By Fluto Shinzawa
Uploaded by: Martin Arnold
The Bruins have a tradition. At the conclusion of every practice, one player with a connection to the next opponent leads the stretch.Before the Bruins played the Sharks last month, Sean Kuraly, drafted by San Jose in 2011, had the honors. On Thursday at Warrior Ice Arena, prior to their flight to Detroit for Friday’s game, Torey Krug, a native of Livonia, Mich., slid to the middle of the ice.
It just so happens that Krug could be a future Red Wing.
These are the facts with Krug, the Bruins, his expiring contract and his next deal:
• The 28-year-old wants to stay in Boston. The Bruins feel the same way.
• Krug commands ownership of the best power-play unit in the league, while growing into a trusted 5-on-5 defenseman alongside Brandon Carlo.
•Krug’s best chance to win his first Stanley Cup is with the Bruins, both this season and in the 2-3 years to follow.
• The Bruins will not trade Krug before the deadline on Feb. 24, 2020.
• Lewis Gross, Krug’s agent, has spoken with general manager Don Sweeney regarding an extension.
• Krug will get more money on the free market.
Everything else is unknown.
“If you’re Torey Krug, how much less will you take to be on a winner?” one agent asked. “If you’re on a winner, you have to take less money to fit under the cap.”
The agent, along with an assistant GM, were asked how much Krug could get on July 1, 2020, compared to how well he could do on a Black-and-Gold extension.
Naturally, the numbers did not align.
The agent, who acts on behalf of players, believed the Bruins would re-sign Krug to an eight-year deal with a $7.5 million average annual value. It would make Krug the highest-paid player on the team.
If Krug reached unrestricted free agency, the agent projected the bidding would start at $8 million annually at the seven-year maximum term. The comparable would be the seven-year, $56 million deal the Rangers gave to Jacob Trouba — coincidentally, another Michigan native.
In comparison, the AGM, whose job is to sign players to the lowest amount possible, believed the Bruins’ ceiling for Krug would be five years at $6.5 million annually. Krug would remain below David Krejci ($7.25 million AAV), Tuukka Rask ($7 million), Patrice Bergeron ($6.875 million) and David Pastrnak ($6,666,666). On the open market, the AGM pegged Krug to a seven-year, $49 million contract.
As you can see, not everybody agrees on Krug’s worth.
Where outside parties concur is on Detroit’s status as a team with hand raised high for Krug’s services if he doesn’t re-up with Boston. The Wings are Krug’s hometown club. He played for coach Jeff Blashill in Indiana of the USHL. Detroit, which has the sixth-worst power play in the league, is desperate for a man-advantage quarterback. First-year GM Steve Yzerman would consider Krug a cornerstone signing in his rebuild. It would be affirming for a hometown boy to lead an organizational revival.
“It’s, ‘Where do you want to live? Where do you want to spend your life?’ ” the agent said. “At this stage of his career, this will take you close to the end. The Yzerman factor is huge there in Detroit. He’s great at recruiting players. He doesn’t have the tax advantage like he did (in Tampa Bay). But he gets free agents. He gets people to buy in. It’s 2-3 years of pain, then it will turn the other way.”
The question is how much Krug would value the certainty of more money and the possibility of longer term elsewhere compared to the comforts he already knows. Krug plays a critical role on a Cup contender. He has developed a good relationship with Bruce Cassidy. Krug enjoys a nice family situation in Boston with wife Melanie and daughter Saylor.
Those latter factors give the Bruins some bargaining power. The team also has internal options, albeit not as robust: Charlie McAvoy or Matt Grzelcyk on the No. 1 PP unit and Jakub Zboril, Urho Vaakanainen and Jeremy Lauzon at even strength.
The Bruins do not want Krug to walk. His presence overlaps with the remaining high-end years of Zdeno Chara, Bergeron, Krejci and Rask. Krug could also be part of the next core alongside McAvoy, Marchand and Pastrnak.
But the Bruins have limits to what they will spend and how long they will make their investment. Krug will be 29 at the start of 2020-21. It is a questionable age at which to start a seven-year deal. It’s why the executive projected a five-year re-up.
The Bruins have also yet to pay anyone more than the $7.25 million annually that Krejci claimed on Sept. 7, 2014. Even when dealing with elite players, inflation, a rising cap and a changing market, Sweeney did not test that threshold when he re-signed Marchand, Pastrnak or McAvoy.
“$$ wise keeps him around Krejci, Pasta, Bergeron,” the AGM wrote in a text. “(For term), matches him w/Marchand and keeps him (two years) past Pasta.”
On Oct. 29, Roman Josi agreed to an eight-year, $72.472 million extension with Nashville. On Sept. 14, Jared Spurgeon re-signed with Minnesota for seven years and $53 million. Whether Krug will join their company is unknown.
“They’re going to be disciplined with it,” the agent said of the Bruins. “If he walks, they’ll use the money elsewhere. They’ll have Charlie run the first power play. They have a backup that way. They’ve got to pay Charlie down the road too. But they’ll be disciplined. They’ll set a number. And they won’t go above it.”