The first day of free agency didn’t come with any sort of resolution on the David Krejci front for the Boston Bruins.
After some conflicting reports on Krejci’s status leading up to the start of free agency — the New England Hockey Journal’s Kirk Luedeke reported that the Bruins and Krejci were nearing an agreement while The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa reported that Krejci had yet to make a decision on his future — Krejci and the Bruins remained without a new deal or even a clear path to a new deal by the time Bruins general manager Don Sweeney spoke with the media shortly after 6 p.m. on Wednesday night.
“David and I have communicated pretty consistently over the last little while,” Sweeney, who signed 10 players and made one trade by the time he made it to his Zoom session, said. “Nothing has changed on that front. He has his own reasons and he’s going to keep those private, as I am, in terms of what his timeline is.
“We’ve left things completely open-ended about him possibly returning to play for us. So, it’s not a definitive timeline.”
Speaking with reporters at the end of the 2021 season, Krejci made it clear that an extension with the Bruins was not going to be about the money. He’s coming off a six-year run as Boston’s highest-paid player, so the wallet isn’t exactly hurting. He also seemed to make it clear that the Bruins are the only NHL team he wants to play for. So, you’re not going to see a bidding war.
Instead, it’s about what Krejci wants to do, and more specifically as it relates to his family life and home country. Playing in the Czech Republic remains of interest to the 35-year-old pivot, who first spoke of that interest almost a decade ago now. But for Krejci, this isn’t about pulling a Jaromir Jagr and reviving your hometown’s pro team, but rather reconnecting with his family, as Krejci acknowledged that his parents do not speak English and that his children do not speak Czech.
It seems (understandably) important for Krejci, who spends his offseasons in South Carolina, to get his family connected on the same level from a pure communication point. And it’s not hard to see why that would become a priority when spending the last 18 months living through a pandemic and with the second-half of his 30s officially upon the 15-year veteran.
Krejci’s reasoning is as sound as can be.
And the Bruins, for what it’s worth, seem to be respectful of that.
It even sounds like there’s indeed an open-door policy when it comes to Krejci. And that may be thanks to a Day 1 flurry that included the signing of veteran and versatile forwards such as Nick Foligno, Erik Haula, and Tomas Nosek.
“As you can see from several of the signings and the approach that we took, the center ice position, a little bit by committee, that we’re going to have to do that and allow some players to get into spots and hopefully perform to the level that they’re capable of,” Sweeney acknowledged. “With Charlie Coyle coming off surgery — again, we wanted to identify players, and really two-positional players — in Foligno’s case, a three-position player – all of them good on draws, all of them on the penalty kill. Several of them have played power play situations and providing depth throughout our lineup was really important.”
A ‘by committee’ approach isn’t exactly inspiring when talking about something as important as your second-line center. But the B’s gamble on Haula, who has become a hybrid of sorts as both a wing and center, comes with the hope that he can recapture the magic that saw him pot a career-high 29 goals and 55 points as the Vegas second-line center in 2017-18.
The 6-foot-2 Nosek is an interesting option, too, and is coming off a career-high 18 points for the Golden Knights in 2021. The Bruins were impressed with the work he did on the Knights’ third line, and similar to their feelings on Haula, the Bruins believe that he can be a player who moves up a line or two in a pinch or remains slotted in the bottom six as a “driver.”
The Bruins also have Jack Studnicka in the wings as a potential option (and aside from a short-lived fourth-line experimentation, the Bruins have pretty upfront about wanting to put Studnicka in a top-six role when called upon), and the Bruins are committed to moving Trent Frederic back to his natural center position for 2021-22 should he prove capable.
There’s just so many different ways for the Bruins to shake this mix up. And the Bruins have tried to cover all their bases. As best as one can on the first day of free agency while also keeping some cap space available, anyway.
But it’s clear that they hope it ends with Krejci back with the Bruins, and back with the recently re-signed Taylor Hall, to keep the Bruins’ one-two on the second line intact, and they’re willing to wait as long as they have to for that to happen.
“David is a unique player and he’s been a tremendous Bruin and a highly productive player throughout his career,” said Sweeney. “And again, we hope that that will continue. But along that timeline of when he sees fit, not when we do.”
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.