Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney is not out of the woods yet. Per an NHL source close to the situation, as of Friday, defenseman Torey Krug and forward Charlie Coyle had still not heard from team management on a potential contract extension.
The team’s present and the future still very much hinge on whether or not Sweeney signs the 28-year-old Krug and 27-year-old Coyle to contract extensions or lets them hit unrestricted free agency next July 1. Should the Bruins decide to wait until after the upcoming season to try and sign both Krug and Coyle in that short window before teams can start courting the two players in their prime years, they are truly taking a major risk and could end up rendering all of Sweeney’s brilliant work as a GM moot.
Despite some more salary cap wizardry in locking up restricted free agent defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo for just a combined $7.2 against the salary cap, Sweeney’s most challenging task still hasn’t even started. How Sweeney navigates through the tricky waters ahead, where he must decide whether or not to invest in long-term deals with a hefty pay raises for Krug and Coyle, could determine how long the Bruins’ Stanley Cup window truly is. Not only has Krug been the highest-scoring defenseman for the Bruins for four straight seasons but Coyle has provided stability up the middle and a matchup gem for head coach Bruce Cassidy. Equally, both are key leaders in the dressing room, even Coyle, who was traded to the Bruins last February.
As reported here earlier this week, Sweeney and head coach Cassidy already made it clear to both Coyle and Krug that they view them as the next wave of leaders in the dressing room and that they want them around to nurture and lead the talented core of youth the Bruins have built in recent years.
“I came in right after they won the Cup, been to two finals and come up short now,” Krug told Boston Hockey Now recently. “Obviously coming within one game of winning it, I can understand what it takes to win and want to be part of that group that’s won before. I serve as that bridge between the younger group that’s come in and trying to establish themselves as the next group of leaders.
Obviously, our current veteran group, the older guys, and I take a lot of pride in relating to guys in the locker room. It doesn’t matter what age you are, what you’re background is, I tend to go have dinner with everyone at some point in the season, and I have that connection with everyone.”
As for Coyle, Brad Marchand, a member of that Stanley Cup core that Marchand alluded to, credited Coyle for already emerging as a respected voice in the dressing room and on the ice.
“He’s been just awesome,” Marchand told Boston Hockey Now. “He’s vocal when he needs to be and he’s become a big part of our dressing room.”
Marchand and plenty of Coyle’s teammates have also credited him for being the best Bruin in training camp and the preseason thus far.
“He’s a great player. He’s dialed in this year,” said of Coyle who nine goals and 16 points in 24 playoff games last spring. “He’s been incredible from the first day of camp until now. He’s been by far the best player [in camp]. He’s just dominating in every area right now.”
So what is the reigning GM of the Year waiting for exactly? He has had just under two weeks to shift gears towards Krug and Coyle after signing McAvoy and Carlo. Despite Krug continually expressing a willingness to take less to remain a Bruin past this season and Coyle likely willing to do the same so he can continue to play for his hometown team, there’s been no communication from 100 Legends Way and the revamped TD Garden where the Bruins will play their final tuneup against the Chicago Blackhawks Saturday before the 2019-20 regular season begins for them in Dallas against the Stars next Thursday. Of course, less will still mean a significant raise from Krug’s current $5.2 million cap hit and the $3.2 million cap hit Coyle carries, but the fact both would pass up money on the open market to stay in Boston should’ve at least been enough for negotiations to have already begun.
Sweeney indicated to the media when he signed Carlo, he still has some “forecasting” to do before he moved on to Coyle and Krug. Well, he better check the Doppler radar soon to see what life without both players would mean for the Bruins! The forecast from not just here, but more importantly in the Bruins dressing room is dreary at best. Letting this linger into the season and even worse to the NHL Trade Deadline on February 24, could make that forecast dire.