It’s silly season right now in Hockey Land, with trade rumors abound, fans shouting “they should sign this guy,” and “give him an offer sheet” like nobody’s business, nor even thinking about whether or not it’d make their team better!
It makes sense, really: there’s nothing of substance happening until July rolls around, but people still need their hockey fix. Rumors and proposals fill time. It’s all cool.
But one particularly fun rumor that was floating around on Tuesday (I think because of everyone’s favorite form of brainmelting media: sports talk radio) and has been bandied about since the Bruins’ Game 7 flame-out is the idea that the Bruins should move on from their second-line center, David Krejci.
Why? Uhhh...unclear, really. Some men (or women) just want to watch the world burn, I guess.
Krejci has taken his fair share of heat from the fanbase over the past few years, mainly due to his contract. He has been the highest-paid forward on the team for several years now, and hasn’t always finished atop the team scoring charts. Still, he has been a productive player, and has been near the top of those charts pretty much every season since signing his big deal.
The weird part with the “trade Krejci” takes is why now? Krejci is coming off of an excellent regular season, tying his career high in regular season points with 73. He had a decent playoff run as well before stumbling against the Blues, much like many of his teammates. His regular season point total came with a revolving door of linemates, with “who’s on Krejci’s right wing?” turning into a nightly guessing game at times.
(The lack of consistent wings is cited by many of those who like Krejci as an anchor on his play, with the anti-Krejci crowd claiming that he should be good enough to score regardless. The truth lies somewhere in between.)
Plus, his contract is starting to look better and better, as contracts often do. When the Bruins re-signed Krejci a few years back, they knew they were overpaying in the present based on past performance, with the hope that the level of performance would be sustained long enough for the market to catch up.
It’s pretty much how all contracts work. We’ll likely see something similar this summer when Sergei Bobrovsky signs his monster deal and makes Tuukka Rask’s look more palatable. Plenty of players made more than Krejci last year with far less production: Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Johansen, Zach Parise, and Jason Spezza all made more and scored less. Players in Krejci’s neighborhood who were similarly or less productive include Bobby Ryan, Evander Kane, James van Riemsdyk, and Nicklas Backstrom.
Of course, we could do the bad contract game all day (Spezza...yikes!), and could also find players making far less who scored more. The point, really, is that the price for talent continues to rise, and all of a sudden, Krejci’s deal looks fairly reasonable.
Guys who will make Krejci money next year include Kevin Hayes, Max Pacioretty, Brent Seabrook, Parise, van Riemsdyk...the list goes on. Matt Duchene is going to get crazy money too. The larger point is that if Krejci can maintain his current level of production this coming season, his contract is going to look pretty reasonable in comparison to others around the league. Why bail on it now?
The most glaring reason for not trading Krejci, however, is the simple fact that the Bruins have absolutely no one to replace him. One of the sillier suggestions thrown about has been to move Charlie Coyle to second-line center.
This is, of course, ridiculous: the Bruins have been trying to find a productive third line for about 6 years. Now that they have a productive third-line center, they should move him to second-line center, thereby creating another hole on the third line that will take years to fill.
Other sports-radio based arguments that you’ll hear about Krejci are pretty easily debunked:
- Krejci is soft! (He’s not. In fact, he’s played through injuries that should have sidelined him.)
- Krejci is lazy! (73 points regular season/16 playoff points is lazy?)
- Krejci is a one-way player! (If anything, he’s even better at the other end of the ice than you think.)
- The Bruins’ window is closing: You could argue that this current core has one or two more kicks at the can before it’s lights out. You could make a similar argument that this year was their last best chance, but let’s not get negative.
Heading into this off-season, the Bruins aren’t in terrible shape.
Their biggest issue is the salary cap, which was mainly caused by Don Sweeney signing David Backes to a bad contract a few years ago. They may need to make a move or two to free up space to lock up Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo, all while also adding another winger or two.
And with the salary cap on plenty of fans’ minds, people are looking at the payroll and saying to trade Krejci because it would free up space...to do what, exactly? There’s no one in the system that can replace Krejci without seriously overexposing someone like Studnicka or Oskar Steen. People will make the Trent Frederic argument, but Charlie Coyle wouldn't be here if Frederic had proven he was ready for that role.
And if you decide to test the market, there’s no one on the market that can adequately replace Krejci (do not say they should sign Duchene, please).
Trading Krejci to free up cap space would make the team worse in the present. For a team that needs to win now, that should be a non-starter. Some have argued that the Bruins should trade Krejci and acquire someone on the trade market, a path that would in all likelihood be a lateral move, at best.
Instead, the Bruins should do what they’ve done for the past few years: try to find someone in the system (Karson Kuhlman? Peter Cehlarik?) who can play on Krejci’s wing for short money, and watch him drag his line to productivity again.
If it doesn’t work, they’ll be in the same spot they were this past season, where they came a win away from winning the whole thing.
Krejci isn’t perfect. His contract isn’t perfect. But his contract is also looking more favorable by the day. He’s still productive, and he’s still the Bruins’ best option for a 2C.
If you’re looking for a summer hot take, look elsewhere.