After signing a seven-year, $45 million contract with the St. Louis Blues on the opening day of free agency, former Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug essentially confirmed that he knew for a while he likely wasn’t coming back to the Bruins. As Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong explained on Sportsnet Hockey Central Wednesday though, he had no idea Krug wouldn’t be returning to the only team he’s known since starting his career in 2012. That’s why, once Armstrong knew his former captain and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo wasn’t coming back to St. Louis and would test the market, he and his staff immediately honed in on Krug as their top target.
“Well, I’ll go back to the two weeks prior to that if I can,” Armstrong told Hockey Central Host Justin Bourne. “Our focus was always trying to get Pietrangelo signed if we could. As each day crept closer and closer to free agency it looked less and less like we were going to get something done. Both Alex and we made a strong effort on Thursday [October 8] to get something done. When it got to 11 o’clock central time, we knew that our ability to get that eighth year and bring down the AAV was gone so I knew that the likelihood of him coming back was a lot less than it was with the eighth year.”
Thankfully, Armstrong and his staff had prepared for the moment and while they didn’t welcome it, they needed to move fast and get the guy they felt would help them remain Stanley Cup contenders.
“So, we got. …we were disappointed but you know in our business, you get up the next day and you say: ‘what’s the next best scenario?’ and we had talked about it before,” Armstrong recalled. “It was a long three hours, honestly, from 8-11 hoping that Krug, who was the number one player for us, that we didn’t see anything come across that he and Boston had agreed to terms.”
Little did they know, Torey Krug had given his agent Lewis Gross the green light to hit the ground running when the clock struck noon on October 9 and Armstrong made sure the Blues were one of the first teams Gross and Krug spoke to. Thankfully for all involved, it was an immediate fit.
“When 11 o’clock central rolled around that day, he was our first call,” Armstrong said. “An introductory call. …I had a call with him and then I arranged a call with him and Craig. At that point you’re not talking finances, you’re talking more fit on the team, what we’re trying to accomplish. He’s a player, I think looking at our group, he’s coming in, our age group is very similar to him. He sees a path to winning over the term of his contract.”
After pitching the team and everything that it stands for, the Blues GM, Gross, and Torey Krug got down to the nitty-gritty of the finances and the nuances of an NHL player contract.
“So I sort of walked through the veteran players, the middle-aged players, the younger players and how we were going to bring him into a sustainable group over seven years and then we got to the finances,” Armstrong recalled. “You have peaks and valleys over those two to three hours of the financial talk. You have to go through term and signing bonus and no-movement clause, no-trade clauses and then you’re really not sure who you’re competing against so it’s pins and needles.”
In the end, Armstrong was happy to have Krug and proud to be with a franchise that could lure a player as highly coveted as Torey Krug was.
“We got it done because we’re a big-time organization,” Armstrong said. “I think the players understand the business part of it but they also want to be part of a team. So obviously no one was excited when Alex decided not to stay in St. Louis but I think our players felt comfortable that as an ownership group and a management group, that we were going to respond to that decision and bringing in Krug and [Kyle] Clifford, I think made them feel that they’re losing a good friend but we’re still going to be a competitive hockey team.”