Would trading center David Krejci help Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney give the rest of his veteran core another chance at the Stanley Cup next season and also help him lock up the younger nucleus of the team?
Krejci, 33, has two years left at with a $7.2 million cap hit per season. The veteran Czech center is coming off a bounce-back season in which he matched his career high in points with 73 points. Unfortunately and unlike in previous runs to the Stanley Cup Final, Krejci wasn’t the dominant player he has been in the playoffs as finished with four goals and 12 assists in 24 games. In 2011 he led the team in points with 23 and in 2013 his 26 playoff points led not just the Bruins but the NHL. Despite his average playoff performance in 2019, his regular season has apparently given him greater value on the trade market again.
“Obviously with Donny being busy in the Final, GM’s probably weren’t calling him as much the last few weeks, but I can tell you there’s a buzz around Krejci again,” one NHL Assistant GM told BostonHockeyNow. “His cap hit could be an issue for sure, but he proved he’s still a No. 2 center in this league and if the Bruins really decide they need to, they could move him.”
An NHL Pro scout also told BostonHockeyNow that he had scouted Krejci “plenty” this past season and his team has interest.
Following their 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final Wednesday, the veteran core that won a Stanley Cup in 2011 and has now lost two Final series (2013, 2019), with the exception of Zdeno Chara, wondered if they may never get a chance to hoist Lord Stanley as teammates again? Chara (42), Krejci (33) Patrice Bergeron (33), Brad Marchand (31), Tuukka Rask (32), proved this season that they are all able to still compete for a Stanley Cup, but can Sweeney realistically keep the band together for another run next season and lock up the key younger restricted free agents he must sign as of this July 1 and then on July 1, 2020 as well.
Forward Danton Heinen (23) and defensemen Brandon Carlo (22) and Charlie McAvoy (21) are all restricted free agents up for contracts in 17 days and then a year from then Sweeney will need to lock up restricted free agent forwards Jake DeBrusk (22), Karson Kuhlman (23) and defensemen Matt Grzelcyk (25) and Connor Clifton (24). Sweeney also will likely try and keep an unrestricted free agent to be Marcus Johansson, who became a key cog on the third line and formed chemistry with center Charlie Coyle.
Clearly, Carlo and McAvoy are up for solid pay raises and Sweeney will surely sign them as they are key cogs on the blue line going forward. Given the fact that DeBrusk so far is the only member of Sweeney’s 2015 NHL Draft first-round trio that’s cracked the NHL and stayed, he will be a priority next summer as well. Defenseman Jakob Zboril and forward Zach Senyshyn have spent the majority of their time in Providence but they will be RFA’s next summer as well and if they crack the lineup and stay next season, then their value goes up too.
Let’s also not forget that defenseman Torey Krug – who is coming off a 53-point season and then 18 points in 24 playoff games – and Coyle – who finished tied for the team lead in playoff goals with nine lamplighters in 24 games – are both unrestricted free agents. Both could be looking at at least $6-7 million per season on the open market next summer if they deliver next season.
So how can Sweeney lock up the youth he needs to and still give the veteran leadership core that’s been the glue in the dressing room since 2011, one more chance to sip from the Cup? He just may not be able to. Bergeron and Chara are not going anywhere and will almost assuredly retire as Bruins. What about Rask? Well, his value has definitely gone back up after he backboned the Bruins to within 60 minutes of the Stanley Cup. However with the Bruins having no viable replacement – and no Jaro Halak is not a goalie that’s getting you that close to the Cup – you’re likely not improving. Rask’s got two years left at $7 million per, but as the Assistant GM above pointed out: “A team real close to contending for the Cup that needs a goalie would make it happen.” As for Marchand and Chara, team sources tell BostonHockeyNow, they won’t be going anywhere.
So that leaves Krejci as the only real trade bait from that core that Sweeney may be willing to deal. The question then though is, who replaces him in the No. 2 center slot? Well, maybe that’s why Sweeney went out and acquired Coyle, who is six years younger than Krejci? Yes, Coyle did a great job filling in as the third line pivot but he also proved in the playoffs he can log enough minutes and produce doing so, to be second on the depth chart. Would trading Krejci then enable Sweeney enough to lock up one of Carlo or McAvoy long term and then the other on a bridge deal?
Sweeney clearly has some decision making to do as far as that veteran core and the team’s future goes, but he still may be able to get the majority of that core and his younger players another crack at the Cup next season if he deals away Krejci.