Torey Krug

Could Sekera injury spark renewed Oilers' interest in Torey Krug?

Could Sekera injury spark renewed Oilers' interest in Torey Krug?

The Bruins raised some eyebrows on July 1 when they signed defenseman John Moore to a long-term contract and thereby locked themselves in with eight NHL-caliber defensemen headed into training camp next month.

It sparked plenty of informed speculation that one of the D-men would eventually be moved, with Torey Krug the most likely candidate given his contract, value on the trade market and what the Black and Gold could get in return.

Either way, Don Sweeney said after the signing that having a healthy supply of D-men was a good situation for the Bruins just in case needs arose with other teams around the league. Well, the need around the league is getting greater with the news that Edmonton Oilers D-man Andrej Sekera is out long-term following surgery to repair his Achilles tendon. 

Sekera, 32, a left-shot defenseman who was limited to only 36 games last season, had been a top-4 mainstay for the Oil the previous two seasons. Sekera was being counted on to again be that kind of quality D-man again, but that looks very much in question right now.

That leaves the Oilers badly in need of a left-shot, top-four D-man with some offensive upside and leaves open the kind of job description that Krug could very neatly fill in Edmonton. This is after some very clear interest from Edmonton in the talented, productive Krug last season. It would bring about a reunion of the offensive D-man with the general manager who originally signed him with the Bruins as an undrafted defenseman out of Michigan State.

As has often been stated, the Bruins don’t want to trade Krug, 27, after he produced 110 points the past two seasons with only Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, Victor Hedman and John Klingberg scoring more from the back end in that span. Still, they badly need a top-six sniper to even off their forward lines and bring some scoring depth to a team that was far too one-dimensional in the postseason against the Maple Leafs and the Lightning.

Could a strong trade package featuring Krug be enough to pry Ryan Nugent-Hopkins away from the Oilers after he showed some great things on the wing last season? Could he also be a top-six center candidate with Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci entering NHL middle age? Could Edmonton’s desperation to turn things around be enough to really push Peter Chiarelli into desperation mode looking for a left-handed defenseman in light of Sekera’s injury?

These are good questions to ask as the Bruins ready for camp with an abundance of talented, proven NHL defensemen. They'd be dealing from a position of strength as teams, such as Edmonton, suddenly become buyers out of circumstance and desperation. Don’t be shocked if we haven’t heard the last of Krug-to-Edmonton trade rumors because the dominoes are beginning to fall and it continues to look as if it's a very real possibility.     

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Bean: Should the Bruins have just signed Kovalchuk?

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Bean: Should the Bruins have just signed Kovalchuk?

The games aren't played on paper, but roster-building is. 

And on paper, the Bruins felt a pretty big need for another top-six scorer. If they hadn't, they wouldn't have made pushes for Ilya Kovalchuk and John Tavares. 

Now, having seen both go elsewhere, Don Sweeney faces the difficult task of deciding whether to trade one of the best offensive defensemen in the league, Torey Krug, in order to get that help up front. It begs a very fair question: Why didn't he just sign Kovalchuk? 

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Kovalchuk, who re-entered the NHL waters this offseason after a five-year stint in the KHL, proved to be too rich and/or risky for the Bruins' blood; the 35-year-old signed a three-year deal with the Kings worth $6.25 million a year. From a total money and term standpoint, it's identical to the deal Patrick Marleau signed with the Leafs last summer at age 37. 

It's not a good contract and it's a massive risk considering how long Kovalchuk's been away. That the Bruins did not want the player for that long is completely understandable. What's less understandable is the idea that doing something like trading Krug is a better alternative. 

Of course, that's an unfair shot to take because the Bruins have not traded Krug. They have made trading a defenseman likely, however, by signing John Moore. Krug, who finished three points behind Erik Karlsson last season and has two years left on a reasonable contract, would be a very appealing asset for other teams. 

Know why he would be appealing to those teams? Because he's really good. He's not great in his own end and he's by no means a top-pairing player, but he's also the third-best blueliner on a team that only has three really good blueliners. Whether a trade would be good or bad obviously depends on which player the B's would acquire, but trading Krug for a scorer would be robbing Peter to pay Paul when you could have just signed old-ass Russian Paul while leaving Peter the heck alone. 

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Having not landed that right wing (or Tavares, whose signing would have triggered some sort of roster shakeup that would theoretically have also gotten them some help on the right side), here are the Bruins' potential alternatives:

- Trade Krug as part of a deal for Artemi Panarin, a 26-year-old two-time 30-goal-scorer who will be commanding a big raise from his current $6 million mark after next season. 

- Hope that Rick Nash decides to keep playing and get him for a high cap hit on a one or two-year deal. 

- Hope one of the kids seizes the right wing job on David Krejci's line, though Anders Bjork, Danton Heinen and Ryan Donato are all lefties. 

- Hope David Backes finds the fountain of youth and goes back to resembling a top-six forward. 

Three of those four include the word "hope" and the other includes shelling out a ton of money. Signing Kovalchuk would have also included that word ("hope this doesn't end up an absolute disaster"), but at least you wouldn't be losing Krug. 

Of the options remaining, standing pat may be the best alternative unless Panarin is feeling generous in contract talks. Kovalchuk is far from a safe bet, but signing him would leave the Bruins with less of a dilemma today. 

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Haggerty: Do the Bruins' moves signal a Krug trade in the future?

Haggerty: Do the Bruins' moves signal a Krug trade in the future?

With the signing of free agent defenseman John Moore on July 1, don’t blame the Bruins if they begin suffering a case of déjà vu over the next few months.  

It was four seasons ago when the Bruins had a similar surplus of defensemen and some accompanying salary cap issues entering training camp. Everybody around the organization answered questions throughout the preseason about all of the quality NHL bodies they had on the back end, and what they were going to do with them.

As most Bruins fans will remember, training camp ended that fall with Peter Chiarelli infamously dealing top-4 defenseman and Stanley Cup champ Johnny Boychuk away to the New York Islanders for a couple of second round picks that eventually turned into Brandon Carlo and Brett Connolly.

The fact it involved No. 55 was a bit of a surprise at the time, but the writing was on the Black and Golden wall that one of the D-men was on his way out the door prior to the start of the season.

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Now the Bruins have a similar surplus of NHL-caliber defensemen with Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Matt Grzelcyk and now Moore on the left side, and Charlie McAvoy, Carlo, Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller on the right side. Clearly something has to give for the B’s, and all signs point toward Krug being the very valuable trade chip for Boston.

Clearly it’s not that the Bruins are anxiously looking to jettison the diminutive, super-productive D-man, but instead Krug is the biggest valued asset that could bring Boston a goal-scoring forward suitable for second line duty.

The 26-year-old Krug is far and away their most marketable D-men in trade talks with a whopping 110 points over the last two seasons, and a key PP quarterback role on a Bruins power play that’s been dynamite in the last few years. Krug is an easy sell to a team in need of major power play upgrades, and in the all-around offensive game only elite D-men Victor Hedman, Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns and John Klingberg have more points than him over the last two seasons.

Much like Boychuk a handful of years ago, there will be some growing pains moving on from a quality player like Krug with his puck-moving and elite offensive ability. But then again Krug has also ended each of the last seasons with an injury that knocked him out of the postseason, and put into question his ability to remain healthy through the physical playoff pounding.  

So will the Bruins deal him with a couple of seasons to go left under contract in Boston with a cap hit slightly north of $5 million?

The smart money says “yes” and it may happen late in training camp a la Boychuk with Krug is coming off a fractured ankle. The undrafted D-man will need to show that he’s fully healthy and up to speed as he’s expected to be in training camp. Clearly the extra B’s bodies on the back end will be one of the big talking points of training camp this fall, and it would very interesting if it leads up to a hockey trade right at the tail end of preseason.

It’s also entirely possible, however, that the Bruins could carry all these D-men into the regular season given that they still have roughly $4 million in salary cap space, and a number of young forwards they’d like to try out on the second line. Perhaps Ryan Donato, Anders Bjork or Danton Heinen turns into an offensive force and negates the need for the Bruins to go out and get a heavy duty, scoring winger like Artemi Panarin, Jeff Skinner, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Wayne Simmonds.  

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Reading between the lines, Don Sweeney admitted as much when talking about teams with “surplus” at certain positions in good standing for trade discussions now that the free agency period has passed by the first day of July. There’s also the very realistic scenario that second-year D-man Charlie McAvoy is ready to be a top PP quarterback and point producer for the Bruins, and that young guys like McAvoy and Grzelcyk will be ready to take the next step.   

“We feel very comfortable with the group of guys we have [on the back end], and we’ll move forward with it. When the [trade] calls come as a result, that’s part of the business, and everybody understands that. It also allows some of our younger players to develop at the natural pace without necessarily putting them in situations they’re not ready to handle,” said Sweeney. “If they are, we’ve been adamant in that, in terms of consistently sending that message that, if they are, then we’ll move and do what we have to do.

“There are teams that maybe were trying to accomplish things [in free agency] that didn’t, now whether or not you have surpluses or…there’s certainly been discussions leading up to it that have indicated [trades will happen] in some point in time. When that is, whether that is training camp or the first part of the season, everybody is going to kind of look for surpluses or areas that other people have strength in that you don’t. It was leading up to it. Whether or not that actually happens, you just never know.”

One thing is certain right now with the Bruins: They have at least one too many D-men, and they don’t have enough bona fide goal-scorers that could diversify the very one-dimensional offense that we saw from Boston in the playoffs.

That could change with one hockey trade over the next several months, and the onus is now on Sweeney to find that deal and pull the trigger on a trade that would put the Bruins back on equal footing with the improving Maple Leafs and Lightning this spring.

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