If you read into David Krejci being back in Boston the week of the NHL Draft and free agency, you’re not crazy.
In touch with the Bruins since returning back to the United States (and even before that), conversations between Krejci’s reps and the Bruins have intensified in recent days, with the Bruins hoping to lure No. 46 back to the NHL.
“I’ve had numerous conversations with David Krejci about what his plans are. He spent a lot of time with his family as well and his decision could be forthcoming, and we are hopeful that it is with us,” said Bruins general manager Don Sweeney. “I think we would welcome him back, we said that to him last year, that the door is open.”
But it’s not as simple as, “Hey Krejci, the door is open. Come on through!” In addition to their Krejci aspirations, the Bruins have seemingly indicated that the Patrice Bergeron signing will become official ahead of free agency. They’re trying to do this with just over $2.3 million of cap space to their name, and without an LTIR bailout (call it ‘The Kucherov’) or cap-clearing trades currently considered a viable option given the list of injuries they’ll be dealing with out of the gate.
On Monday, Sweeney acknowledged that problem when it comes to plugging the 36-year-old Krejci back into the mix.
“We have to make the pieces of the puzzle fit the door financially in the cap world,” Sweeney admitted when discussing a Krejci return. “But I’ll do everything I possibly can to try and make that happen.”
For the Bruins, the easiest path to making that happen — and without disrupting their previously-stated desires, such as trading pieces off an already-uncertain depth chart and dipping too deep into the LTIR pool — is a one-year deal. (That’s exactly what they’re talking about, too, according to the latest update from ESPN’s Kevin Weekes.)
As a 35-plus player, a one-year deal for Krejci would allow the Bruins to get Krejci on their books with a relatively minuscule cap hit but add in easily attainable bonuses that ultimately bump Krejci closer to his real market value at the end of the year. For example, the Bruins could sign Krejci to a one-year deal with a cap hit of $1 million, but add in various incentives for games played ($500,000 for five games, another $1 million for 20 games, and so and so forth).
If this all sounds familiar, it’s because it’s exactly what the B’s did when they brought Jarome Iginla on board in 2013-14.
Now, if the Bruins didn’t have enough cap space to cover all of the potential Krejci bonuses at the end of the season, they would count as overages and be deducted from the team’s 2023-24 cap ceiling. (This killed them with Iginla.) A way to potentially avoid that for the Bruins would be to make an in-season, cap-clearing trade if and when fully healthy — like when Mike Reilly or Derek Forbort would become a $3 million seventh defenseman — upon Matt Grzelcyk’s return from injury.
The preference would certainly be the latter, as taking money away from your future cap is something teams rarely like to do. But the Bruins will have more financial flexibility in 2023, with over $25 million in projected cap space (David Pastrnak’s extension will eat up a significant chunk of that) and Jeremy Swayman the only non-Pastrnak free agent of consequence that summer. If the Bruins turn to more youth after this season, a slight overage penalty seems manageable.
Krejci is coming off a 2021-22 season that included 20 goals and 46 points for HC Olomouc of the Czech League. Krejci’s world tour extended outside of his hometown club, in fact, as he also recorded four points in four games in the 2022 Olympics in Beijing, and three goals and 12 points at the 2022 World Championships in Finland.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. He has been covering the Bruins since 2010, and has been a member of the Boston chapter of the PHWA since 2013. 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.