Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk is preparing for life on and off the ice without his mentor Torey Krug but that doesn’t mean he’s looking forward to it.
The common belief around the Boston Bruins and in NHL circles is that if Krug, a soon-to-be unrestricted free agent, doesn’t re-sign with the Bruins, Matt Grzelcyk will be depended on to fill the offensive and puck-moving void Krug leaves behind in Boston. If that becomes a reality, Grzelcyk, a soon-to-be restricted free agent, is ready.
“I’ve gotten thrust into that opportunity quite a different number of times, just a short stint, but I think that whenever I get in that position it’s a little different animal,” Matt Grzelcyk told the media in a Zoom call Thursday. “Torey can do quite a different number of things, how he moves down the wall is something that I haven’t really added to my game and things like that. When I’m in that position I’m kind of more of just facilitating and trying to get the first unit some good looks. They’re really special players so I’m just trying to make their jobs easier and give them the puck so they have more time and space to kind of make plays.”
Grzelcyk spoke to the media almost immediately after Krug told reporters he hasn’t heard from Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney yet but when he does, he will not be willing to accept a hometown discount or one-year, “bet on me” type contract again.
“I’m very opposed to that,” Krug said when asked if given the financial climate of the NHL and the pandemic he’d do a one-year contract. “I’ve bet on myself and I’ve taken shorter-term deals and less amount of money my whole career now. So this is my time, in terms of my value at its peak, and I have the ability, and I’m in a position now where I need to make the most of it. So I’m very opposed to something like that. I’ve done it long enough now and that’s the situation I’m facing.”
Like his teammates and legions of Bruins fans, Grzelcyk would love to see Krug and the Bruins find common ground on a multi-year deal.
“Obviously, I think we all hope that Torey is back,” said Grzelcyk. “He’s a huge part of the team, not only on the ice but off the ice as well and he means a lot to a lot of people in the organization…He is a huge part of the culture that we have here. He’s an instrumental leader and someone who we rely upon a lot.”
As Grzelcyk acknowledged on Thursday, Krug has become someone he’s relied upon a lot on and off the ice. The 29-year-old veteran rearguard has become a mentor to the 26-year-old Grzelcyk and the Charlestown native had nothing but praise and gratitude towards who he hopes won’t become a former teammate.
“I think Torey has had a huge impact on not only my career but my life in general,” Matt Grzelcyk said of Krug. “He’s a really great friend and a great leader like you said and ever since he’s kind of stepped in with the Bruins I’ve been watching really closely. I got to spend one development camp with him and then playing at BU got to watch him firsthand and watch him carve a role in this League and he’s done a great job with that and that’s really given me the motivation to try to get to the level that he’s at.
He’s a very smart hockey mind as well so I think that we kind of see the game in similar ways and it’s easy to have a quick conversation with him and ask him how he would approach certain situations or what he would do in a situation that I had been in on the ice and he’s really good at giving me a great answer. I really respect that and he’s been an unbelievable teammate ever since I’ve been here so I can’t say enough about him.”
If Krug does depart via free agency, Matt Grzelcyk will apply the lessons learned from Krug and also the Bruins coaching staff since he signed with the Bruins out of Boston University late in the 2016-17 season. The trust from the coaching staff has sparked some confidence in the young blueliner and Grzelcyk feels that his coaches have helped him improve each season.
“I think it gives me a lot of confidence as well to go in there and know that I can I can do that job when called upon, and it’s only been for a couple games at a time, but I think it gives me confidence just growing from the rest my game, bleeds into five on five,” said Grzelcyk. “I think playing with the puck more and getting more minutes, in general, I think you feel more and more comfortable as a player so it’s given me confidence over the years and I’ve been really thankful that the coaching staff has had trust in me to kind of fill that spot when necessary and so like I said hopefully Torey is back and we don’t have to worry about that.”
It’s looking more and more like that won’t be the case though and if so, Grzelcyk will be ready to go.