Imagine if the next time the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins squared off in the next chapter of their storied rivalry, Torey Krug is quarterbacking the Habs’ powerplay?
Speaking during his daily segment on ‘Melnick In The Afternoon’ Thursday, NHL on NBC and TSN Analyst Pierre McGuire suggested the Canadiens – who currently have $22.4 million in cap space – should be one of those teams that show Krug the money in free agency. 32-year-old Jeff Petry is the Habs’ No.1 powerplay quarterback and McGuire wondered whether Petry might be able to help lure his former Michigan State teammate Krug to not only come to Montreal via free agency but also take his spot and move Petry back onto the second unit?
“This is offseason stuff that [Montreal] will have to try and do,” McGuire pointed out when discussing the Canadiens needing to find a true, bonafide powerplay quarterback. “I don’t think they’ll be able to do it through free agency unless. …unless Boston doesn’t sign Torey Krug and Torey Krug has an appetite to go play with a Michigan State guy like Petry. I don’t know, you asked me, I’m giving you an idea. What I would do if I’m involved with the Canadiens, that’s one of the players I would try and get in the offseason because of the relationship he has with Jeff Petry.”
Another high-end defenseman that may hit the market is St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo but as McGuire pointed out he’s not exactly what the Habs need.
“Alex Pietrangelo is good at that but he’s different than Krug,” McGuire said. “Krug’s not as good in the 200-foot game but he’s better in the 60-foot game if you follow me.
For the Bruins and their fans, the thought of the Bruins’ highest and most consistent scoring defenseman in the Bleu, Blanc, Rouge is likely more uncomfortable than the renovated balcony seats at TD Garden. Unfortunately, much like the chances of those seats becoming more expensive next season, the reality is that it’s likely Krug will be hitting the open market July 1 when he can become an unrestricted free agent. Throughout the season, numerous NHL scouts and management, as well as NHL agents have told BHN that Krug can expect to sign a contract worth upwards of $8 million per season if and when he becomes an unrestricted free agent four months from Sunday.
Can Bruins Afford Krug?
The Bruins cleared out $5.3 million in cap space in their trades for Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie before Monday’s NHL trade deadline. One would believe that cap space was acquired so that they will have a better chance to sign Krug. When asked if talks with Krug and his agent Wade Arnott had or will pick up now that the Bruins have a bit more wiggle room, Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney’s answer didn’t exactly say yes.
“I don’t have an update in terms of a timeline,” Sweeney said in his post-trade deadline press conference Monday. “We’ve continued to stay in communication with Torey. Whether or not we find one at an appropriate time between now and the end of the year, I don’t know yet. We’ll have talks, they’ve been very cordial, both sides sort of understand where they are. And whether or not we can bridge something along those lines is to be determined.”
Krug, on more than one occasion but not since September, has stated he’d be willing to take a hometown discount to stay a Bruin. However, with Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork, Karson Kuhlman, and Matt Grzelcyk set to become restricted free agents on July 1 and Zdeno Chara, Jaro Halak and Kevan Miller able to join Krug in unrestricted free agency, McGuire doesn’t see how the Bruins will have enough cap space to sign Krug because he doesn’t believe that hometown discount will be much of a discount at all.
“They are going to have cap issues here,” said McGuire after noting the strong history between Sweeney and Krug after Sweeney played an instrumental role in helping the Bruins sign Krug as a college free agent in March 2012. “They’re going to have cap issues; it’s reality and I don’t know if they’re going to be able to sign him to what he’s looking for and again, I don’t want to speak for Torey, this is just my own opinion, I don’t believe he’s going to give them a hometown discount. So I think that’s where it’s going to be a problem.
They’ve got guys internally that are good, they’re not as good as him,” McGuire said. “Grzelcyk’s good; McAvoy’s obviously really good. Long term, Connor Clifton’s a good player, they really like Connor Clifton. So they’ve got some players that can play; they’ve got some guys down in Providence too that can play but they won’t be able to replace him and I think he does become available just because of cap-related issues, nothing else.”
So while Bruins fans may scoff at the idea of Krug becoming teammates with Petry and playing for head coach Claude Julien with the Habs or another rival club, the chances of that happening are becoming better with every day that goes by without real contract talks between Krug and the Bruins. Both have made it clear to each other and the public that won’t happen until the Bruins’ season ends but by then, the Canadiens and other clubs will be circling like Sharks on blood and waiting for the free agency “interview period” to begin.