Countdown to Bruins camp: As usual, health key to David Krejci

Countdown to Bruins camp: As usual, health key to David Krejci

From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2018-19 Bruins. Today: David Krejci.

Krejci, 32, certainly wasn’t as prolific or productive as he’s been in the past and his second line really dried up offensively in the second round of the playoffs after Rick Nash put together a two-goal game early in the Tampa Bay series. Still, Krejci shepherded a young second line through the regular season with a blossoming Jake DeBrusk on his left side and spent another year as Boston’s 1-2 center punch down the middle of the ice. Krejci isn’t getting any younger and he’s logged some hard miles in his 10-plus-year NHL career, but he’s signed to a long-term deal and not going anywhere.

What Happened Last Year: Krejci finished with 17 goals and 44 points in 64 games largely centering DeBrusk and Rick Nash and. by all accounts. had a decent season considering he was fighting through injuries and a revolving right-wing situation prior to Nash’s arrival. His minutes were significantly down as he averaged less than 17 per game for the first time since his second NHL season. At this point, Krejci needs wingers that are going to elevate his game rather than the other way around. Still, Krejci can win a key face-off, has one of the best saucer passes in the league and is dynamic on the power play given his passing and facilitating abilities. Krejci may never get back to the 70-point level from his best seasons, but he’s still a valuable piece to what the Bruins are doing on a nightly basis.

Questions To Be Answered This Season: How much longer he can hold onto the No. 2 center gig in Boston before a younger, more explosive player comes in and pushes him down to the third line?. Certainly, it’s no mystery that the Bruins chased after John Tavares in the offseason and that leaves a distinct impression that B’s management wouldn’t be shying away from an upgrade among their top-six centers if the opportunity presented itself. Obviously, players such as Tavares don’t grow on trees and Boston’s own young centers won’t be ready for that kind of duty for at least a couple of years. Still, the pursuit of Tavares was the first clue that the Bruins have a long-term plan about upgrading and getting younger at center sometime in the future. Other than that, it’s about Krejci staying healthy and productive and jelling with his wingers.

In Their Words: “You always feel like, if you lose a game that you could have done something better.

So, obviously, if I feel like I could have done something better, a lot of guys feel the same way…then we wouldn’t be standing here. We would still be playing. So, hopefully, I guess, you learn from this and, I don’t know. It’s tough, you know? It still hurts, like I said. After the first round, and the first game in Tampa when we won, you start, kind of, having little flashbacks from the years, especially 2011 and 2013, you know, when we went all the way. I felt like this was really – this is it. This could be another one of those years, but it just didn’t work out.” -Krejci, on the shocked feeling last May when the Bruins fell to the Lightning in five games.

Overall Outlook: Krejci again enters this season as the No. 2 center and it will be interesting to see who he ends up with as linemates. The Bruins could opt to drop David Pastrnak down to the second line to form the Czech connection or outfit Krejci with a couple of young linemates in DeBrusk and Danton Heinen/Anders Bjork/Ryan Donato. Either way, they’ll need to consistently generate more offense than they did last season and provide the kind of consistent support to keep defenses from loading up too much against Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. It’s going to be a challenge for Krejci as he enters NHL middle age, but it’s one that the Bruins are going to need No. 46 to meet if they’re going to improve off last season. 


Charlie McAvoy contract continues a long pattern of Bruins players keeping their eyes on the prize

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Charlie McAvoy contract continues a long pattern of Bruins players keeping their eyes on the prize

BRIGHTON – In the end, Charlie McAvoy did what pretty much all of the key players on the Bruins have done over the last handful of seasons.

The 21-year-old McAvoy took less than he probably wanted to on the eventual three-year, $14.7 million contract to get into training camp during the opening weekend of on-ice workouts, and now he’s back with his Bruins teammates getting ready for the season without a protracted absence. Make no mistake that some of it was about McAvoy’s 10.2 (c) classification as a restricted free agent where he A) couldn’t be offer-sheeted by other teams, B) wasn’t eligible for salary arbitration and C) is still five years away from unrestricted NHL free agency.

Truth be told, McAvoy had zero leverage in negotiations aside from simply sitting out as he’d done the first couple of days.

But it was also about following the lead of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, who all left money on the table to sign with the Bruins and create an environment where the salary cap will allow them to sustain a winning hockey club. As it is right now, the Bruins don’t expect to need to trade anybody significant off their NHL roster due to salary cap constraints after getting both McAvoy and Brandon Carlo signed.

That’s because McAvoy is now taking up a reasonable $4.9 million cap hit while Bergeron ($6.875 million), Marchand ($6.125 million) and Pastrnak ($6.66 million) are all under $7 million with their cap hits. Compare that to the Chicago Blackhawks, for instance, where Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are over $10 million for their cap hits, and now the Blackhawks can’t build a winning team around them due in part to salary cap issues.

It’s going to be very tough for Kyle Dubas to keep the Leafs together as a sustained winner in Toronto with Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews and John Tavares now all holding cap hits over $10 million per season as well. Think about the astronomical amounts the Leafs are paying that trio while continually losing to a Bruins team whose best players have always kept the eye on the prize in contract negotiations with Don Sweeney.

Now, one can count McAvoy among that group for getting into camp and saving his payday for three years down the line when David Backes, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara and others will be off the books for the Black and Gold.

“I think what we have here is special, there’s no doubt about it. There’s no place I’d rather be. To be a part of such an unbelievable group of men, from staff to everybody involved, it’s just a blast to come to the rink every day,” said McAvoy. “It truly is something special, I feel fortunate and blessed to be a part of it. I think that it’s something where we all want to be competitive and we all want to win.

“We were really close to getting that done last year. We all have the same goal this year, and I think that making sure we’re competitive, I think that takes precedent and doing what you need to do to be a competitive team. I think that’s most important to everybody.”

The other part of the equation for McAvoy and the Bruins is becoming the dominant No. 1 defenseman that can earn the long term, massive money deal that he was undoubtedly seeking if the negotiations had turned his way. Part of that will be the good fortune of staying healthy, part of it is developing into more of a young leader on the team and part of it is simply putting together some dominant seasons after averaging seven goals and 30 points over his first two NHL seasons.

McAvoy has the size, strength, offensive skill and temperament to be the heir apparent to Zdeno Chara, and that’s exactly what he wants to do over the next three seasons.

“I always strive to become better, to grow in all aspects, to reach my full potential. This is an opportunity for me to grow into the player that I’ve become. Obviously, I’ve had a little bit of bad luck as far as injuries go, and little stuff like that. Some things are out of your control, you know?” said McAvoy. “But I’ve always been fortunate to have this support of the organization through all that, which means a whole lot to me. My goal is to go out and become the best hockey player I can be, to grow into one of the best defenseman, hopefully in the league. I feel like the sky is the limit.”

The Bruins obviously do as well. That’s why they’re paying him a base salary of $7.3 million in the final year of the three-year contract, which will be the starting point for his next deal three years from now when the Bruins should have ample room to pay him given some of the big-money deals that will come off the books between now and then.

“[We were looking] to find a common ground that everybody seeks to finalize a deal that puts Charlie in a situation where he can take this platform and really launch himself into the player we all believe he is, and will become both on and off the ice, incorporating leadership qualities he exhibits as well,” said Sweeney. “For us, it’s just a good compromise, a middle ground, it allows him to take it wherever he’s capable of taking it. And we’ll be there when he does.”

That was the feeling around the McAvoy signing with the Bruins given the term, the money involved and the commitment the player has now made to keeping the winning thing going in Boston. It’s just the middle chapter of the McAvoy/Bruins story and the next few years should be among the best for both the blossoming player and his hockey club.

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Bruins playing with fire with Charlie McAvoy bridge deal

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Bruins playing with fire with Charlie McAvoy bridge deal

I think Charlie McAvoy is going to be really good, so naturally, I don’t like his new deal.

That will be an unpopular opinion. For the cash-strapped 2019-20 Bruins, this contract rules. The AAV is very low ($4.9 million), which means the Bruins don't have to subtract from their roster as they try to make one or two more Cup runs during the Chara era. It lets them keep Torey Krug for at least the final year of his contract. You can understand why this pact works for them.

But that sweet cap hit comes at a price, which is that, if all goes according to plan and McAvoy becomes the player we all think he’ll be, the Bruins will be paying huge dough for his services when it expires in three years.

McAvoy will be 24 when this contract ends. He’ll be in the prime of his career, two years from unrestricted eligibility and will have received Norris votes. Maybe he’ll even have a Norris win, and you don’t want to have to be negotiating with a young franchise player who’s already won a Norris. Ask the Canadiens how that worked out.

Of course, I’m projecting. The Norris talk is hypothetical. His development could stall or he could struggle to stay on the ice. He’s missed at least 19 games a season thus far.

But if you think this is a good contract, you're projecting, too. You're projecting that McAvoy will stay where he is, which is a guy who will lead the team in ice time, play in all situations, average half a point per game and miss a good chunk of time each season. You don't think, as Bruce Cassidy said, that he'll get stronger. You don't think, as Cassidy said, that he'll become a more aggressive offensive player. 

If you do think he's going to keep improving and become one of the top defensemen in the league, you should be worried about what he's going to cost next. There are currently seven defensemen in the league with an average annual value of $8 million. If McAvoy is a superstar when he signs his next deal, he'll enter that club and then some. Erik Karlsson and Drew Doughty are at the top of the list at $11.5 million and $11 million, respectively. 

Yes, the NHL will have a new TV contract by the time McAvoy's deal is up, so the cap will in all likelihood spike. David Krejci's $7.25 million a year will be off the books. More importantly, so will David Backes' $6 million hit. It's tough to say what Tuukka Rask's next contract (he's up in two years) looks like, if it's even here.

So the Bruins should be in a better position to spend then than they are now. That doesn't mean they shouldn't be kicking themselves for having to go the bridge route with McAvoy now. 

McAvoy's contract is similar to that of Zach Werenski (three years at $5 million per), another big-name RFA who took forever to sign this offseason. The better bang for the Bruins' buck would have been a deal like the one Ivan Provorov just took (six years at $6.75 million annually). It would have taken him straight to unrestricted free agency, but the Bruins would have had two more years before a massive third contract kicked in. 

The B's couldn't swing that without clearing a good amount of space, and if they were going to trade a first-round pick to get rid of Backes' deal they probably would have done it earlier the offseason. They still have to sign Brandon Carlo and have only $3.2 million in cap room. 

Now, it's logical to argue that it makes sense to wait until McAvoy is a superstar before paying him like one, but the goal is to have great players on bargain deals during their best years. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak all fit in this category. Two of those deals, Marchand and Pastrnak, were Don Sweeney signings. This McAvoy deal shouldn't get the gold sticker those deserve. 

Sweeney clearly thinks this Bruins team can make another Cup run. Otherwise, he would have moved guys off the roster to accommodate a longer, richer second deal for McAvoy. Instead, the Bruins will wait and see just how much their franchise defenseman will cost them in a few years.

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