mind to think on what planet it would actually be fair to call that “not meeting expectations”, but it certainly isn’t Planet Earth.
So the entire conversation surrounding Krejci starts from a pretty unfair place when it comes to the player, but that strange fan sentiment may have something to do with his status as the highest-paid player on the team. Does Krejci deserve to be paid more than guys like Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand or Tuukka Rask when all things are considered?
Probably not, but it also shouldn’t translate into trade notions that once again surrounded Krejci this summer.
With the Bruins in need of salary cap space (currently at a smidge over $7 million per Cap Friendly) to help sign restricted free agents Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy, it makes sense to look at the highest-priced items on the roster. Naturally moving Krejci’s $7.25 million cap hit would open up plenty of room to re-sign players and perhaps finally find that elusive top-6 right wing that’s been missing from the second line.
It’s also true that the no-trade language in Krejci’s contract has finally softened to the point where dealing him is realistic. The Bruins could now deal Krejci to half the teams in the NHL, where before he had a strict no-movement clause in his big money deal.
But there’s the rub as well.
The Bruins might be filling other needs if they traded a player like Krejci who's surely going to start on the decline within the next couple of seasons.
But they’d also be creating a giant hole on their roster by shipping out a top-6 center still capable of playing big minutes, playing two-way hockey and posting something in the neighborhood of 20 goals and 70 points like he did last season. The Bruins don’t have a ready-made replacement for Krejci on their NHL roster, and even Bruins President Cam Neely admits that youngsters like Jack Studnicka aren’t anywhere close to stepping into Krejci’s shoes at this point.
“I thought David had a fantastic year. He had a really strong year. I think he’s a guy that’s generally been a playoff performer, and wants to be known as a playoff player…not just a regular-season player,” said Neely in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Boston over the summer. “To your point, I think we’ve got some centermen in our pipeline. But to step up to be a No. 2 in the National Hockey League, they are not quite there yet. And David is filling that role quite nicely for us.”
Perhaps next season the Bruins might be in a position to think about moving on from Krejci if Studnicka, or Oskar Steen, or even Jon Beecher, comes in and shows that they might be ready to handle top-6 center duties at the NHL level. Certainly, they’ve fooled around with the notion before like when they hotly pursued John Tavares in free agency a couple of summers ago when the franchise center was available in unrestricted free agency.
But now is not a time to deal Krejci when there’s nothing ready center position-wise in the Bruins prospect pipeline with great expectations headed into this season. Instead maybe it’s time to appreciate the work Krejci put in last year to produce an excellent season at 33 years old, and set himself up for at least another good year or two before any replacement plans become a reality.
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