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.
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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.