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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Bruins' 'preference' is to leave Charlie Coyle at third line center

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Bruins' 'preference' is to leave Charlie Coyle at third line center

BRIGHTON -- There was some question as to whether Charlie Coyle might get a little time at wing this season for the Bruins after locking things down at the third line center position last season after coming over in trade from the Minnesota Wild.

The 6-foot-3, 218-pound Coyle brought two-way play, puck possession and offensive upside to the third line upon his arrival, and then he really stepped it up in the playoffs with nine goals and 16 points in his 24 games. So naturally, there is curiosity as to whether his size, strength and offense could move up to right wing on the second line where his game could be paired pretty comfortably with playmaking David Krejci.

Or even more radically, Coyle’s size and strength could make an interesting match on the right wing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

But it sounds like the Bruins are going to keep things strong down the middle with Bergeron and Krejci as their top-6 centers and Coyle and Sean Kuraly as the bottom-6 centers giving the B's depth and quality down the middle of the lineup. Coyle was centering Anders Bjork and Danton Heinen at practice on Wednesday afternoon and has played center throughout training camp.

It may be getting to a point now where they don’t want to fool around with things by switching Coyle’s positions on him as happened in Minnesota, and it certainly sounds like Cassidy’s preference is to leave him at center.

“Generally speaking the match-up is the D-pair and the centerman down low. The wingers obviously matter, but they are less of a factor. At least that’s what I think when I think match-ups. So to have Charlie [Coyle] in there [at center] now, and my intention is to keep him there unless the team would be better served with him on the wing,” said Cassidy. “Right now, we like the way we played last year and hopefully this year. It makes you a lot more comfortable in terms of defending.”

Cassidy reserved the right to change his mind if Trent Frederic really comes along as an NHL-ready center or if all of the top-6 right wing candidates end up dropping the ball in training camp. That doesn’t appear to be the case over the first week of training camp and that may just mean Coyle stays in his comfortable position at center where he gives the Bruins the lineup depth that helped catapult them to the Stanley Cup Final last spring.

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Bruins only have one player on ESPN's 'Top 100 NHL prospects' list

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Bruins only have one player on ESPN's 'Top 100 NHL prospects' list

The Boston Bruins weren't exactly well represented on ESPN's "Top 100 NHL prospects list" heading into the new season.

20-year-old Jack Studnicka was the only B's prospect to make the list, landing in the No. 61 spot. Here's what ESPN's Chris Peters had to say about the 2017 second-round pick:

"A free-wheeling forward who can do a little bit of everything, Studnicka will be put to the test early in the AHL. But he looks more than ready to make the most of it."

In 60 games between the Oshawa Generals and the Niagra IceDogs of the OHL last season, Studnicka tallied 83 points (36 goals, 47 assists). The 6-foot-1, 175-pounder also scored in a playoff game with the Providence Bruins. He'll continue to battle for a spot on the NHL roster throughout camp.

Some of the Bruins prospects left out of the top 100 include Urho Vaakanainen, Anders Bjork, Trent Frederic, Jakub Lauko, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, and Zach Senyshyn.

Unsurprisingly, Jack Hughes (Devils) and Kaapo Kakko (Rangers) topped ESPN's rankings.

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