The term (two years) and the money involved (a total of $2.8 million for a $1.4 million cap hit each of the next two seasons) from the Bruins are pretty much dead on for restricted free agent Matt Grzelcyk after a deal was announced late Friday afternoon.
The timing, however, was a little interesting from the Bruins as Grzelcyk marks the first of a large group of free agents that B’s general manager Don Sweeney has to make decisions on ahead of the July 1 open of NHL free agency. One could surmise the Bruins wrapped up talks with the 24-year-old D-man to get some cost certainty for him ahead of next week’s NHL Draft weekend in Dallas, and that all might just factor into trade discussions next week.
Clearly it’s good value for Grzelcyk after three goals and 15 points along with a solid plus-21 in 61 games for the Bruins last season while just scratching the surface of his efficient, smooth-skating puck-moving abilities.
If the Bruins were to dangle Torey Krug, for instance, in trade discussions next week in Dallas amid greater efforts to bring a big, left shot D-man like Noah Hanifin or Oskar Klefbom back in return, they would already want to have Grzelcyk locked up ahead of any such hockey wheeling and dealing. The Bruins have a number of different avenues that could go down whether it’s attempting to dump big salaried contracts like David Krejci or David Backes, or flipping several blue-chip prospects/young players to get a young D-man like Hanifin.
But the largest amount of trade interest they’re going to find for one of their higher-salaried players is for the 27-year-old Krug, who piled up 110 points over the last two NHL seasons in Boston. Krug is at the apex of his value around the league after amassing all those points over the last two seasons, and his QB skills on Boston’s top power-play unit have been a key part of the B’s special teams’ success story over the last few years. But the Bruins have a budding, young power play QB in Charlie McAvoy ready to take on more responsibility and pump up his own point production, and they have a younger, small left shot puck-moving D-man in Grzelcyk that brings some Krug-like qualities to the table minus some of the high-end offensive finish.
The big difference when it comes to Krug: He’s making in excess of $5 million per season while McAvoy and Grzelcyk are still low-cost young players. It’s pretty simple to do the math as to what makes the most logical sense for the Bruins from a salary cap perspective with a couple of young players set to get some salary raises after this coming hockey season.
There’s also the simple truth that the 5-foot-9, 186-pound D-man has wound up injured in each of the last two postseasons. A left side of Boston’s back end with a soon-to-be 42-year-old Zdeno Chara and smaller D-men in Krug and Grzelcyk isn’t sturdy enough or diversified enough to really be effective against the good teams deep in the playoffs, so it’s pretty clear that a change needs to be made for the Black and Gold.
Could the two-year contract for Grzelcyk be the first domino to fall in a succession of moves in the next few weeks that leads to Krug getting moved to a team desperate for some power play punch like Carolina or Edmonton? It could be a coincidence that the Bruins took care of this deal ahead of next week’s NHL Draft, or more likely the Bruins are getting their ducks in a row in case they need to pull the trigger quickly on something they believe will end up making them a better, more well-rounded hockey club.