Boston Bruins center David Krejci sounded incredibly conflicted during his zoom exit interview with the media last month at the end of Boston’s playoff run when it came to his hockey plans for next season. The 35-year-old playmaking center was torn about continuing with the Boston Bruins at the end of his contract or heading back to his native Czech Republic where his young children could learn the language, experience the Czech culture firsthand and spent more time with Krejci’s family after living in the USA for pretty much the entire year during his NHL career. For a player that’s made over $70 million in his career with the Boston Bruins, it’s impossible to put a price tag on those kinds of things that are obviously important to Krejci.
On Friday, Krejci finally answered the question and released a statement confirming that he will indeed play hockey in the Czech Republic for the upcoming season.
Here’s the statement:
“Dear Bruins Fans:
In January of 2007 when I pulled the Black and Gold sweater on for the first time, I was 20 years old and was almost 4,000 miles away from home.
Since then, you have embraced me as a Bostonian. I have given everything that I have had to you and the Bruins, and over time, Boston has become a second home to me. I met my amazing wife Naomi here, and our two beautiful children call Boston home. This City and your support are so special to me.
The Bruins organization has always treated me with the utmost respect. I am so thankful for my teammates, the trainers and support staff, coaches and management who have allowed me to be a part of so many great teams. Obviously the 2011, 2013 and 2019 teams stick out, but truthfully, I have loved every Bruins team I have been a part of.
Since the end of the season, as I have thought about my future, it has become clear that I need to make a difficult decision for my family and I. At this point in my career and life I need to return to the Czech Republic and play in front of my family who sacrificed so much to help me achieve my NHL dreams. I want to play in front of my parents, brother and friends. I want my children to live where I grew up, spend time with so many Czech family members who love them and create lifelong memories.
So for now, I want to thank all the Bruins fans for the support they have shown my family and I over the last 14 years. I will forever be thankful.
This is not goodbye, I will not be a stranger. I will be a Bruin forever. I will see you at the TD Garden soon, and I will always bleed Black and Gold.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) July 30, 2021
Krejci didn’t close the door on a possible return to the Black and Gold beyond this season and stressed that “this is not goodbye”, but it’s all highly unlikely for a player that’s going to turn 36 years old at the end of next season. As for some far-fetched idea that Krejci could roll in for this year’s playoffs after skating in the Czech this season, he would need to pass through waivers and land in Boston’s lap once he plays just a single game in Europe.
A number of NHL teams were trying to contact Krejci after the open of NHL free agency to pitch him on continuing his career there, so that speaks to just how quickly he would be snapped up on waivers anytime soon.
That’s simply not going to happen even if A) the Bruins could figure out the cap space aspect of it and B) there would be a spot waiting for him on Boston’s roster after the current group battled their way through the regular season.
Instead, this day should be appreciating just good Krejci was a cerebral, creative playmaking center that was an underrated defender, an honest voice when it came to assessing the team’s play and his own play and a clutch player that always elevated his game during the postseason. The nickname “Playoff Krejci” was born for a reason and it had a lot to do with being the NHL’s leading scorer during the Stanley Cup playoffs in both 2011 and 2013, and finished with 42 goals and 124 points in 156 career playoff games along with a plus-23 rating.
The 35-year-old Krejci leaves Boston just shy of 1,000 games played, a big NHL milestone that he would have reached this season for the Boston Bruins had he stuck around. Instead, he heads to the Czech Republic with 215 goals and 730 points in 962 games with a career plus-143 all with the Boston Bruins after being a second-round pick all the way back in the 2004 NHL Draft.
Former teammates like Torey Krug sent in some kind words on social media praising Krejci and wishing him well in his home country.
This guy is all-time. An amazing teammate and an even better friend! Congrats on an amazing career as a Bruin! Good luck over there and enjoy your time with your family. https://t.co/4bmHGpr1pi
— Torey Krug (@ToreyKrug) July 30, 2021
The biggest issue with Krejci’s absence is the giant hole it leaves them at the No. 2 center spot with 36-year-old Patrice Bergeron still taking on No. 1 center duties. Charlie Coyle will be forced into second line center duty with Krejci gone, and that slots him in with Taylor Hall and Craig Smith unless 22-year-old youngster Jack Studnicka shows he’s fully ready for NHL duty.
“As you can see from several of the signings and the approach that we took, the center ice position, a little bit by committee, that we’re going to have to do that and allow some players to get into spots and hopefully perform to the level that they’re capable of,” said Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney, of life without David Krejci. “David is a unique player and he’s been a tremendous Bruin and a highly productive player throughout his career.
“We hope that that will continue. But along that timeline of when he sees fit, not when we do. With Charlie Coyle coming off surgery, we wanted to identify players, and really two-position players and in Nick Foligno’s case, a three-position player – all of them good on draws, all of them on the penalty kill. Several of them have played power play situations and providing depth throughout our lineup was really important.”
Nick Foligno and Erik Haula could be candidates to man the third line center spot with Coyle’s promotion, or perhaps Tomas Nosek could slot in there after earning third line center duties with the Vegas Golden Knights last season. Either way, it sounds like players like Foligno were willing to join up with the Bruins, in part, because there may be opportunities to play up in the B’s lineup with Krejci no longer around.
“There’s just a different opportunity I think here, with some of the unknowns, with Krejci and with my versatility. I think I just felt like I had more of an opportunity to move up and down the lineup and play in certain situations. We’ll see where it goes,” said Foligno. “Like I said, nothing is promised. I think the fact that – my history of playing in special teams and what I can bring, I think allows those conversations to happen.
“It just felt like a more natural fit when we talked about where I’d play in the lineup. Whether it would be up, second line – maybe some power play time. Ultimately, I know how that works. You can say it, but you have to go out and deliver. Just in talking though, I felt like this was the right fit.”
Certainly, it sounds like the Bruins and Krejci himself want to keep the door open for a potential return someday, and that’s appropriate given the unique way David Krejci always did things his way with the Black and Gold. But for now, and most likely forever, Krejci’s playing days are done with Boston as he enters a new phase in his hockey career, and more importantly his life, with his young family.