As the salary cap has continued to hamstring NHL teams and force them to say goodbye to players they drafted or signed at an early age and then developed into stars, the Boston Bruins have continued to find ways to get their stars and core players take a bit less to stay and compete for the Stanley Cup for much of the last decade. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak are all playing on contracts easily less than market value and now defenseman Torey Krug has made it clear that he too is willing to take less to keep the Bruins’ leadership core together and contend for a Stanley Cup.
Why would Krug, who can hit unrestricted free agency next July 1 and likely come close to doubling his current $5.2 million cap hit and AAV, want to pass up the chance at paydirt as a UFA? For the same reason, Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak all passed up their chance at the open market when they signed their respective contract extensions over the last ten years, winning!
“It means that we win,” third-year winger Jake DeBrusk said bluntly when asked what it means when star player like Krug is willing to take less to stay a Bruin. “It means that we’re a good team and anyone that says stuff like that, I think it speaks to the leadership group in here.”
Speaking at the NHL/NHLPA Preseason media tour last week, Krug let it be known, that despite extension talks between him and the Bruins being “nonexistent” he is willing to give up his chance at unrestricted free agency while he’s in his prime years as an NHLer. Krug wants to stay in Boston just as the rest of the team’s leadership core has done in recent years.
“Would I take less to stay in Boston?” Krug answered rhetorically during the first day of the NHL/NHLPA preseason media tour. on Thursday“It’s something that I’ve talked about with my family and my agent. It’s something I’m interested in. How much less — that’s a question that will be answered at a certain time. I think something that’s fair will be able to be worked out both ways. As long as they want me, I think something could be done, realistically. Everyone does it. How much they do, is kind of their own opinion and [dependent] on their own circumstances.”
When a team leader says something like that, it resonates amongst the younger players and reinforces the team-first culture that has been built into the Bruins dressing room.
“Even going to these captain’s practices and having this many guys around, it’s obviously a good group and we want to stay together,” Debrusk said this past Friday after the Bruins second of two Captain’s practices this preseason. “It’s obviously tough we lost Noel [Acciari] and ‘Mojo’ [Marcus Johansson] from last year and we’re going to miss those guys a lot but it’s not too too much turnover if that makes any sense? Not a lot of bodies anyways. So we’re close in here and obviously, Torey’s a really good player for us and obviously with the salary cap and different things like that, sometimes you have to do what you have to do.”
DeBrusk isn’t the only younger Bruin who realizes how lucky he is to have a leadership core that truly values winning as much as, if not more than money. Rookie Karson Kuhlman, who played six regular season games and eight playoff games last season, sees and feels it and couldn’t be happier to have become part of the Bruins winning culture.
“It’s pretty special the group of guys we have and definitely that leadership core is definitely something special,” the 23-year-old Kuhlman said. “I’m pretty lucky to have those guys everywhere you look in that locker room.”
What Kuhlman has noticed is a constant level of accountability in the Bruins’ dressing room, on the bench and on the ice, but at the same time, a calming influence for players like him adapting to the pro game.
“Obviously everybody’s nervous and stressed out going into your first pro season, let alone your first couple NHL games, but they were great,” Kuhlman said. “Obviously they hold you accountable, you’re there for a reason, but they also did a good job of lifting you up and helping you be confident and play your game.”