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.