There’s always a point in every young Boston Bruins player’s career, or any NHL player for that matter, when they realize that the NHL can be cold, big business just as much as it’s still a kid’s game.
One might have suspected it was Charlie McAvoy’s first contract negotiation prior to signing his three-year, $14.7 million with the Bruins a little over a year ago. But apparently that wasn’t it as the departure of Torey Krug via free agency to St. Louis appears to be hitting the 22-year-old defenseman pretty hard at this point.
Krug has obviously been a prolific scoring defenseman for the Bruins over the last seven years and developed into a terrific young leader in the veteran B’s dressing room. But it feels like the Boston Bruins will still be figuring out how to fill the Krug void when training camp eventually hopefully opens up in the next month or so.
“It’s the first time we’ve really lost a really big piece in free agency. It sucks. It [expletive] sucks, man,” said McAvoy, while chatting entertainingly with the “Cam & Strick Podcast” about his hockey path through Long Island, the US National Development Team Program and BU prior to joining the Boston Bruins. “As soon as I saw he signed I texted him and then he Facetimed me and we were shooting the [expletive]. I didn’t know what to say. It just sucks.”
McAvoy wasn’t a normal defensive partner with Krug and the move may end up being individually beneficial for the young D-man as it may mean first unit power play time for him in the future.
But it’s pretty clear Krug’s absence is going to leave a mark both on and off the ice after he was one of the first Bruins players to befriend the teen-aged McAvoy when he first joined the team.
“TK was one of the first people to take me under his wing right away from the moment I got there. We still work out together in the summers. So, we work out together every day. He’s just an unbelievable guy. Everybody there is going to love him. Everybody on the team is going to love him. He’s just a really likeable guy,” said McAvoy. “I’m still sad he’s not on our team, honestly. It definitely sucks.
“It still doesn’t even feel real right now that we’ll be showing up in training camp and he’s not going to be there. [St. Louis] got a really good player. He’s a gifted defenseman, especially on the offensive side of the puck. He sees the game so well. He’s going to make the Blues a better hockey team.”
McAvoy is coming off a season where he posted five goals and 32 points in 67 games and is clearly projecting to be Boston’s No. 1 defenseman next season after averaging a team-high 23:10 of ice time last season. There’s a feeling McAvoy still has another level or two he can reach offensively with more PP time and plain-old experience given his elite skill set, and he’ll get to see exactly how good he can be amongst the young B’s defensemen corps.
But McAvoy didn’t shy away from the reality that Krug’s absence, and the uncertainty around 43-year-old captain Zdeno Chara, leave the B’s back end in a bit of a “restructuring” mode as they prepare for the upcoming season.
“I’m definitely excited to be where I am with this team. We’re in this weird place to be. I haven’t been in this place before with this team where we’re kind of restructuring on the back end,” said McAvoy, on the Cam & Strick Podcast. “Nobody knows what’s going to happen with [Zdeno Chara] and all that. But whatever the challenge is, I know I’ll be ready for it.
“I’ve had a growing role over the last three years. I don’t think anything is really to change next year, so I don’t really have to gear up for anything. I don’t have to do anything I’m not already doing.”
It’s encouraging to hear that McAvoy is ready for the challenge this season because the Bruins are going to need him at his optimal level from beginning to end based on their offseason.