By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Quarantine has turned basic things you need to, uh… survive, into adventures. Hobbies, at the very least. Eating? What else do I have to do? Sleeping? Let’s do it, I think I can hit 14 hours straight this time. Showering? I haven’t sweat in a week, and I still have absolutely nowhere to be, but it must be done for the third time in 36 hours.
And it was during a hobby shower that I found myself struck with an amazing idea. Maybe even my best yet: The Boston Bruins should back up the Brinks truck to pending free agent defenseman Torey Krug… on a one-year deal. I felt like Ray Liotta in Goodfellas just smacking the hell out of my bathroom wall but instead of “Jimmy” in between palms to the tile, it was “Torey!” and “Donny!”
Everything about Krug’s pending free agency has become a headache for Bruins general manager Don Sweeney, really. The Bruins want to keep Krug and Krug wants to remain a Bruin, but money’s become an obvious issue, and the expected cap woes of a league currently paused due to a worldwide pandemic aren’t helping. Just think about this: The salary cap was expected to rise by at least $2.5 million this offseason. Instead, we’re talking about the possibility of a ‘flat’ $81.5 million cap being the best case scenario.
Dr. Fauci might be smiling about this, but this is absolutely not the curve the NHL wanted to see flattened in 2020.
It’s just one of my several reasons why the idea of a one-year deal honestly seems like the best option for both parties.
With a ‘flat’ cap, you’re also talking about a depressed market. Teams aren’t going to be spending like they typically would, and the list of realistic Krug suitors drops. Drastically. Krug’s hometown Red Wings will have more than enough space to bring the Livonia native home, but they are years away from legitimately competing, especially in the Atlantic. The Kings could make a move, but they’re in the same boat in terms of contending (they’re just in denial). The Devils? Maybe. And while you have some contenders that could make a move, nothing seems set in stone like in UFA markets past where you were able to circle the teams (the Rangers and Panthers last year) looking to spend big money on new talent.
Krug, one of the most productive offensive defensemen in the entire league since bursting on the scene in 2013, deserves to get paid. And he deserves to get paid in a free agent market that’s actually going to, y’know, pay him. From all early indications, this market ain’t it. Even if it is and Krug gets his money, it’s probably going to in some aforementioned non-competitive hellhole that essentially wastes the years they’re truly paying for on a long-term, big-money deal.
In Boston, however, a one-year extension would allow Krug to hit the 2021 market with more suitors and options, and with the potential of having won a Cup given the B’s obvious win-now status.
Krug has also made a habit out of betting on himself (and winning on said bets), and there’s nothing that should scare him away from doing it one final time. Based on how he’s performed since breaking into the league — and how he was performing in 2019-20 prior to the league’s pause — the same money that there’s at 29 should still be there at 30 for the 5-foot-9 defender.
“I put together a resume that I’m very, very comfortable with and happy about,” Krug said before the 2019-20 season began. “You’ve just got to be patient and try to do your part, be a soldier.”
In this case, being a solider would be more than doing the Bruins a favor and sticking around for one more run. It’d outright allow them to avoid an expansion draft migraine that’s complicated the otherwise easy call of marrying Krug long term.
Should Krug remain with the Bruins on a long-term deal, it’d likely come with a no-trade clause early on (meaning he would have to be on the Bruins’ protected list) or with the B’s hoping that he’s actually around for those years. That would mean that the Bruins would open themselves up to losing Matt Grzelcyk in the expansion draft, assuming Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy are the B’s other protected defensemen. They’d prefer not to have that happen. Now, the Bruins could protect four defensemen, but that would allow them to protect just four forwards. (Quick refresher from the Vegas expansion draft: Teams are allowed to keep either seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie or eight forwards/defensemen and a goalie. The Bruins opted for the 7-3-1 format last time around.)
In short: Having to protect Krug exposes Grzelcyk, who would absolutely get scooped up by Rain City. Or protecting both Krug and Grzelcyk means exposing some combination of Jake DeBrusk, Sean Kuraly, Ondrej Kase, and/or Nick Ritchie. The Bruins have a lot invested in these guys, whether it’s through development or trade capital, so this probably doesn’t seem all that appealing to Sweeney.
But if Krug is on a one-year deal, the Bruins don’t have to worry about protecting an expiring contract (this is the case for David Krejci and Tuukka Rask), and this allows the Bruins to maximize the value of their protected assets. Win-win.
This seems like a pretty kick-ass deal for the Bruins. Across the board.
So what does Krug get out of it? That’s the big question in this total wild card of an idea.
The No. 1 answer: More money. If you’re Krug and you’re trading long-term security for a one-year waiting period, you’re going to need more than your expected payday to be sold that this is worth the risk. Instead of your $6.5 million per year, you’re probably talking $7-7.5 million for 2020-21. Maybe even a little bit higher.
This is that unique of a situation for all involved.
But that’s a gamble the Bruins can afford to take — and arguably should take — given the status of the rest of their free agent group and the age of their top talents. When talking about Boston’s $18 million in projected cap space, it’s important to note that DeBrusk’s inconsistent season has dropped him into bridge contract range, Anders Bjork is still fighting for a full-time role, and Grzelcyk’s raise won’t break the bank. Oh, and Zdeno Chara’s willingness to go year-to-year and take what’s left will continue to be be a godsend should the 43-year-old captain feel generous enough to do it again this summer. There’s enough cash in the B’s 2020 vault to make this worth it for everybody involved, you’d think.
Now, while everybody wants to maximize their earnings in an ideal spot, not everybody is on board with this idea of kicking the can to a summer where we’re all allowed to go outside. The Coyotes’ Taylor Hall, for example, has already talked about how he doesn’t wanna go through another contract year next year.
But if history tells us anything, that wouldn’t be a problem for Krug and the Bruins.
It’d be the complete opposite, in fact.