If it wasn’t already obvious with the scant negotiations between the Bruins and Torey Krug during the past year, the longtime B’s D-man confirmed he’s unlikely to come back to Boston with everything he said on Thursday.
Krug is approaching unrestricted free agency in October with contract talks “few and far between” with the Bruins up to this point, and a big free agent payday waiting for him when he hits the market.
Krug rejected the notion of taking a one-year deal at this point in his career while taking a Zoom call with the Bruins media. That scenario really makes no sense anyway for a 29-year-old looking at a flat salary cap across the NHL for the next three seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead, the offensive D-man knows these next few months will really be his only time to maximize his value with a big money, long-term deal, and Krug intends to do just that while knowing the B’s aren’t exactly in an ideal cap position to overextend for him.
“The contact [for negotiations] was very few and far between for whatever reason. It is what it is,” said Krug. “As far what it looks like, I don’t really know what the future holds in terms of the coming weeks. Free agency isn’t until a week after the [playoffs] end, so we’ll see. I guess there’s a lot of time between now and then. I’m not sure what the future holds, but I’m willing to sit back and see what happens.”
Krug admitted he hasn’t envisioned any future with any other teams either, so there’s still a sliver of a chance that Boston can figure something out.
But it’s not likely with $66 million committed already for next season, and $15 million in cap space to make improvements while still dealing with unsigned players in Zdeno Chara, Matt Grzelcyk, Jake DeBrusk, Joakim Nordstrom and Karson Kuhlman. What’s going to happen is that Krug will make a ton of money from a team in need of a power play quarterback and elite offensive defenseman, and the Bruins can’t hope to be able to match that top figure.
Since the beginning of the 2016-17 season, only Brent Burns ($8 million per season), John Carlson ($8 million per season), Victor Hedman ($7.875 million per season), Roman Josi ($9.059 million per season) and Erik Karlsson ($11.5 million per season) have produced more points among defensemen than the 212 posted by Krug. That is heavy-duty NHL company with a capital “H” and demonstrates how in-demand Krug would be as a PP quarterback, puck-mover, point-producer and top-4 defenseman capable of playing 20-plus minutes a night in the NHL grind.
Those kinds of players don’t grow on hockey trees. Those kinds of players get paid -- and they get paid big money. Every player on the aforementioned list of Krug’s peers is paid a minimum of $7.875 million per season, and others like Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Jarred Spurgeon are making upwards of $7 million per season as well.
That would automatically make Krug the highest-paid player on the Bruins roster and it seems like Sweeney and Co. do not want to go there after agreeing with extensions for Charlie Coyle, Chris Wagner, Jaroslav Halak and Anders Bjork over the last year without even broaching much of a discussion with Krug’s camp. There was a line of thinking that Krug might take a one-year deal with the Bruins and much more cap space might open up in 2021-22 with David Krejci and Tuukka Rask coming off the books for a combined $15 million.
But Krug poured cold water over any talk of hometown discounts or bridge deals at this point while fully understanding the business side of the NHL and free agency. It’s his time to maximize his earning power and he’s not going to take less as fellow Bruins like Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand or David Pastrnak did on previous long-term extensions.
“Yeah, I’m very opposed to that,” said Krug, when posed with the scenario of a one-year deal given the unknown of the future. “I’ve bet on myself and I’ve taken shorter term deals for less amount of money for my whole career now. This is my time in terms of my value at its peak. I’m in a position now where I need to make the most of it. I’ve done it long enough now and that’s the situation I’m facing.
“I’m a big believer that there’s a journey for all of us. Whether it’s here or somewhere else, I’m not too worried about it or anxious about it. There’s an emotional attachment [to Boston], but that’s a mistake that a lot of athletes get caught up in when they start their professional careers. There’s nothing personal about it. It’s business on both ends. Teams have to put their best foot forward spending a certain amount of money and athletes have one shot at making all of their money in their careers. Whether you play one or two years up to a 10-15-year career, you have one shot to do it all. I realize that and it is what it is. There’s an emotional attachment [to the Bruins] and I’ve made no secret about it. My teammates know it. Everyone knows it. It’s part of the business that stinks, but we’ll see what happens moving forward.”
Clearly it would leave a gaping hole in the Bruins defensemen group if they lose a player who's averaged around 10 goals and 50 points per season, and did all of that while playing over 20 minutes a night in a top-4 spot at both ends of the ice. Young D-men like Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk will clearly need to step up to fill in that production, but it’s also not out of the realm of possibility that the Bruins try to go big in the free agent market themselves with a player like Alex Pietrangelo potentially available. That would be a big, bold move for the Black and Gold.
But this day wasn’t about what the Bruins will do moving forward. It was about Krug doing everything aside from saying goodbye to the Bruins in what looks like a foregone conclusion he’ll be playing elsewhere next season.
If it was indeed the end for Krug in Boston, the 5-foot-9, 186-pound undrafted defenseman made the most of his abilities, played like a true Bruin all the way to the end and will leave a massive hole to fill in terms of production, leadership and his feisty personality with a franchise that was already in need of even more of all these things before losing him.