By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Trading Bruins defenseman Torey Krug makes sense.
It really, honestly does.
Krug is Boston’s best trade chip when it comes to making a season-changing trade for a forward, be it a third-line center or second-line winger to legitimize their Stanley Cup hopes. And the left side of Boston’s defense corps — which features Krug, Zdeno Chara, Matt Grzelcyk, John Moore on the NHL roster and Urho Vaakanainen and Jeremy Lauzon as obvious players capable of making the NHL jump soon — is a position of strength. (It might even be their organization’s lone position of strength in a trade.) Krug is also in the third year of a four-year contract that comes with a $5.25 million cap hit, and a substantial raise seems to be on deck for 2020. If the Bruins do not want to give Krug that raise when the times comes, it would certainly behoove B’s general manager Don Sweeney to get something real for him while he still can.
But rushing to move Krug just because (which is suggested at an oddly frequent rate), and for anything less than a return that elevates you to the same status as the league-best Tampa Bay Lightning, would be a massive misstep for this team.
Now, when people want to trade Krug, it often comes back to a seemingly simple idea: Grzelcyk is a cheaper, younger Krug.
But the truth is that there’s almost nothing that makes Krug and Grzelcyk alike besides their height (5-foot-9) and stick handedness (both are left shots). Comparing them works on the back of a hockey card, and that’s, uh, about it.
This has seemingly been proven time and time again, as Grzelcyk has struggled to quarterback the Black and Gold’s top power-play unit and lead the breakout with the crispness of a Krug, while Krug has been unable to provide the stick-checking and understated d-zone prowess of Grzelcyk. Consider this: Krug has already been on the ice for 24 even-strength goals scored this season (the fifth-most among all Boston skaters). Grzelcyk is directly above him, having been on the ice for 29 even-strength goals. The difference, though, is that Krug has needed just 538 minutes to get there, while Grzelcyk is at 680.
Of course, each d-man’s deployment from Bruce Cassidy has something to do with Krug’s success, as well as Grzelcyk’s.
And while there’s something to be said for the role Grzelcyk has skated in for the B’s this season (he’s been their top-pairing d-man for extended stretches) there’s no way to possibly deny or discount the all-strength offensive impact of No. 47.
Which is nothing new, really.
Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Krug has tallied 136 points in 187 games. That’s the fifth-most among NHL defenders over that span (only John Carlson, Victor Hedman, Erik Karlsson, and Brent Burns have been more productive), and Krug’s one of just eight defensemen to average at least 0.70 points per game over that span. This season, Krug is averaging the fourth-most all-situation primary assists per 60 minutes among defenders, at 1.08 helpers per 60.
Krug has also been Boston’s top power-play quarterback as usual, with 17 of his 26 points this year coming by way of a B’s man advantage that enters the weekend as the league’s fourth-most damaging unit (27.8 percent success rate). This is more than Krug being a passenger, too, as his left shot helps feed pucks to David Pastrnak on his left, to Patrice Bergeron roaming between the circles, or down to Brad Marchand along the wall to his right. The Bruins have generated 57 scoring chances and scored 12 goals in 46:45 of action with this foursome has been together on the ice and on the power play this season.
Dig in even deeper and you’ll see that that Boston foursome has been on the ice for 37 power-play goals since the start of last season, which is just 18 fewer than the Anaheim Ducks have scored as a team over their most recent 123-game span.
But contrary to nonsense peddled about, Krug’s impact goes beyond the dazzling power-play numbers.
Over the last three seasons, Krug’s 69 even-strength points rank as the 22nd-most among NHL defensemen. Break it down to how these players maximize their ice-time, and Krug produces the 14th-most points with his deployment. In essence, he routinely rewards the B’s trust by way of production at the right end of the rink.
Quite simply, Krug provides something the Bruins cannot find elsewhere on their roster. Not in Grzelyck, and not even in the right-shooting Charlie McAvoy, whose season has been almost completely derailed by injuries to date. And the Bruins are not finding a player that provides what Krug does for less than the $5.25 million they pay him. It’s just plain not happening.
That last point seems to bother some when it’s brought up, especially as they decide to lay into all of Krug’s weaknesses and why they make him an overpaid third-pairing defenseman playing above his head, but it’s the truth.
See, if Krug was indeed a better own-zone defender (or taller than 5-foot-9) and still produced at the aforementioned elite puck-mover rates like many of his detractors crave, he would cost a whole lot more than $5.25 million per year. He would be a perennial Norris Trophy contender, in fact. Instead, the Bruins have an impact defenseman that while needing to be protected in certain matchups, is actually making what might be considered slightly under market value. At least if we’re going off the production and production alone, especially since the start of his ‘overpriced’ extension.
It’s why the Bruins’ summertime plan to maximize their flexibility and bolster their left side with five years of journeyman John Moore (two goals, seven points, and a relatively so-so defenseman from an analytics standpoint in 37 games with the Bruins to date) was always a seemingly odd gamble. Especially given the multi-year quest Sweeney and Co. were on to find that perfect second-pair lefty to slot between Chara and Krug on the club’s defensive depth chart.
If anything, the addition of Moore and his lack of moments or plays that blow you away only proves how difficult it is for the Bruins to take minutes away from Krug, a player that routinely creates and generates an attack the other way.
And Krug’s tangible, elite-level production is something that should be incredibly difficult to walk away from, especially if you’re a team like this year’s Bruins squad, which has struggled (putting it lightly) to score at even-strength all year long.
This, of course, is not to say that Krug should be off the table in any potential trades.
But it first needs to make sense beyond completely unfounded plug-and-play theories.