By: Michael DiGiorgio | Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio
Regardless of how the current NHL season plays out, David Krejci’s contract lives on. He will be playing the last year of his 6-year, $43.5M contract next season and has recently commented on his future plans:
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) April 27, 2020
The 34-year-old centerman (Happy Birthday, David!) has been a staple on Boston’s top two lines since he entered the league in 2007. He is a Stanley Cup champion and has averaged 53 points during his 13-year career (excluding the 6 games he played in 2006). The question now becomes, does David retire a Bruin or will he be wearing a new jersey come 2021?
Krejci was drafted 63rd overall in 2004 out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). He played two years in the QMJHL for the Gatineau Olympiques, where he totaled 144 points in 117 games. Bruins management sent Krejci to their American Hockey League affiliate for the 2006-07 season for a conditioning stint. Krejci tore through the AHL with 74 points in 69 games, which earned him a callup the following year.
He split his time between the Bruins and the Providence Bruins in the 2007-08 season, totaling 27 points in 56 games with the Bruins. The split season seemed to work wonders for David because the following season, he set a career-high in points and plus/minus (73 and 37, respectively). David achieved all of this in every single game that season (82) and contributed to one of the Bruins’ highest point total in history (116).
Krejci continued his point contribution in the playoffs, with eight points in 11 games. David and the Bruins would, unfortunately, lose to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. Though it was this year that Bruins fans and its management realized David’s best games came on the sport’s biggest stage.
Peter Chiarelli, Bruins General Manager from 2006-2015, made some key off-season deals in 2010, which brought Krejci the right-wing he’d been longing for. Nathan Horton was acquired from the Florida Panthers, along with Gregory Campbell. Horton had averaged 49 points in his six years with the Panthers. He became the anchor alongside Krejci and Milan Lucic and even scored one of the most memorable goals in Bruins’ history.
Krejci was on the ice for the goal and was an integral part of creating space for Horton to score and beat the Bruins’ most hated rival. In the next series against the Philadelphia Flyers, David’s clutch play continued, where he scored the overtime winner in game two and eventually helped sweep the Flyers out of the playoffs.
The Bruins went onto the Eastern Conference finals (ECF) with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The series was grueling and exciting and featured one of the best games in Bruins’ history. Game seven of this series featured a game with no penalties and only one goal scored, which Krejci had a hand in as well. Most will remember Horton as the goal scorer, but Andrew Ference created the play and Krejci kept it alive for Horton to net the game-winner.
The Bruins traveled to Vancouver to face the President Trophy winner, the Canucks, in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. Krejci’s torrid pace didn’t falter, and he collected the league-leading 23rd point in game six of the finals. The 2011 cup run was Krejci’s best all-around performance and paid off in the end for the Bruins organization.
Since the 2011 cup run, Krejci has totaled 323 points in 613 games and surpassed his career-high playoff point total once in 2013. He was awarded his $7.25m per year contract in 2015 coming off of a 31-point shortened season due to injury. Peter Chiarelli negotiated the contract with David and has been known to give outlandish deals to players. Though Krejci deserved to be paid like a top-six forward, many experts felt Krejci’s trajectory was still trending upwards, and the deal was designed to get ahead of an even higher fair market value.
In today’s game, second-line centers are paid between the $7M and $8M range, excluding the elite stars like Evgeni Malkin. In hindsight, Chiarelli paid Krejci to about where the market finished. Since Don Sweeney took over the GM position, he has been a salary-cap genius. He’s had a few flawed contracts, such as Matt Beleskey and David Backes, but he was able to sign the Bruins’ top line to a combined $19.7M. Krejci’s number is a bit high considering this, but the deal was signed in a different regime.
An excellent comparison to Krejci is Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom is a 32-year old centerman who is playing the final year of his 10-year, $67M deal. He currently has 927 career-points in 13 years with the Capitals and anchors their second line. The deal carries a $6.7M per-year cap hit, but a total base salary that increased over the years to $8M this season.
Krejci will be 35 by the time his next deal expires. If his body allows him to, he will continue his NHL-career. He will most likely not take a significant pay decrease, especially if he continues his steady, productive play. The Bruins want to avoid another David Backes situation, though it is unlikely Krejci will fall off the NHL cliff that Backes did due to his minimal bruising gameplay. The Bruins could offer David a 3-year, $23M deal that pays David more money upfront to entice the centerman.
Another scenario the Bruins could entertain is what the Toronto Maple Leafs pulled off in signing both Mitchell Marner and John Tavares. Both players have minimal base salaries ($700K to $900K) but are instead paid up to $15M in signing bonuses on July 1 of every year. The Bruins will not pay David this much late in his career, but a similar structure is not out of the question.
A wrinkle in all of this, though, is the budding stars the Bruins have waiting in the AHL. Jack Studnicka was enjoying a successful AHL rookie season before the season’s suspension. He has 49 points in 60 games, which sits 13th in the AHL. Even more impressive, Jack has a league-leading seven shorthanded goals. He will most certainly get a fair shot at a center position for the Bruins next year.
One reason to be excited about the Bruins future is Jack Studnicka. In 60 games for Providence this year, he had 23 goals, 26 assists, and seven shorthanded goals. pic.twitter.com/0O99XrRbSB
— Jamie Gatlin (@JamieGatlin1217) March 31, 2020
Charlie Coyle puts a wrench in the Krejci situation as well. Coyle was acquired from the Minnesota Wild two seasons ago for Ryan Donato. Coyle recently signed a 6-year, $31.5M contract, which will keep him in a Bruins uniform until 2026. The 28-year old has been the most consistent Bruin since joining the squad. He anchors the Bruins third-line currently, which features a revolving door of prospects. From a cap standpoint, the Bruins are better off keeping Bergeron as their 1C, Coyle at 2C, and Studnicka at 3C. Studnicka will need to reassure Bruins management that he can handle Coyle’s workload before making the tough decision to let Krejci walk.
The Bruins could very likely have Bergeron, Krejci, Coyle, and Studnicka as their four centers for a few more years. Krejci will just have to agree to a much smaller contract, one that will pay him close to $6.5M per year for three or four years. This would definitely be a hometown discount, and it would keep him with the team that drafted him 17 years ago. The Bruins probably won’t trade Krejci, unless they’re one hundred percent sure Studnicka can handle the third-line promotion. A trade would likely not come mid-season either, but rather during the off-season.
Most Bruins prefer to see Krejci avoid the route Tom Brady just took, but the salary cap can be a cruel reality. David is an extremely well-liked teammate and has been through all the ups and downs Bruins fans have endured these past 14 years. Don Sweeney has a few contracts to deal with soon but has to be planning for David’s next deal in his amazing NHL-career.