Krug injury may open the door for Vaakanainen to get first NHL crack

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Krug injury may open the door for Vaakanainen to get first NHL crack

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins very nearly made it through training camp completely unscathed by injuries, but no such luck as Torey Krug will be out for at least three weeks with a left ankle injury.

Last season also ended early for Krug when he suffered a fractured left ankle in Game 4 of the B's second round playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and he had just returned for the final two preseason games for the Black and Gold.

Unfortunately Krug went right back out again in the first period of the B’s preseason finale on Saturday night, and now he’ll be in a walking boot for the next three weeks. It would stand to reason the offensive D-man is going to need some time to get back up to speed after that, so the Bruins could be without their power play quarterback for the next month.


“Torey sustained a left ankle injury in the final preseason game, so he’ll be in a boot for the next three weeks and then he’ll be reevaluated,” said Bruins general manager Don Sweeney of his prolific offensive blueliner, who has put up 110 points over the last two seasons. “It’s the same foot, an ankle, but not related to the previous injury.

“We’ve already had an injury with Krug, and Vaakanainen has had a good camp. So maybe he gets a shot depending on if [Grzelcyk] is ready.”

Clearly the Bruins will miss Krug “in the orchestrating part of [the power play]”, as Bruce Cassidy called it, after mustering just a pair of power play goals during their eight-game preseason schedule.

So what will the Bruins do in the meantime?

With Matt Grzelcyk also still day-to-day with a lower body injury that had him in a no-contact jersey for Monday’s practice, it looks like 19-year-old rookie defenseman Urho Vaakanainen might actually make the team out of training camp. It was initially long odds that Vaakanainen was going to make the cut in his first NHL training camp after playing in Finland the last couple of seasons, but it looks like he now might stick, and even play in Wednesday's season opener, with the B’s down a couple of left shot defensemen.


Vaakanainen has been smooth-skating, solid in the defensive zone and surprisingly aggressive looking for his offense given his D-first reputation, but it’s also clearly out of necessity given that the 2017 first rounder needs to build more strength and grittiness in the D-zone as well.

“He hasn’t played an NHL game yet, so there will be some challenges associated with that. You go through camp and there’s an obvious progression, but he’s played against pros for the last two years in the Elite League in Finland,” said Sweeney. “He played in all situations and played lots of minutes, and they really didn’t have to do anything to protect him. We tracked that pretty carefully last year knowing that he could make the jump.

“He’s got poise and patience, and he’s a great skater that covers a lot of ice. He’s got to continue to get stronger and understand the physicality that he’s going to face if and when he plays. Has he passed other players? Well, he’s performed better than some other players and those players have had injuries during that time period as well. So the jockeying begins as it does at every position. He’s made the most of the opportunity he’s been given, so good for him.”

Steve Kampfer is also still in Bruins training camp and could factor into any open spot due to the injuries to both Krug and Grzelcyk. So it’s clearly a good thing the Bruins beefed up their defensemen depth and the signing of John Moore to a five-year contract is already beginning to pay dividends with Krug once again banged up for the Black and Gold. 

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Torey Krug hoping he's "part of next wave of players" to get deals with Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy taken care of

Torey Krug hoping he's "part of next wave of players" to get deals with Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy taken care of

BRIGHTON, Mass – Torey Krug long assumed that the reason he hadn’t talked contract extension this summer with the Bruins was that they were busy working on deals for restricted free agent D-men Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo.

Now that both McAvoy and Carlo are back in the fold with reasonable cap numbers for the next few years, Bruins general manager admitted a couple of days ago that the team can move on to future forecasts and discussions with looming free agents. As of a couple of days later the Bruins and Krug hadn’t started a dialogue on a contract extension, but the productive offensive defenseman is eagerly looking forward to those discussions as he readies for the final year of a current deal paying him $5.25 million per season.

“It’s been no secret that it’s been at the forefront getting those two deals done because [McAvoy and Carlo] are a big part of our team,” said Krug. “At least we have them locked up for the near future. So you just hope that you’re part of the next wave of guys that will get dealt with.

“I’ve made no secret that I want to be part of this room, part of this organization and part of this city [beyond this season]. So I’m hoping sooner than later it gets dealt with so I can clear my mind and focus on hockey. But that being said, it’s never a distraction. I’ve done it year after in my career aside from the [current] four-year deal.”

Only Brent Burns, Victor Hedman, Erik Karlsson and John Carlson have scored more points than Krug’s 163 points over the last three seasons among NHL defensemen, and three out of those four have won Norris Trophies over that time span. Sure Krug has also been a minus-12 over that span as well, but there’s no denying his offensive prowess when he’s averaged nine goals and 54 points a season while playing top-4 minutes on the back end.

The 28-year-old also finally showed he can stay healthy during the postseason last spring and posted two goals and 18 points in 24 playoff games last spring. If the Bruins had won the Cup then Krug would have been in the middle of the Conn Smythe discussion, but instead his spring performance just added to his current value headed into a contract year.

Given all of the above and the fact the Bruins don’t have anybody – Matt Grzelcyk may never be that guy and McAvoy hasn’t developed to that point as of yet -- ready to replace Krug’s offense, re-signing the 5-foot-8 undrafted D-man should be a priority. Krug had a career-high 30 points on the power play last season as the top unit quarterback and continues to be an aggressive, smart catalyst perfectly cast in Bruce Cassidy’s offense that caters to creativity and hockey intelligence.

Best of all, Krug is willing to take a hometown discount similar to the way Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak all took a little less to remain in Black and Gold.

It's a far cry from the $10 million-plus per season salaries doled out to Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner in Toronto, and Krug has made it clear he’s not looking to get every last nickel on the table when it comes to staying in Boston.

“Absolutely. I think that’s something each individual player takes into account with the situation that they’re in. The role that they play on each individual team, how good their team is and how good their team will be moving forward. [Those are all] things that I’ve definitely considered. We’ll see what happens,” said Krug. “There’s a fine between protecting yourself and what you bring to the table, and also being happy and living in a place that you love, and your family loves. I have a little girl that I have to think about now. All of these things sound cliché, but they are things you have to take into account and worry about. We’ll see what happens.”   

One thing is for sure: Krug is going to get paid somewhere. He may take a little less to keep the band together in Boston moving forward, but the seven-year, $53.025 million contract signed by Jared Spurgeon in Minnesota would seem like fair market value for Krug should he become a free agent on July 1. That’s obviously a long way from now and Sweeney and Co. will get every opportunity to come up with something fair that could keep Krug in Boston for the long haul.

But if Krug does get to free agency, he doesn’t exactly sound worried about that prospect either given the money and potential suitors that would be there vying for him.

“It’s a good problem to have, right? That being said my focus is on the Boston Bruins and the here and now, and hopefully getting some clarity [on his contract]. I’m well aware that what I do in this league is something that people want and desire, especially with the way that the game is moving,” said Krug. “The transition game is so crucial to team success and the power play helps you win hockey games in the regular season and in the playoffs. These are things that I do well and I’m sure would be things that a lot of teams would be happy to have. But I’m just worried about the Bruins here and now.”

The Bruins have said all along that they’re well aware of Krug’s importance to everything that they do on the ice. Now is a golden chance for the B’s to prove it by showing just how much of a priority it is to retain Krug beyond this season while the player is admittedly looking for “some clarity” on his future in Boston.

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Highlights from the Bruins' 3-1 win over the Flyers in preseason

Highlights from the Bruins' 3-1 win over the Flyers in preseason

FINAL SCORE: Bruins 3, Flyers 1

IN BRIEF: The Bruins grabbed their first win of the preseason in convincing fashion over the Flyers Thursday night. Danton Heinen, Peter Cehlarik and Connor Clifton netted goals for Boston in this one. 









@ Blackhawks, Saturday, 8:30 p.m.
vs Flyers, Monday, 7:00 p.m., NHL Network 

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