Bruins

John Tavares chase was a fun ride for most, but not for David Krejci

John Tavares chase was a fun ride for most, but not for David Krejci

It was a pretty great offseason for David Krejci, as they usually are for NHL players. There was plenty of golf, travel and family time, and the Bruins playmaking center is expecting a baby right around the time of the Winter Classic.

But it wasn’t all rainbows, sunshine and baby gender reveal parties for the longtime Bruins pivot. In fact, things got downright uncomfortable around July 1 when the Bruins began their comprehensive attempts to woo free agent John Tavares to Boston. Nobody is going to blame Don Sweeney for trying to sign the franchise center, obviously, because he would have given Boston the kind of 20-something top center they now desperately need with both Krejci and Patrice Bergeron on the wrong side of 30 years old.

But the sight of Cam Neely and Sweeney winging it out to L.A. to meet with Tavares’ representation certainly left Krejci feeling a little uneasy about his own situation with the Black and Gold, and what exactly was going to happen to him if Boston somehow did win the Tavares sweepstakes.

“I had no idea what was going on. My agent didn’t tell my [anything] because he said he didn’t know anything. I didn’t get any phone calls from anyone from the Bruins,” said Krejci to NBC Sports Boston. “So I was just getting those Instragram messages [telling me to request a trade] in my inbox. I know that I have a no-trade so they would have to call me [if they did end up signing Tavares].

“Yeah, that wasn’t kind of something I enjoyed. But it was over pretty quick. It was a quick couple of weeks. It is what it is.”

Would Krejci have been bumped down to third line center to make room for both Bergeron and Tavares in the top-6? Would the faint rumors of Krejci on the trade block have become much louder and more substantial if Tavares was then in the fold?

One of the two above situations would have probably been a reality for the 32-year-old Krejci just based on the salary cap and the pecking order of the three centers involved. But as it would have it, the Bruins probably weren’t all that close to landing Tavares after being one of the finalists, and instead the ex-Isles star went home to Toronto and the Maple Leafs.

Still, the B’s pursuit of Tavares took its toll on Krejci and his feelings of security within the Bruins. He has a no-trade clause that controls his destiny to a point, but that still didn’t stop him from wondering what his place was while simultaneously not hearing anything from the Bruins organization.

“I understand that it’s the hockey business that you have to do whatever you have to do to make the hockey team better,” said Krejci to NBCSportsBoston.com. “Obviously I don’t want to go anywhere. But Donnie [Sweeney] has got to do what he’s got to do. [Hockey is a business] is what I’ve learned over the years. I love being here and I’ve got three years left, so for me it was just about getting ready to be the best player I can be. I’m still young and I feel like I still have some of my best years in front of me. Maybe not 70 or 80 points production-wise, but maybe more of a complete player and helping out the young guys grow.”

These are challenging times for Krejci as he’s coming off a so-so year where he finished with 17 goals and 44 points while missing 18 games due to injury. On the plus side, he formed a nice chemistry with Jake DeBrusk and that duo should end up paired together again on the second line this season. But the Czech center never really got things going with Rick Nash after his trade from New York, and the B’s second line became a big problem in the second round series vs. Tampa Bay when Boston’s offense got extremely one-dimensional.

It wasn’t a bad season from Krejci, of course, but it also didn’t meet expectations for the highest-paid forward on the team. So when it came time for the Bruins to chase after Tavares, the worst part of the whole experience for Krejci was the fans that were coming after him on his Instragram account to vulgarly demand he waive his no-trade and go elsewhere.

The “getting targeted on social media” part was clearly still bugging him when he chatted about it with NBC Sports Boston a couple of days ago after captains' practice.

“I tried to stay away as much as I can from everything [during the Tavares sweepstakes], but you can’t. I was actually getting some not-very-nice messages on Instagram to ask for a trade, so you know they could get Tavares,” said Krejci to NBC Sports Boston. “Some people were asking me in a nice way, and some weren’t asking me in a very nice way.

“I have a lot of fans, which is great. I think it’s a common thing where people say ‘Awesome, awesome…great job’ and you appreciate it. But if there’s a bad comment it sticks in your head. So that wasn’t nice.”

Clearly, Krejci is a total pro after 769 games in a Bruins uniform over the last 10-plus seasons, and has done enough truly remarkable things with the Bruins to keep the confidence level high headed into this season. But nobody is going to blame him if Krejci is feeling a little more uneasy at this point knowing that the Bruins have already held discussions on what do with him if a better option comes across their path.

Maybe that will really motivate Krejci to have one of his best seasons and turn back the clock to a vintage 20-goal/70-point season that he’s been capable of in his best years. Or maybe it will cause him to second-guess how committed the Bruins are to an aging center playing out the rest of his three-year contract in Boston.  

Time will tell with Krejci, but it’s pretty clear that the chase after Tavares left a lasting, not-so-great impact on him this summer.

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Highlights from Bruins' 4-3 win over Flyers

Highlights from Bruins' 4-3 win over Flyers

FINAL SCORE: Bruins 4, Flyers 3

In Brief: The Bruins started out quickly, scoring two goals in the first before adding a short-handed goal from Chris Wagner in the second and an early third-period goal to put them up 4-0. Philadelphia made it interesting, though, and scored three goals in the third, including two in less than two minutes, before the Bruins finished strong and got the W. Lee Stempniak led the way with a goal and two assists. 

Bruins Preseason Record: 5-0-1

Highlights:

Shorthanded goal: 

What's Next:

WEDNESDAY: vs. Red Wings, 7 p.m.
SATURDAY: vs. Flyers, 6 p.m. (end of exhibition season)

Faster, stronger Ryan Donato a favorite to win a Bruins' forward spot

Faster, stronger Ryan Donato a favorite to win a Bruins' forward spot

BRIGHTON, Mass – It’s not a lock until the puck drops opening night on Oct. 3, but it certainly looks like Ryan Donato is going to start this season just as he finished last year. That means Donato will be suiting up for the Bruins in a top-9 winger role where his offensive skills and natural hockey instincts can be used as a big asset for the Black and Gold.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising given that Donato finished strong with five goals and nine points in 12 regular season games once he’d signed out of Harvard, and then the 22-year-old found his way into the B’s lineup at the end of the playoffs as well. At this point Donato finds himself with a couple of different options dependent on the way the rest of the lineup shakes out, but as it stands now it looks like he’ll be either right wing on David Krejci’s line, or manning his natural left wing spot in a third line role with a center to be named later and David Backes.

It’s interesting that the Bruins shied away from using Donato on the right side during last year’s playoffs, but he’s certainly being viewed in a different light this fall after getting some NHL experience under his belt.

“Some of it is circumstance, right? We’re looking to fill that spot. Danton Heinen has looked really good [on the right side] from what I’ve been told. Those are probably options A and B to play on that right side [with Krejci]. I just think coming in at that time of the year last year, [for Donato] it was ‘get one position down.’ He’s got a little more experience under his belt and with the training he’s put in he’s stronger and faster,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Maybe in tight spaces he’ll be stronger on pucks on that off side. But we’ll see. He’s been fine on both sides.”

Either spot would put him in a good position to create offense, obviously, but the right wing position alongside Krejci and Jake DeBrusk would certainly a little more of a premium spot for a talented, natural goal-scorer.

“One thing about Ryan is that he doesn’t overthink things. He just plays no matter what side of the ice he’s on. His strength is still offense,” said Cassidy. “He’s going to produce there no matter which side he’s on. Donato is a bit of a wild card. He doesn’t have a lot of experience, but we like where he’s at. We think that when he’s ‘on’ he can certainly [play a top-6 role]. He’s proven he can score in a short period of time in this league, and he’s doing it again in the exhibition season.”

To Donato’s credit, he’s not taking anything for granted and has the attitude that he needs to win an NHL roster spot with his work in training camp. So far he’s been very good and it’s clear to everybody that the 22-year-old got bigger, stronger and maybe even a little faster over the summer after diligently putting in the work at the B’s practice facility. It was one of Donato’s goals to get in the best position to win a spot on Boston’s roster out of camp and he’s most definitely done that with just three exhibition games left to go in the preseason.

“I trained hard this summer. I think they know my abilities and they know that I trained really hard this summer before coming in to compete for a job,” said Donato. “I’d be cutting myself short if I didn’t believe in my abilities to be a contender for any position on this team. So I want to work hard and hopefully I get to earn a spot.”

With a spot seemingly wrapped up for Donato, the question now becomes whether or not he can produce enough to cement his spot in the top-6, or play a good enough two-way game to be a third liner. If he can score goals and help make the second line a viable offensive force that would take care of one need that this Bruins team clearly had during their second round postseason series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Regular season games are the only proving ground to see whether Donato is a 20-30 goal-scorer or a guy like that Frank Vatrano that teased with flashes without ever actually truly developing at the NHL level. This humble hockey writer is betting more on the former than the latter for Teddy’s oldest boy, but time will tell on all of this for another Donato in Boston.   

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