If Torey Krug was prepared to take a hometown discount and sign with the Bruins for around or under $6 million per year for 4 years or something like that, there would be no need to write an article like this one.
Unfortunately for the Bruins, such a deal seems highly improbable at this point. According to Krug himself when discussing how contract talks were going with the Bruins: “The contact [for negotiations] was very few and far between for whatever reason. It is what it is,”
Not exactly promising words if you’re hoping Krug returns for 2020-2021. Combine this with the fact that Torey Krug does not want to leave money on the table with his next deal and the Bruins’ other free agent obligations and restrictions, and it seems we may have seen Krug play his last game in Black n’ Gold.
But alas, not all is lost if Torey Krug signs for another NHL team in the off-season.
In fact, one could argue that the Bruins’ best move would not to bring back Krug on the terms that he is looking for.
Let’s look at 3 reasons, why this would be the case:
1) He’s just too expensive
If Torey Krug decides to sign elsewhere in the off-season, expect him to get PAID.
While he’s not as good overall as Roman Josi, who recently signed a deal that will see him getting paid $9 million per year, Krug could definitely demand the same kind of dollars that Thomas Chabot (8 years @ $8mil) and Jacob Trouba (7 years @ $8mil) recent got.
Even though Krug had better numbers than both Trouba and Chabot, you could of course make the argument that both are younger than Krug, so maybe they’re worth more money.
If this is the case, how about the $7.5 million that Jared Sprugeon will make for the Wild over the next 7 years? Torey Krug is a year younger and puts up greater offensive numbers every year. Surely Krug and his agent have to be looking for at least the deal Spurgeon received, which is still entirely too much for the Bruins to handle.
While it’s plausible the Bruins could fit Krug into the salary cap this year, it’d cause problems elsewhere. The team still has Zdeno Chara, Jake DeBrusk, and Matt Grzelcyk to re-sign this off-season, and beyond this upcoming season, a huge Krug contract could jeopardize the Bruins long-term future.
In 2021-22, guys like Brandon Carlo, Sean Kuraly, and Ondrej Kase will need new contracts, and the Bruins will also need to re-sign or find replacements for David Krejci and Tuukka Rask. Patrice Bergeron and Charlie McAvoy will both need new deals the year after that..the list goes on. Any long-term, big-money deal for Krug would jeopardize signings in the coming years.
2) He’s at an uncomfortable age to make a long-term signing.
It seems like just yesterday that Krug was making a huge name for himself in Boston by scoring 4 goals in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Rangers. Believe it or not that was almost 8 years ago, and Torey Krug will be 30 years old in April.
It didn’t seem that long ago that NHL players hit their prime around 27, and that prime lasted until about 32. Those days seems to be long past as well.
The average age of an NHL hockey player in 2000 was 33 years old. In 2020, the average age (which includes Mesozoic ambassadors like Zdeno Chara and Joe Thornton) is 27.1, with recent research suggesting that the “prime” of most NHLers is far younger than even the average suggested not a few years ago.
If that doesn’t show you that the NHL is a young man’s game, consider this: among the top 20 point scorers in the league, only 5 are older than 30. The same is true for defensemen, as just 5 of the top scoring blueliners are over 30 as well. While Krug’s play has yet to decline, there are more than enough examples over the last decade of how big signings of older veterans went south really quickly.
Sticking with defenseman, three deals that should make any GM wary of signing defensemen over 30 to long, expensive contracts are Brent Seabrook, P.K. Subban and (maybe to a lesser extent of awfulness) Drew Daughty. All three had exceptional seasons in their contract years, and all three have struggled since signing their new deals. Can you imagine paying Brent Seabook almost $7 million a year until 2024?
Sure, there are several defensemen who have played well deep into their 30’s (with Zdeno Chara being a prime example). But is banking on Krug to be one of those guys worth the gamble?
3) He’s ultimately replaceable (kind of)
As an offensive threat, there are very few players in the NHL that can do what Krug does. His vision and passing ability make him one of the most dynamic PP specialists in the league. In fact, over the last 3 years, only John Carlson (91 pts) has more points on the power play than Torey Krug (82 pts) for defensemen. The Bruins have no one in their system that will be able to serve as an immediate replacement for Krug in this regard.
However, being an effective defenseman in the NHL also requires you to be good at defense. And while Krug’s defensive play over the last couple season has improved, this is one area of his game where the Bruins can adequately replace him.
This past season, when he was on the ice 5v5, the team’s SV% was .863 (worst among Bruins regulars) and opponents scored 2.8 goals per 60 minutes of even strength play (second worst to a surprising Brad Marchand at 2.9 GA/60).
Krug’s defensive liabilities seemed to stand out against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He was on the ice for 7 even-strength goals against during the five-game series, worst among all Bruins.
Perhaps none was worse than this disaster:
Luckily for the Bruins, there are options within the Bruins system to replace one aspect of Krug’s game.
While Matt Grzelcyk is probably not a defensive upgrade to Krug, he does possess some of the attributes (speed, breakout passes, etc.) that make Krug an effective NHL defenseman.
There are also a number of youngsters in the AHL waiting for their shot in the big leagues. While Jeremy Lauzon seems the most ready for permanent action in the NHL, Urho Vaakanainen, at just 21, has a tremendous upside and could be a great replacement for Krug in a year or two.
The Bruins could also use the little cap space they do have to find a cheaper option than Krug in the free agent market.
Short-contract, “let’s try a year” players like Tyson Barrie, Sami Vatanen, T.J Brodie and Kevin Shattenkirk might serve as a nice bridge between Krug’s departure and the development of some of the youngsters.
There’s still plenty of time before Torey Krug has to make his free agency decision.
There’s also plenty of time for those involved to have a change of heart.
There have been countless occasions in all professional leagues where a player looked to be a for-sure-goner, only to come to a compromise that appeased both player and management.
While there aren’t many people who wouldn’t enjoy seeing Krug return to Boston, the Bruins would need to ensure that they signed the right deal, one that doesn’t jeopardize the future of the team.