Did Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney just take the first step to keeping 28-year-old star defenseman Torey Krug in a Bruins uniform past this season?
The acquisition of winger Ondrej Kase could very well help the Boston Bruins now and in the future. Thanks to the cap flexibility – just about $3 million in cap space – that Sweeney and the Bruins gained by unloading David Backes and his 75 percent of the $6 million cap hit in the trade that also sent a 2020 first round draft pick and prospect Axel Andersson to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Kase, they can either use their $3.9 million in cap space (per Capfriendly) to try and add more scoring depth or save it for the offseason. Should they choose the former, they will have more to offer Krug in an effort to prevent him from leaving via unrestricted free agency, where many believe he can make upwards of seven years and $8 million per season against the cap.
The Bruins and the unrestricted free-agent-to-be defenseman have not had any new discussions on a contract extension since last summer when Krug on more than one occasion made it clear he is willing to take a hometown discount. They do however have a mutual understanding that they will revisit the topic after what they hope is a playoff run that goes one game further than last season. As of February 6, the Bruins had also assured Krug and his agent Wade Arnott that they had no intentions of trading Krug, who has eight goals and 33 assists and leads all Bruins defenseman with 41 points.
The hope is that Kase – who has seven goals and 16 assists in 49 games – can come in and at the least provide flexibility in the Bruins’ middle-six forward group, if not fill the scoring void on the right side of David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk on the second line. The 24-year-old winger does have a 20-goal season under his belt in five NHL seasons. Kase – who has one year remaining on his contract with a $2.6 million cap hit – comes at a much cheaper price than some of the higher-profile wingers the Bruins and other Stanley Cup contenders have been targeting. For example, New Jersey Devils winger Kyle Palmieri has another year left with a $4.6 million cap hit. New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider, the big fish on the trade market, would’ve been a rental but he would’ve required sending a roster player and better prospect to the Rangers. Multiple sources confirmed to BHN Saturday as well, that the Rangers were also not willing to take on any of Backes’s remaining cap hit.
The Bruins are still searching for more scoring depth after trading for Kase Friday. They’re even considering bringing home former Bruins captain Joe Thornton from the San Jose Sharks for what would likely be the last chance for the 40-year-old center that they drafted first overall back at the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, to capture that elusive Stanley Cup. Word around the league is the Bruins haven’t given up on potentially acquiring Palmieri either. If the Bruins can’t pull off another trade though, Sweeney doesn’t seem too concerned.
“I don’t know what will be or can be done,” Sweeney replied Friday when asked if We’ll continue to make calls and look at different opportunities that may exist. For us, I’d like to pay attention to Ondrej and the potential he brings to our hockey club. As I said before, we did see his scoring abilities, his versatility, his own game, ability to probably play either with [David] Krejci or [Charlie] Coyle on that right side, he’s a right shot. Adds to the speed and offensive ability to our hockey club. For us, we’ve addressed what we think we need and also doesn’t take away from any of the players we have on our current roster and the players that have been pushing from down below from a depth perspective to continue to have our club hopefully staying healthy throughout our last twenty games and into the playoffs.”
If Sweeney doesn’t add more salary, he will have the cap space gained from the Kase trade and potentially $5.7 million more should Zdeno Chara ($2 million), Joakim Nordstrom ($1 million) and goalie Jaro Halak ($2.7 million), all UFA’s don’t come back. So for Bruins fans ready to pounce on Sweeney for not getting Kreider or if he can’t add Palmieri or Thornton or another forward, remember that the Bruins roster that took the ice in Vancouver without Kase Saturday night to close out their four-game road trip, was ten points clear of the St. Louis Blues, team that beat them in the Stanley Cup Final for the best record in the NHL. They’re in pole position for home advantage through the playoffs and they now have a better chance of not just winning the Cup but keeping their powerplay quarterback and a key leader in Krug.