By: Zach Carlone | Follow me on Twitter @zcarlone21
For somebody like Bruins center David Krejci to be considered a free agent after this shortened 2020-21 season is bizarre, but Boston sports fans saw what happened when football legend Tom Brady became a free agent from the Patriots last summer. The longtime Bruins center is nearing the end of his six-year, 43.5 million dollar deal signed back in 2015. The Czech-native made his rookie debut with the Bruins back in 2006 and since then has been riding second-fiddle to Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Bruins fans are used to seeing David Krejci light it up in the playoffs. En route to a Stanley Cup victory in 2011, Krejci led the league with 23 playoff points. He also led the league in playoff points in their Stanley Cup appearance in 2013 with 26. Garnering the nickname ‘Playoff Krejci,’ he loves the spotlight and attention that comes with fighting for the best trophy in all of sports, and Bruins fans fell in love with him for it.
Considered a play-making center, Krejci’s play hasn’t declined on the stat sheet in the previous years. In 2018-19, the last full 82-game season, Krejci picked up 73 points in 81 games, 53 of them assists. This season, he has ten assists in 14 games.
The biggest issue with him has been not him at all but instead finding him consistent wingers. One could argue he found his best chemistry and stability playing with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton many moons ago, but those days are long in the past. Krejci, at 34-years-old, isn’t the same, but if he isn’t part of a problem, why not bring him back next year? There’s a lot of factors that go into the decision.
The first and most important factor is going to be on the financial side of things. Whether or not general manager Don Sweeney wants to bring him back is one thing, and I guess part of that will rely on how the Bruins fair in the playoffs. Regardless, Krejci is going to need a lower paycheck. He won’t be making $7.25 million next year as he has for the past six. With Brandon Carlo and Nick Ritchie becoming pending RFAs as well as goaltender Tuukka Rask becoming a pending UFA this upcoming offseason, do the Bruins have the money to possibly spend five or so million per year on Krejci? Charlie McAvoy can also potentially start looking for an impressive extension this offseason too.
The next question with the lineup structure as a whole. Charlie Coyle, the Bruins third-line center, signed a massive extension last season. With Krejci’s departure, he would move up to the second line unless Sweeney pursues another top-six center. That leaves two bottom-six center spots to be battled upon by 21-year-old Jack Studnicka, Trent Frederic, or even Sean Kuraly. With a very medium amount of moves to make this upcoming offseason, I think it would be smart to bring back Krejci for one or two more seasons until a player like Studnicka or Frederic becomes more comfortable as a full-time NHL center. They currently play as wings too.
Finally, if the Bruins decide to move on from Krejci as a whole and instead opt to replace him externally, there are many options. As of right now, some enticing options who are currently heading for free agency are Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Winnipeg Jets center Paul Stastny, and Ottawa Senators center Derek Stepan. With those being the best options as current pending UFAs, I think it would be smart for the Bruins to re-up Krejci. Nugent-Hopkins will be asking for a lot of money that the Bruins simply won’t have, and Krejci would be the better option beyond the latter two.
All in all, the Bruins have a big decision lying ahead with the status of David Krejci and even goaltender Tuukka Rask in question. The longtime Bruin sits seventh in all-time Bruins games played and 8th in points. While we’re only in February, Sweeney has quite the decision to make this upcoming offseason. I think the Bruins should bring back Krejci on a short-term deal with the hopes of capturing a Stanley Cup with this core in the next season or two.