Bruins

The pitfalls and potential of Bruins trading away David Krejci this summer

The pitfalls and potential of Bruins trading away David Krejci this summer

If there is one key position on their roster where the Bruins are getting older at a rapid pace, it would be the center position. More specifically top-6 centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci were both 33 years old this season while putting up excellent regular season campaigns, and Bergeron will actually turn 34 years old this summer ahead of his 16th NHL season.

As good as Bergeron and Krejci were during the regular season, however, both players were well below their standard during the Stanley Cup Final. Bergeron finished with one goal, four points and a minus-4 in the seven-game series while battling through a groin injury, and Krejci had just a pair of assists in the seven games against the St. Louis Blues.

It was a quiet end for a pair of centers that are the linchpin of Boston’s roster design, and it’s unfortunately part of the reason that the Bruins ended up falling to the Blues in seven games. It’s also borderline fantasy land to expect both Krejci and Bergeron to repeat last year’s success given that both players are in now in their mid-30’s at a time when workloads are getting reduced and responsibilities abdicated.

Given all of that and the undeniable power of Father Time when it comes to NHL players after they hit the age of 30 years old, it would be fair to wonder if now is the right time to explore trading Krejci and his $7.25 million cap hit. Krejci is on the heels of a 20-goal, 73-point season that was his best and healthiest in years, and his potential trade value will never again be as high as this summer given his age and production.

The Bruins could get good value for Krejci in a trade with teams that need clear help at the center position, and they could get out from under the final two seasons of a contract that still sees Krejci as the highest paid forward on the Boston roster.

Adding an interesting wrinkle is the change in Krejci’s no-trade clause entering this season where he can now be dealt to 50 percent of the teams in the NHL after more of an iron-clad no-movement clause in previous seasons.

The real issue with trading Krejci at this point is the inability of the organization to find a suitable, productive replacement on the second line. Sure Charlie Coyle could be bumped up to second line center, but he’s proven to be more of an ideal fit as the third line guy with limits to his offensive ability. Talented youngsters like Jack Studnicka or Trent Frederic should be in Boston’s future plans at the center position, but it doesn’t feel like either of them is anywhere close to taking on top-6 center responsibilities right now for a playoff team and Stanley Cup hopeful.

That’s a real rub when it comes to discussing moving the aging No. 46 and his weighty contract.

So what do the Bruins think about all this?

Well, Don Sweeney made it clear in speaking to the media this week that Krejci is still in the future plans for the Bruins. It’s also clear that whether it’s David Pastrnak, moving Charlie Coyle to the wing, re-signing Marcus Johansson or promoting a young player like Anders Bjork to that spot, the Bruins are back to square one trying to find more of a permanent solution at right wing for Krejci for next season.

“In a perfect world we would identify a guy and plug him in there [on the second line] and David [Krejci] would return to 70 points, and the line would be prolific. We hope we have that internal option. He spoke to a couple guys that he had a chance to play with, so that might be the route we go. Or we look outside the organization,” said Sweeney. “That’s what we’re trying to identify to help us and balance us, and that’s what we’ll do. I don’t think I can sit here today and say we have the absolute perfect identity player

“But that doesn’t mean we won’t find him between now and then. I think we’re good with the options we have. We’re bringing back a pretty damn good hockey club, and David [Krejci] is a part of that.”

Furthermore, Bruins President Cam Neely mentioned one of the club’s big needs is to find a shoot-first, goal-scoring right winger to the second line that can finish off the plays that Krejci is creating with his play-making ability.

“I think David Krejci can still drive the line,” said Neely. “He is such a great playmaker and we just need to find the right player to play with a guy like David.

“David likes to hang onto the puck and he wants to distribute the puck and you need to have someone willing to shoot the puck. For some reason nowadays there are more pass-first guys than there are shooters. That’s hard for me to understand because I was a shooter and all my assists were rebounds.”

Clearly, it sounds like the Bruins don’t yet feel like they are getting too long in the tooth down the middle when it comes to Bergeron and Krejci. Both will be the top-6 centers for the Black and Gold again next season in their mid-30’s, but it remains to be seen if they will ever again be as productive, as healthy and as effective again as they were with strong seasons this year.

If they aren’t, this June’s trip to the Stanley Cup Final might be their last for a while until they can find some younger, high-end talent at the center position.

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Talking Points from the B's 4-3 overtime loss to the Leafs

Talking Points from the B's 4-3 overtime loss to the Leafs

Here are Joe Haggerty's Talking Points from the Bruins' 4-3 overtime loss to the Maple Leafs Saturday night in Toronto.

GOLD STAR: Mitch Marner once again played the role of Bruins killer setting up the overtime game-winner and a very strong game overall. Marner fired one past a tiring B’s trio on the final play of the game and finished with two assists, four shots on net, two hits and five takeaways while playing strong hockey at both ends of the ice. It was interesting to see the Leafs load up with Marner and Auston Matthews on one line to combat what the Bruins are doing with Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak and it worked out in their favor on Saturday night. Marner now has five goals and 19 points in 13 games along with a plus-9 rating against the Black and Gold, and that doesn’t even count the damage he’s done in the playoffs.

BLACK EYE: Sean Kuraly had a rough night. He fumbled around with the puck in the Bruins zone in a play that ended up leading to Toronto’s second goal and he had to be bailed out in the second period when another D-zone turnover led to a quality scoring chance for Tyson Barrie. Kuraly finished with a minus-1 in 14:12 of ice time while landing just one shot on net, committing the two giveaways and generally fighting the puck all night when it was on his stick. He did finish with five hits so at least he came around with some physicality while realizing that other parts of his game were not good, but it wasn’t a banner night at all for Kuraly and the B’s fourth line.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins had a gassed unit on the ice toward the end of the 3-on-3 OT as Brad Marchand, Charlie Coyle and Torey Krug were left out against Auston Matthews, Morgan Rielly and Mitch Marner, and that’s really the kind of scenario where the Maple Leafs are going to enjoy a pretty big advantage. So predictably the Leafs waited out the Bruins trio and then scored with Mitch Marner’s shot getting deflected by Morgan Rielly into the back of the net for the OT game-winner. The 60-minute regulation game was very entertaining with back-and-forth from both teams as one has come to expect over the last few years, and felt more like a midseason game than something just a couple of weeks into a new year.

HONORABLE MENTION: The Bruins were riding David Pastrnak, who finished with a big game-tying goal toward the end of the third period to force things into overtime. The goal gave the Bruins a hard-fought point and gave Pastrnak his NHL-leading ninth goal of the season as he continues to be red-hot to start the season. Pastrnak finished with a goal, two points, five shot attempts and a couple of hits and a blocked shot while overcoming five giveaways in a game where the puck was on his stick quite a bit. It was the sizzling short side one-timer in the final five minutes of the third period, though, that registers as the biggest play of the game for the Bruins. The nine goals and 15 points in eight games is something else.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 – the first goal of the season for Jake DeBrusk after scoring late in the first period, a development that the Bruins hope leads to a hot streak for the left winger. Truth be told DeBrusk could have had two or three goals based on the chances he was getting, but he’ll take busting out of his slump.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “It was nice. You don’t want to rely on the top guys every night. Obviously they’ve been on fire but the rest of us also want to chip in.” –Danton Heinen, who also supplied some offense with his PP goal at the start of the third period.

HAGGERTY: Two low-cost options for B's scoring woes>>>

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Highlights from the Bruins' 4-3 loss to the Maple Leafs

Highlights from the Bruins' 4-3 loss to the Maple Leafs

FINAL SCORE: Leafs 4, Bruins 3

IN BRIEF: The Bruins secondary scorers stepped up against the Toronto Maple Leafs, as they came back from a 2-0 deficit with goals from Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen. After going down again, David Pastrnak and the Perfection Line struck to tie it up in the final five minutes, but the team would go on to lose in overtime.

BOX SCORE

BRUINS RECORD: 5-1-2 (12 points)

HIGHLIGHTS:

MORGAN RIELLY SCORES OFF LUCKY BOUNCE

DMYTRO TIMASHEV NETS FIRST NHL GOAL

JAKE DEBRUSK NETS FIRST GOAL OFF SLICK FEED FROM CHARLIE COYLE

DANTON HEINEN LEVELS GAME ON POWER-PLAY STRIKE

ALEXANDER KERFOOT ANSWERS HEINEN GOAL ALMOST IMMEDIATELY

DAVID PASTRNAK TIES IT WITH NINTH GOAL OF SEASON

TORONTO ENDS GAME WITH OT DAGGER

UP NEXT:
vs. Maple Leafs, Tuesday, 7 p.m., NESN

HAGGERTY: Two low-cost options for B's scoring woes>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.