Bruins summer series: Torey Krug at a crossroads this season

Bruins summer series: Torey Krug at a crossroads this season

Today’s piece on Torey Krug is the fifth in a 10-part series over the next two weeks breaking down the core Bruins group of players, and where they stand heading into next season after last spring’s Stanley Cup playoff run.

Torey Krug might have been the Conn Smyth winner had the Bruins won the Stanley Cup a couple of months ago.

Okay, it was probably going to be Tuukka Rask no matter what happened in Game 7 had the Bruins come out victorious against the St. Louis Blues. But Krug had a monster postseason with two goals and 18 points in 24 playoff games, finished with a plus-4 rating and averaged 22:21 of ice time during Boston’s run all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.

A lot of it was about the 28-year-old Krug staying healthy during the postseason for the first time in five years, and holding his own in the defensive zone when push came to shove against bigger, stronger players. Krug doesn’t always win those battles during the regular season while playing a top-4 role for the Black and Gold, but he stepped up in the postseason to be arguably Boston’s best defensemen among a talented group.

Coming off three straight 50 plus point regular seasons as well, Krug is at the top of his NHL game and in the prime of his career.

So why are there so many whispers about trades when it comes to Krug and a Bruins team that’s bumping up at the top of the salary cap?

Some of it is because Krug is among the most valuable pieces on the team as an offensive D-man with stats that stack up against the best in the league. Some of it is about Krug’s contract situation as well as he enters the final year of his deal with a big raise on the horizon for a player making $5.25 million next season.

The Bruins will be hard-pressed to pay Krug market value after next season once they sign RFAs Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo, and at some point dealing him for value would make perfect business sense for the Black and Gold.

The problem with that?

There really doesn’t appear to be a ready-made replacement for Krug when it comes to replacing his 50 points of production from the back end, replacing his spot as the quarterback on the No. 1 power play unit or bringing the kind of feisty, competitive personality that he brings to the table either. Cam Neely said as much while discussing Krug with NBC Sports Boston last week during a wide-ranging discussion of all things Bruins.

“[Krug] had a fantastic playoff…there’s no question,” said Neely. “It’s the delicate balance you have. You’ll have players on expiring contracts and we talk internally about what we’re going to do and how it’s all going to pan out.

“With Torey he’s one of the top PP defensemen in the league and our power play has been pretty damn good, and has won a lot of games for us. Grzelcyk is coming along, but I don’t know if he sees the ice the way that Torey does. And Charlie just hasn’t shown that he’s a No. 1 power play defenseman just yet. Maybe some of that is just opportunity that hasn’t been there yet because of the way Torey handles the first unit. Torey has been a big part of our success the past few years.”

Could Krug be traded if a deal materialized that brought the Bruins a young stud top-6 winger that could solve their right wing needs there for the next decade?

Certainly that would have to be discussed given Boston’s needs on the wing when it comes to added scoring punch up front, and in the spirit of improving the team rather than making salary cap-related decision.

But dealing Krug at this point in time coming off a Stanley Cup Final berth and his epic postseason performance would create a giant roster hole for the Black and Gold that guys like McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk don’t appear poised to replace just yet. That kind of talent subtraction for a playoff-caliber team like the B’s, coming off a Stanley Cup Final run, would not play well with a fan base expecting excellent again next year.

The Bruins may face a massive dilemma when it comes to Krug around this time next year, but that’s a situation they appear prepared to approach with a player that’s a massive part of Boston’s overall success year in, year out.

Key stat: 24 – Torey Krug played in all 24 playoff games for the Bruins and shook off a massive hit from Jake Muzzin early in the Stanley Cup playoffs in order to do so. The ability to withstand playoff hockey physicality for four rounds of the postseason answered one of the biggest questions around the undersized Krug’s game.

Krug in his own words: “In order for a team to win hockey games in May or June, you need everybody pulling on the rope and everybody to raise their level of play. I’m just trying to be another guy raising that level and setting the bar to a higher standard. We’re all pulling and all trying to do our jobs. That’s what I was trying to do and hopefully open some eyes for sure.” 

The biggest question he faces: Will Krug be a part of the long term plan for the Bruins, or will be price himself out of Boston with the way he’s played in the final year of his contract? It’s a fundamental question between a very good player in his prime in Krug and a Bruins team that doesn’t have much more room for big money deals unless they start trading some players.  

20 Under 25: How high is Pastrnak's ceiling? 

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NHL All-Star Skills Competition live stream: How to watch it online

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NHL All-Star Skills Competition live stream: How to watch it online

David Pastrnak, who leads the NHL with 37 goals, is the lone Bruins representative in the NHL All-Star Weekend in St. Louis and his participation begins Friday night when he takes part in a new part of the All-Star Skills Competition, the "Shooting Stars" event.

The Shooting Stars involves players standing about 30 feet high on a platform and shooting at targets. Last year, Pastrnak won the NHL Accuracy Shooting competition but will try his hand this year at the new event.

The other new event is the Elite Women's 3-on-3. In that event, two women's teams -- American All-Stars and Canadian All-Stars -- each comprised of nine skaters and one goalie, will go head-to-head in a 3-on-3 game will consist of two 10-minute periods, with a running clock. Teams will switch ends after the first period. All penalties will be "served" with a penalty shot being awarded to the player specifically fouled.

Here are the other skills competitions on Friday, which begin at 8 p.m., ET on NBC Sports Network (The All-Star Game is Saturday night at 8 on NBC):

- NHL Fastest Skater
- NHL Save Streak
- Honda NHL Accuracy Shooting
- NHL Hardest Shot

Click here's to watch the skills competition online via the NBC Sports MyTeams app. 

Potential Bruins trade target Chris Kreider responds to rumors ahead of deadline

Potential Bruins trade target Chris Kreider responds to rumors ahead of deadline

New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider is going to be one of the most talked about players as the Feb. 24 NHL trade deadline approaches.

It's not hard to understand why. The 6-foot-3, 216-pound winger has the type of power forward skill set that is well-suited for the Stanley Cup playoffs, which makes him an attractive trade target for any contending team. In fact, NBC Sports Boston's Bruins insider Joe Haggerty reported earlier this week that Kreider "will be the Bruins' top option for a top-six winger at the trade deadline, according to multiple hockey sources."

The Rangers are 11 points behind the Carolina Hurricanes for the second wild-card playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, so the chances of the Blueshirts making the postseason are pretty slim. Kreider is an unrestricted free agent in July, and it would make sense for the Rangers to trade him before the deadline and not risk losing a very talented player for nothing in free agency.

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Kreider was asked about his Rangers future at NHL All-Star Media Day on Thursday, and his immediate focus is solely on his current team.

"I’m just worried about winning hockey games," Kreider said Thursday at All-Star Media Day, per ProHockeyTalk. "Winning solves a lot of problems. It’s the old adage and probably a little bit cliché, but we take it one day at a time, one game at a time and just try and get better. I think we are getting better. Our group’s worlds better than we were at the beginning of the year.”

Kreider also added: "I’ve only ever pictured myself in a Rangers jersey, and until I’m not a Ranger, I’m a Ranger.”

The 28-year-old forward has tallied 32 points (17 goals, 15 assists) in 48 games this season. He's almost certainly going to hit the 20-goal mark for the fifth time in his career.

Besides his offensive skill and physical style of play, Kreider also is a good target for the Bruins because of his familiarity with Boston. He was born in Massachusetts and played three seasons at Boston College. 

Kreider has 77 games of playoff experience as well, and several of his 23 career postseason goals came in clutch situations.

The Bruins have a great chance to win the Stanley Cup this season, and it would behoove them to upgrade their roster with another proven top-six forward who can provide secondary scoring behind the Perfection Line. Kreider is an ideal player for that type of role.

Haggerty: Top-six forwards for B's to pursue at trade deadline