One of the bigger questions facing Boston Bruins General manager Don Sweeney this offseason will be whether or not to bring center, David Krejci, back for another year or let him walk in unrestricted free agency. Numerous NHL sources have already told Boston Hockey Now that while teams won’t pay a $7.2 million annual salary-cap hit as the Bruins have done for this season and the previous five, he is still viewed as a top echelon No. 2 center on any Stanley Cup contender and even a No.1 for non-contending teams.
“He’s very well respected and appreciated around the league,” one NHL management source told BHN when asked about David Krejci’s value. “I know our team would be fine at $5-5.5 million for a year or two.”
A team source has also told BHN that there is ‘mutual interest’ from the Bruins and David Krejci on a new contract but as they stated before the season and because of the unprecedented cap juggling Sweeney and every NHL GM has been forced into this season, they’ll likely revisit in the offseason.
So why, after so much success and even while he is still a key player on the Boston Bruins, do so many in the local media and plenty of Bruins fans already have the Bruins letting David Krejci walk?
“I don’t think it’s because of his contract,” Cassidy said Tuesday morning when asked if he thought Krejci’s $7.2 million cap hit is underappreciated. “He’s a guy that’s played well for this team for a long time and anybody that signs term, there’s always a risk at the end there’s people that might say – and again – it’s just people’s opinion – but they may say ‘He’s not playing like an x-dollar amount of player’ and there could be times in the deal where he’s playing above that number too. So, there’s a little bit of that that goes into those long-term deals, you gotta balance it out.”
As he always seems to do when the games become more important, David Krejci is heating up again and will take a four-game point streak into tonight’s tilt with the Buffalo Sabres in Buffalo.
It’s no coincidence that Krejci has three goals and an assist in the four games since the Boston Bruins acquired Taylor Hall from the Sabres at the NHL Trade Deadline but that doesn’t mean his recent performance should be attributed solely to Hall’s arrival. Despite the fact that Krejci has been a beast during two of the Bruins’ last three runs to the Stanley Cup Final and was the main reason they won in 2011, it seems ever since Sweeney signed him to a six-year, $43.2 million extension back in 2015, his consistency at this time of year has and continues to go underappreciated by a large contingent Boston media and fans.
While Cassidy can understand Krejci’s contract clouding people’s opinions of him, he also knows there’s plenty maybe that outside of the organization or those not around the team every day don’t see, that makes him underappreciated.
“For me, ‘underappreciated’ is a good word,” Cassidy went on. “I think there’s a lot of knowledgeable people in the New England hockey market, and people I talk to outside of here quite honestly, in Canada, friends back home, that really appreciate what David brings. Other people less so because maybe he’s not as dynamic looking as the Marchy’s [Brad Marchand] and the Pasta’s [David Pastrnak]. He’s not on the penalty kill anymore so he doesn’t get what ‘Bergy’ [Patrice Bergeron] gets, the shorty’s and the 200-foot game but I think what’s really underappreciated with ‘Krech’, and there’s a couple things: He’s a great teammate. He’s low maintenance, he’s trying to make people better.
The second part is his defensive game. His game away from the puck is very solid. He’s very positionally sound and probably could be a penalty killer but we just went different directions over the years and even before I got here in terms of using other people and building people into that role. But that’s David and he’s quiet about it. He’s going to accept responsibility for whenever you put him out there and in any situation. He’s a guy that probably could’ve handled more. Now he’s getting a little bit older so it’s tough to ask guys to play in every facet of the game, we certainly do with ‘Bergy’ and we do with ‘Krech’ on 5-on-5 and driving the line but no I wouldn’t put it on his contract. If people do, that’s their opinion.”
Cassidy added that Krejci’s humble and quiet demeanor is likely another reason for the lack of appreciation.
“He’s a quiet guy that goes about his business,” Cassidy pointed out. “You don’t see him a lot in front of the media and he’s kind of a shy guy that answers the questions and moves on. Some of that is just how he comports himself as well. He’s not a guy trumpeting himself or looking for extra attention too. But I think people in hockey, truly appreciate what he does; how good he’s been for the Bruins and what he’s meant to this team.”
Krejci has five goals and 23 assists in 39 games this season. Is that worth $7.2 million? At face value not really but as Cassidy pointed out, there’s a lot more value to Krejci than just points and it’s likely, unlike Krejci’s critics, Sweeney will once again consider that too when deciding whether or not to sign Krejci past this season.