By Joe Chrzanowski | Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19
There has been a great deal of speculation about the status of Torey Krug and the contract negotiations between his camp and the Bruins. Krug has said he would like to remain in Boston and Don Sweeney has categorized the talks as “cordial”. On Saturday, reporter Shawn Hutcheon threw a little gasoline on the fire with this tweet:
Earlier in week, I tweeted that #NHLBruins Torey Krug’s next contract could be in range of $8M per season. Compared to other Dmen, statistically, it is market value. Since, sources close to the situation have informed me that Krug is asking for 6-year deal worth $49M.
— Shawn Hutcheon (@ShawnHutcheon) February 29, 2020
Right off the bat, I want to say that I am a huge Krug fan. My son is an undersized defenseman as well, so I have always had a soft spot for players like that. Krug started off as an undrafted college free agent and through hard work transformed himself into one of the top offensive D-men in the NHL over the last five years or so.
Krug became a regular in the 2013-14 season and from that time to the present, he’s 8th in the NHL for scoring by defensemen. The names in front of him: Hedman, Karlsson, Burns, Carlson, Josi, Yandle, Barrie, are regarded as some of the best D in the game. The majority of them are also paid that way. Erik Karlsson tops the list at $11.5m, with perennial Norris contender Drew Doughty coming in at $11m. Roman Josi and PK Subban are next at $9m, with five players at or around the $8m mark (Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Brent Burns, Jacob Trouba, Thomas Chabot, and John Carlson).
— $22.2M=OffseasonCapspace (@bruinscapspace) March 1, 2020
A defenseman that many consider the closest comparable to Krug, Minnesota’s Jared Spurgeon, just signed a seven-year deal worth $7.575m per this past offseason. Spurgeon does not provide the offense that Krug does, but plays more minutes and is generally considered to be better in the defensive zone.
Which brings us to the elephant in the room when it comes to Krug, his defense. While everyone acknowledges that he is one of the best offensive catalysts in the NHL, Krug is not in the same category as guys like Josi and John Carlson when it comes to his two-way game. As important as the offense is from the back end these days, many fans (and some GM’s) don’t seem to think it’s prudent to pay a defenseman a huge contract unless they can contribute at both ends of the ice.[youtube
Personally, I thought Krug took a big step forward last year in the playoffs. He used his skating ability to attack players before they could get in on him and was very effective defensively. Unfortunately, the memory of the year before, when he was literally steam-rolled by Tampa Bay forwards (who were not overly large) in the playoffs still lingers.
So, the question for Don Sweeney appears to be two-fold. Is an elite offensive defenseman who plays only OK defense worth $8m per? Second, if you determine he’s not, do you have an adequate replacement in-house? Right now, Krug is an integral part of the Bruins power-play, which is currently ranked second in the NHL (behind EDM). He’s also able to stretch the ice with a wide array of transition plays and passes that highlight his excellent vision. While I like Charlie McAvoy’s offensive potential, I don’t think that he or Matt Grzelcyk is ready to move into the role Krug currently fills for Boston. I also like Cooper Zech in Providence, but he’s at least two years away. So, if Krug were to leave via free agency, the Bruins would have a large hole to fill, and no internal candidates to step into the gap.
Even with all that, I just can’t see the Bruins giving him $8m plus over six or seven years on a new deal. I’m not saying that sum is not fair, given what other defensemen have signed for, or that it is not “market value”. However, that’s not the way that Boston has done business for a number of years. A lot of players talk about taking a “hometown” discount, but members of the Bruins have put their money where their mouths are when it came time to negotiate their deals. Last year during the playoffs, in an interview with SI’s Alex Prewitt, Brad Marchand was quoted as saying,
“If you want to try to make every dollar you can, unfortunately, that’s not going to be with this group.”
Pastrnak, Marchand all took less than what they could have demanded based on performance. This past summer young veterans Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo took very team-friendly deals in comparison to some of their peers, in what appeared to be moves designed on keeping this group of guys together. A lot of credit has gone to Don Sweeney for the recent signings and while he does deserve some praise, these deals would not have been possible without the players buying in and legitimately wanting to be in Boston, surrounded by guys that feel the same way.
— NESN (@NESN) February 29, 2020
In recent days Krug has talked about balancing being paid fairly while playing for a winning team. However, he also said, “The Bruins are going to do whatever they need to do and their situation.”
When I look at the way the Bruins have approached these contracts in the past and what other players have done, unfortunately, I only see this going one of two ways. Either Krug follows the examples set by so many other players in the room and takes less than market value to stay. Or, the Bruins try to make another strong run at the Cup and let Krug walk this summer. The question that remains for Krug and Boston is what qualifies as “taking less to stay”? My guess would be a number around $6.75m for six years. If Krug cannot live with that, I believe his days as a Bruin are numbered.
Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 167 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.
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