Bruins

Holding out optimism for Torey Krug to re-sign with the Bruins

Holding out optimism for Torey Krug to re-sign with the Bruins

Between Bruce Cassidy commenting on the potential future of the power play and Joe Haggerty's recent article on how COVID could impact the Bruins' finances, Torey Krug is once again a water cooler topic.

In case anyone forgot, the 29-year-old defenseman will be a free agent whenever this season ends, and a potential return to Boston appears to be something of a coin flip.

If I were the B's, I wouldn't accept defeat on this one. Krug should not be considered expendable, so short of matching what he'd get on the open market, the B's should leave few stones unturned in trying to retain one of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL.

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

WHY IT ISN'T LOOKING GOOD

Right off the bat, Krug entering a walk year without a contract was a bad sign, as the Bruins historically have either re-upped prime UFAs to-be before their walk years (Chara, Bergeron, Marchand) or let them walk (Nathan Horton).

COVID obviously made matters worse. The salary cap has increased every year since the 2012-13 lockout, but it's assumed the cap will stay flat at $81.5 million in wake of the COVID pandemic crushing league revenues.

Had it gone up, the B's obviously would have been in better shape to throw $7.5 million-plus annually at Krug while also re-upping guys like Zdeno Chara (UFA), Jake DeBrusk (RFA) and Matt Grzelcyk (RFA).

Now? Eh. Kevan Miller, Dennis Seidenberg and Matt Beleskey are coming off the books. Given the rest of the contracts that are up, the Bruins would have about $17,959,409 in cap space against a flat $81.5 million cap. They'd need to sign Chara, DeBrusk, Grzelcyk and Anders Bjork as well. Haggerty's piece estimated AAVs of $2 million for Chara (the same as this season), $2.5 million for Grzelcyk and $1.5 million for Bjork.

That would leave the Bruins with $11.9 million to sign Krug and DeBrusk, the latter of whom could be a toughie.

While the average Bruins fan would probably call Jake DeBrusk "good, but inconsistent," his agent will rightfully call him a player who's averaged 20 goals a season over the course of his rookie contract (16, 27, 19). That means he could be looking at a $3.5 million cap hit on a two-year bridge deal, or more on a longterm deal.

Say DeBrusk comes in at $3.5 million. That would leave the B's with $8.4 million to roster both Krug and a Joakim Nordstrom replacement. The margins would be razor-thin in Year 1, and the uncertainty of when the league would have fans in the stands would make it tough to project how much the cap would increase in subsequent years.

WHY THEY SHOULD BE TRYING EVERYTHING

Over the last three seasons, Krug is fifth among NHL defensemen in points per game. He was fifth in points among D this season. The idea that he's expendable because he isn't very tall is stupid. With Charlie McAvoy entering his prime, having prime Krug and McAvoy holding down one pairing each would keep Boston's back end offensively potent.

Plus, doesn't the Bruins re-upping Jaroslav Halak for next season tell you that they want to go for it one more time with this group in the event that they can't manage to make a run in the unusual return format for this season? Trying to do it again without Krug would be a heavy task.

WHAT THE BRUINS CAN DO

Obviously, it takes two to tango. Krug, a converted Bostonian, truly loves the city. With teams like his actual hometown Red Wings flush with enough cap space to easily throw $8.5 million or more at him annually, Krug would need to take a discount to return to the Bruins.

And without knowing a thing about the negotiations, my guess is he would. The question is whether he'd be OK with not being the highest-paid player on the team, a distinction that currently belongs to David Krejci ($7.25 million through next season). Krug would get more than that on the open market.

If the Bruins want to sign Krug while maintaining some breathing room, there are options. Trading John Moore would hurt them when it comes time for the 2021 expansion draft, but Boston has young defensemen who would replace (and perhaps upgrade) what Moore brings, and for roughly $1.8 million less. Nick Ritchie ($1.5 million) could be replaced by an entry level player or veteran on the minimum.

-------

All in all, Krug returning to Boston is possible. That it hasn't happened by now suggests it might not, but the Bruins would be wise to try and make it happen.

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy responds to Tuukka Rask's 'exhibition' remark

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy responds to Tuukka Rask's 'exhibition' remark

Tuukka Rask's comments after the Boston Bruins' Game 2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night rubbed some the wrong way, but head coach Bruce Cassidy wasn't fazed.

Rask raised eyebrows when he said, “To be honest with you, it doesn’t really feel like playoff hockey out there. There are no fans, so it’s kind of like playing an exhibition game." That isn't exactly what B's fans want to hear from their goaltender after a playoff loss, but Cassidy downplayed Rask's remarks Friday during a video conference with reporters.

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

“I didn’t speak to him after his comments. Tuukka, I think the Boston media knows him well enough — he answers his questions the way he feels,” Cassidy said. “It is a unique environment, but to me, there’s playoff intensity on the ice. You’ve just gotta control what you can control when you’re a player. In my situation, as a coach, the way I look at it, at the end of the day, they’re gonna hand out the Stanley Cup this year. So we’ve gotta play our best hockey if we want to be that team.

"That was our goal at the start of the year. We didn’t anticipate it would end up in an environment like this, but here it is, right? You play the hand you’re dealt, and you prepare yourself — and in my case prepare the team — in this case, for Game 3, to play our best hockey game and that’s what my focus is on right now, plain and simple. That’s what we’re gonna do tonight and puck drop tomorrow at noon, we’re gonna put our best foot forward.”

While Rask's comments may have been off-putting, they weren't unfounded. The NHL's bubble environment is unlike anything these players have experienced before. Matching the level of playoff intensity that's in the arena when fans are in attendance is virtually impossible.

Regardless, Rask and the B's will have to be on their game if they're to regain the series lead on Saturday. Puck drop for Game 3 vs. the Hurricanes is set for 12 p.m. ET. on NBC.

Bruce Cassidy says Bruins will be making changes for Game 3; Is it Jack Studnicka time?

Bruce Cassidy says Bruins will be making changes for Game 3; Is it Jack Studnicka time?

The Bruins are expecting to make some lineup adjustments headed into Game 3 after the Hurricanes evened the series 1-1 apiece in Thursday night’s 3-2 loss in the Toronto bubble at Scotiabank Arena.

Bruce Cassidy said the B’s have some banged-up players that will also have to be factored in as well, but it sounded like he was looking to go a little smaller and faster with his group to counteract some of the speed and aggressive pressure that the Hurricanes are throwing at them.

“We’ve thought it through. There are always day-to-day bumps and bruises, but we’ll be making changes both at forward and at [defense]. Some of that is getting some energy in the lineup and changing the look of our forward group,” said Bruce Cassidy of his Game 3 lineup vs. the Hurricanes.

“Overall [Anders Bjork] did what he could with his skill set to help that line. Nobody is going to replace Pastrnak, but if guys can go in there and complement Bergeron and Marchand and help them create some offense, then they’ve done a good thing. [Bjork] may not go back there, but I don’t think that’s why we feel a goal short [in Game 2].”

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

Cassidy said he “anticipates” that Rask will start Game 3 on Saturday at noontime and that David Pastrnak “could possibly play” as a game-time decision after he didn’t practice on Friday with small optional group.

Ideally, the B’s would like to have Pastrnak be able to test out the injury in practice ahead of trying to give it a go in a game, but they won’t get that chance with a noontime start on Saturday after the 24-year-old Pasta didn’t skate on Friday.

“There were some good goals and good saves, but in those one-goal games each goalie needs to make one more save along the way [if they hope to win],” said Cassidy of Rask, who has a “meh” .899 save percentage and a 3.00 goals-against average in two games vs. Carolina.

“We didn’t get it and they did, and the opposite was true the game before. I think [Rask’s] game can grow like all of our games. The goalie position is probably a tougher one to get up to speed with not a lot of room for error.

“All of the goalies coming back are all in that same position. Hopefully he’ll be better [in Game 3] and we’ll be better in front of him.”

The bet here as far as the lineup changes go? One would expect that Nick Ritchie would be coming out after he was a non-factor in Game 2 with just 10:45 of ice time, and Jeremy Lauzon as well after playing just 13:16 of ice time and taking an early undisciplined penalty chasing after Carolina players after a clean hit laid on Karson Kuhlman.

If Pastrnak can’t play Game 3 and the speedy, responsible Kuhlman stays in the lineup that could open up a chance for rookie Jack Studnicka to play right wing on either the first or third line with Anders Bjork swinging over to his natural left wing side.

Studnicka is the only player the Bruins have among their current reserves that could really make a significant offensive impact with the kind of upside where the 21-year-old could be a difference-maker in a possible one-goal game. So it would make sense that the kid gets the call if the Bruins are looking for energy and a little offense with Pastrnak’s skill set potentially missing from the Game 3 lineup. 

Studnicka played in the first game of the round robin and didn't do much beyond some nice hustle plays on the back-check, but it's pretty clear he has top-6 skill and goal-scoring abilities. 

On defense, it might be time for Cliffy Hockey and Connor Clifton after he played a gritty, agitating game in the round-robin finale against the Washington Capitals. Clifton could play a role similar to the one that Haydn Fleury has played very well for the Hurricanes as a D-man that’s been unafraid to stir things up physically against the Bruins.