By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Don Sweeney obviously wouldn't say it if trading Torey Krug was a priority for him. But the Bruins GM actually sounds like the defenseman is closer to untouchable.
Krug will continue to be one of the most talked-about players on the roster this offseason, as Sweeney and the Bruins work on figuring out what to do with restricted free agent blue liners Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. If Sweeney intends to sign both of them long-term, that would make it harder to keep Krug and his $5.25 million cap hit while also looking to fill holes on the roster or improve elsewhere.
But when he spoke to reporters in his end-of-season press conference on Monday, Sweeney re-affirmed Krug's value to the team as one of the most dynamic, productive offensive defensemen in the National Hockey League and a locker room leader. If he were to move on from Krug, Sweeney would need a Godfather type of offer.
"Well, Torey’s an important part of our hockey club," Sweeney said. "I really was proud of his effort. Really took to heart being in a top-4 role this year - in the playoffs, in particular, when he was going to face matchups on the road, and handle them really well. The power play, the point, those things speak for themselves and have been throughout his time here. He’s a big part of our club.
"We’ll have an opportunity starting July 1 to open up talks. Again, the RFA market and some of our internal things will dictate the timing of those conversations. If somebody blew us away - every player has to be looked at in that way when you’re an organization, you just have to, you’re doing a disservice if you don’t. But it would take a pretty unique opportunity for us to part with Torey. We think he’s a big part of the fabric of our group. He’s kind of that next wave of leadership that we talk about, in behind some of the guys that have carried that mantle for a long time. But he’s an important part of our club."
Since his first full NHL season in 2013-14, Krug has scored the 10th-most points among all defensemen, and he did it despite having the fewest total ice time of anyone in the top-10. He's outscored the likes of Kris Letang, Drew Doughty, and Alex Pietrangelo in that span.
Krug will carry the 43rd-highest cap hit of all NHL defensemen in 2019-20, the final year of his deal. His offensive production alone should vault him closer to the top-20, meaning he'd cost at least the $6.35 million that Keith Yandle will get from the Panthers.
Considering Sweeney's need to extend McAvoy and ostensible desire to keep Carlo long-term, keeping Krug beyond next season might be an even bigger challenge than finding a trade partner for him. But it appears that Sweeney wants to commit to Krug as a top-4 defenseman.
Unfortunately for Sweeney, if he wants to make a substantial trade to improve in other areas, Krug might be his best chip outside of the RFAs. He probably needs to shed cap space somewhere, and the easy choices for that would be to jettison David Backes or David Krejci. But those guys would be much harder to trade and bring much less value than Krug would.
We know where Sweeney stands with Krug, though. If a team wants him they'll have to pay a sizable price.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].