Bruins

Torey Krug decision at the crossroads of Bruins changing or staying pat

Torey Krug decision at the crossroads of Bruins changing or staying pat

Torey Krug was in the middle of plenty of trade rumors with the Bruins last summer, so it didn’t sound like the puck-moving D-man was shocked last week when his future in Boston was once again the topic of discussion at the start of this offseason.

Krug is coming off a strong regular season and a stellar postseason where he would have been in the conversation for Conn Smythe had the Bruins pulled out Game 7 against the St. Louis Blues. He tied with Alex Pietrangelo for the playoff lead with 16 assists through the entire postseason, and he did something that even Bobby Orr never did with a four-point game during the Stanley Cup Final. More importantly, Krug stayed healthy during the playoff run for the first time in the last three postseasons.

Krug was second on the B’s in ice time playing 22:20 per game, and held his own against much bigger opponents on oversized rosters in Columbus and St. Louis during the four rounds of the postseason. To say he answered plenty of questions this postseason would be an understatement, and underneath it all Krug played with the kind of cojones that scream out leadership and accountability.

All it takes is one shoving match between 5-foot-8 Krug and 6-foot-6 Colton Parayko during the Cup Final to know that he’s the kind of player who isn’t going to back down. He got drilled by Jake Muzzin with a missile body check in the first round that clearly stunned him for a few games afterward, but he never missed any time and ended up putting together a hell of a postseason.

So there’s little doubting that Krug’s value is at an all-time high right now coming off his 18 playoff points and plus-4 in 24 playoff games, and that is part of the problem when it comes to considering his future. Krug is entering the final season of a contract that will pay him $5.25 million and currently has him as the highest paid D-man on the B’s roster. That will likely be short-lived until Charlie McAvoy signs his next contract with the Black and Gold, but it’s still worth noting that the 28-year-old Krug carries the biggest salary cap hit.

It’s expected that Krug is going to get a substantial pay bump on his next deal entering unrestricted free agency next summer at 29 years old, and that’s where the trade scenarios begin coming into play. It’s difficult to envision the Bruins being able to afford Krug after paying out RFA money to both McAvoy and Brandon Carlo this offseason.

It’s also reaching a point where McAvoy is ready to take that next step as a PP quarterback for the top power-play unit, and step into more of the offense that Krug has been providing for the B’s over the last few seasons. If Krug were to be traded it would be largely because youngsters like McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk are ready to take on more responsibility and perhaps fill the void left by such a player who’s topped 50 points in each of the last three regular seasons.

So the next logical step would be to move Krug in a deal for a substantial player coming back in return with the offensive D-man coming off a big season, and still sporting a reasonable cap hit for at least the coming season. If the Bruins could land the top-6 power forward-type with some goal-scoring ability that they sorely lack up front by moving Krug elsewhere, that is something that Bruins general manager Don Sweeney would need to consider.

That’s probably why the Bruins GM didn’t outright reject the notion of dealing Krug while addressing the media on Monday morning, and instead indicated he’d need to be blown away to even consider it. Cut through all the words and that means Sweeney is considering it this summer given the roster and cap needs for his hockey club moving forward.

“Torey is an important part of our hockey club. I was proud of his efforts. He took to heart being in a top-4 role this year, particularly in the playoffs where he was going to face some tough matchups on the road. He handled it really well,” said Sweeney. “The power play and the points really speak for themselves, and have for his entire time here. He’s a big part of our club.

“We have an opportunity on July 1 to open up talks, and some of it will be dictated by the RFA market and some internal things will dictate the timing of those conversations. If somebody blew us away [with a trade offer] then every player has to be looked at in that way. From an organizational standpoint, it would be a disservice if you don’t. It would take a pretty unique opportunity for us to part with Torey. We believe that he’s in the fabric of our group and he’s kind of that next wave of leadership behind the guys that have carried the mantle for a long time. He’s an important part of our club.”

What does Krug want?

The undrafted defenseman obviously wants to remain with the only NHL home that he’s known in Boston, and wants to be a part of the leadership group still pushing for that elusive next Stanley Cup.

“It’s been my goal since Day One to be a part of this locker room and a part of this core group,” said Krug, of remaining with the Bruins. “I’ve been lucky enough to stay for a while and I want to be here forever. It’s a great group of guys and I feel privileged to be a part of this group. You want to bring something to the table yourself and hopefully I’ve done that.”

He’s certainly earned that consideration as one of the most prolific defensemen in the NHL over the last five years with guys like Erik Karlsson, John Klingberg and Brent Burns as his peers from an offensive production standpoint.

But the NHL is also a business — and even the B’s general manager didn’t rule out the possibility of trading Krug if the right deal comes along for his team. It feels more likely that Krug will return to a Bruins team that could use him as they try to get back to the Stanley Cup Final again next season, but the trade rumors will be as real as they’ve ever been for the 28-year-old during his six full seasons in Boston. 

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Sean Kuraly, Bruins fourth line 'trying to get back to what makes them a good line'

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Sean Kuraly, Bruins fourth line 'trying to get back to what makes them a good line'

BRIGHTON, Mass. — While there are obviously plenty of things that have gone right for the Bruins given their standing in first place in the Atlantic Division, their fourth line hasn’t really been one of them.

A big part of it, obviously, is the number of injuries suffered early in the season with left winger Joakim Nordstrom out of the mix for 11 games, so the continuity wasn’t there early in the season with a number of different faces on Boston’s energy line.

But the regular trio has been together for the last few weeks, and still hasn’t completely found the footing that made them one of the most effective fourth lines in the NHL last season. They have combined for just four goals in the first 20 games this season, and both Chris Wagner and Sean Kuraly have been minus players this season.

The good news is that some offensive opportunities are beginning to come their way, enough so that Wagner has been unsuccessfully tapped for the shootout in each of the last two instances where the Bruins made it to the extra season.

But it’s also clear to Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy that his fourth line needs to get back to basics and do what they do best in playing with speed and physicality, shutting down top lines and occasionally popping in secondary offense when chances present themselves. Right now they are doing some of that, but clearly haven’t hit the high levels they were at a little more often last season.

“I think [Kuraly] is losing sight a little bit of what makes them a good line, and what makes him a good player. He’s visibly frustrated when he’s not finishing, which I get. Guys want to score. But that shouldn’t then affect the rest of his game, and I think it has a little bit. We’ve pulled them aside as a line, especially the assistant coaches, and have gone through things when they’re solid,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I think the puck is finding Sean and the rest of their line; they just have to finish. But he really has to make sure what his primary role is and that’s been our message to him.

“That’s being a shutdown guy and making life miserable for one of their top two lines, and then get the job done on the penalty. I don’t want to say the offense is gravy, but you’ve just got to play through that part of it and not let if affect you mentally.”

Kuraly himself admitted that it hasn’t been an easy go of it this season and understands exactly what needs to be done to get them back to their high level of play.

“My details can be better and that’s my focus. I want to be top end at the little things and the details,” said Kuraly, who has been a minus-3 with just five shots on net in the last five games for the Bruins. “I think some of that might have slipped lately and my focus is going to be getting that back to what it was. It’s realizing when I do that, I give the team a good chance to win — and when I don’t, it can hurt us. A lot of that can fall on me.”

Maybe what the B's fourth line needs is simply to play crash-and-bang hockey with some responsible defense thrown in for a couple of games. Once they have become difficult to play against once again, then the offense will follow afterward.

It remains to be seen exactly when the B’s energy line is going to make the expected turnaround, but it sounds like everybody is on the same page as to how exactly that’s going to happen, when it does happen.

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Bruins' Jake DeBrusk, Brett Ritchie trending toward return vs. Devils

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Bruins' Jake DeBrusk, Brett Ritchie trending toward return vs. Devils

BRIGHTON, Mass. — The Bruins should get at least a couple of pieces of their team back from injuries for Tuesday night’s game against the New Jersey Devils.

Jake DeBrusk (lower body) and Brett Ritchie (upper body) both skated without restrictions in Monday morning’s practice at Warrior Arena, and it sounded like they would play against the Devils barring any setbacks following practice. For DeBrusk, it will be a welcome return after a five-game absence and he’ll hope to pick up where he left off with goals in each of the two games before he got hurt early in the first period against the Canadiens on November 5.

“I’m feeling good,” said DeBrusk, who has three goals and six points in 15 games this season. “I’ve obviously been missing the game, so it was great skating with the boys today. I scored in back-to-back games before Montreal, so I used the time [out with injury] to reflect on things and rejuvenate myself in a way. It was different things that were getting to me a little bit. I used the time to be more mature with my approach [to the game] coming back whenever that is going to be.”

Patrice Bergeron (lower body) didn’t skate with the Bruins on Monday and will be a game-time decision against the Devils while planning to travel with the team to New Jersey. Torey Krug (upper body) skated ahead of practice on Monday and could be nearing a return to the lineup as well, but he won’t be playing against the Devils.

“Ritchie and DeBrusk both skated and no residual effects right now, so we anticipate they’re going to play,” said Cassidy. “We’ll put them as game-time decisions. “Krug skated. He’s not available [against the Devils] so he’ll be available a little later as well.”

As far as other injured Bruins are concerned, Kevan Miller has had a couple of days off the ice, “won’t play this week” but is looking at a possible return to game action next week after he was not on the ice with the team on Monday morning. John Moore (shoulder surgery) did skate with the main group and continues to make progress in his recovery from offseason surgery.

Tuukka Rask will get the start against the Devils on Tuesday night, and both Brendan Gaunce and Urho Vaakanainen were called up to the Bruins ahead of Tuesday’s trip to New Jersey. It didn’t look like Gaunce will be playing against the Devils, however, unless somebody expected to play isn’t able to at game time.

Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairings for Tuesday night’s game vs. the Devils based on practice:

PROJECTED LINES

Brad Marchand David Krejci David Pastrnak
Anders Bjork Charlie Coyle Danton Heinen
Jake DeBrusk Par Lindholm Brett Ritchie
Joakim Nordstrom Sean Kuraly Chris Wagner

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS

Zdeno Chara Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk Brandon Carlo
Urho Vaakanainen Connor Clifton

STARTING GOALIE

Tuukka Rask

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