The 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs are starting to look more and more like the final phase for Torey Krug with the Boston Bruins. Sources have confirmed to Boston Hockey Now that while there is still a ‘mutual desire’ to sign Krug before he becomes an unrestricted free agent, that the team and Krug have ‘never been close’ on a deal. On Monday, Krug let it be known that he does not believe a flattened $81.5 million salary cap will alter the market for a premier puck-moving defenseman like himself when NHL free agency begins on October 7.
“I don’t think (my outlook has) changed, really,” Krug replied when asked in a Zoom media call Monday afternoon if he thought he may have to take less money and/or term.
Since the new Collective Bargaining Agreement was ratified and signed by the NHL and the NHLPA this past Friday night, there has been an undercurrent of buzz amongst management, agents and players alike that the flattened cap would force players into taking less than what the expected market – prior to the Coronavirus Pause on March 12 – appeared to be. Krug doesn’t think that the potential for a more prudent market will affect him. Krug – who was injured when the league paused but is healthy now – finished the 2019-20 regular season with 9 goals and 40 assists. This was the fifth straight season that Krug cracked the 40-point plateau. The 29-year-old rearguard believes his value on the open market is still high.
“I’m in a very unique situation being such a dynamic player that I’m not too concerned about what’s going to change, and I haven’t thought too much differently about it,” the Bruins leading scorer on the blue line for the last seven seasons said. “I’m kind of just taking the same approach, I’m giving you guys all these answers and these things because I want to be respectful of all your questions today, but as this thing moves on I just want to focus on what we can do here and now and we’ll move on from there. But my situation remains the same and what I’m looking for that remains the same as well. So, kind of conscious of the whole situation, but that’s kind of the scenario that’s playing out right now.”
Many around the league had teams like the Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings with Krug’s face smack dab in a giant target on their offseason planning board. The Canadiens and Rangers ended up making the Stanley Cup playoffs thanks to the 24-team NHL Return To Play playoff format but like the other two who won’t be dancing, this will be an important offseason for the present and future as well. All four also have good to excellent cap space in the offseason.
There’s been a growing feeling around the NHL that this CBA ironically could help the Bruins who are expected to have roughly $16.5-17 million in cap space still sign Krug on a short-term deal. This could give the team the flexibility they and 30 other teams so preciously will need going forward with this CBA and allow teams to recoup their COVID19 losses and have more money for UFA’s like Krug. This was why hall of fame and longtime New York Post hockey scribe Larry Brooks – an unapologetic union man – blasted the NHLPA for capitulating complete power of the CBA to the owners in these latest negotiations.
“A flat cap depresses wages and depresses opportunities for free agents and makes it more difficult for successful teams to remain intact,” Brooks said in his most recent Sunday column. This is Nirvana for Sixth Avenue, which faces no pressure from any constituency to increase revenue. The owners have their 50 percent.
Teams will adjust. The ones that are well-managed will succeed. Those that are not, will not. The fans get six years of labor peace. The owners rake it in.”
Krug, the Bruins NHLPA player rep, doesn’t see it that way all. He sat in on the negotiations that led to the potentially season-saving CBA and came away happy for his union brothers, the league, and himself.
“I was on every single one of those phone calls and going through the different scenarios and it was a good deal for us, to get something to protect ourselves in the short-term in order to have long-term success as a league,” Krug said of the new CBA that many, like Brooks, felt the players got the raw end of the stick in. “I thought it was a good deal and I’m happy that both sides ratified it so that we can move on here.”
As Krug stated, he is coming away with the same approach on free agency, but what about Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney, whom Krug has consistently let the media know, hasn’t really ever kicked negotiations into even second gear? Or even other NHL GM’s eyeing his potential services to their blueline?
“As far as myself, I think that huh. …”I don’t really know what’s going to happen,” the always honest Krug said. “I’m just trying to take it day-by-day and worry about the playoffs right now. I’ll have to probably prepare for free agency and we’ll see what happens there but in terms of what’s going on with the Bruins and everyone else, that’s probably a question for someone else.”
Sweeney said Sunday that he would reach out to all of his UFA’s and restricted free agents during Phase 3 but also cautioned he won’t be ‘overly aggressive’. With the Bruins and the NHL one day into training camp and what Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said would be a ‘sprint’ it appears the passive-not-so-aggressive approach of Sweeney will continue for now and Krug will try and help the team raise their seventh Stanley Cup in what could be his swang song with the Bruins.