The NHL trade deadline left the Boston Bruins with more questions than resolutions, more so in regards to the future of the organization.
Without harping on the obvious, the Black and Gold have struggled defensively with the ever-going carousel of young players being rotated in and out of the lineup. However, one of the constants has been the little nugget himself, Torey Krug.
Last spring, the Bruins announced they had signed Krug to a one-year extension worth $3.4 million. This was an upgrade from his $1.4 million salary that he was making prior to the extension, which was offered to him almost one year ago to the day.
The fact that he wanted a one-year deal seemed to be particularly important for Krug, who absolutely wanted to graduate out of the bottom-pairing role in which he has found himself throughout his tenure with the Bruins. The 24-year-old defenseman has strung together a strong couple of seasons that mostly aligned with expectations, as the quarterback on the power play and as a third-pairing defenseman. But he wanted more, in terms of role, in terms of eventual contract, and in terms of responsibility.
That is why he was comfortable going with a riskier one-year deal, rather than more term and more stability. He has always wanted to prove himself as a top-four guy, and he took this opportunity as a chance to bet on himself. This is a position that he is certainly used to ever since he signed with the Bruins as an undrafted free agent out of Michigan State.
It is ironic how things change, but it is even more flabbergasting how things stay the same. Former B’s general manager Peter Chiarelli had a history of dishing out contract extensions almost as frequently as hearing Mike’s Pastry vs. Modern Pastry debates when you walk through the North End. Although the backlash for Chiarelli and the handling of the organization’s money was none too kind, this deal was one that he got right.
The question with Krug, however, was always the defensive aspect of the game.
Krug has posted three goals and 30 assists, good for 33 points through 67 games so far this season. Despite him currently in the midst of a 42-game goalless drought (the longest of his career), he is still on pace to surpass his career high in points—40 points during the 2013-14 campaign. Krug has been a proven commodity in the playoffs for the Bruins. The young blue liner has racked up six goals and 10 assists in 27 career playoff games.
When it comes to the workload that Krug has taken on this year, it has been heavy to say the least. He is averaging over 21 minutes of ice time per game, so his wish has been granted as far as being able to assume a lot more responsibility in the role of a top-four defenseman. The writing was on the wall for this scenario to play out that way it has before the season even started, and this goes beyond the request from Krug himself.
Bruins management possessed enough confidence in the young defensemen that they have internally that they were willing to roll the dice and see if one of them (Zach Trotman, Joe Morrow, Colin Miller) would stick. As a result, Krug got the ice time that he was looking for.
However, just use the eye test. His 5’9”, 186 lbs. frame is not built to handle the responsibility that he has taken on. The kid plays with a heart as big as the crest he wears on his chest for every game. Unfortunately, heart has nothing to do with size. He is a great third-pairing defenseman that will draw favorable matchups against opposing teams with their third and fourth lines that are more comprised of grinders and rugged players.
With all of that being said, the work that he has put in will not go unnoticed. Whether it is with the Bruins or another team that will be willing to pry him for Boston, Krug is going to get paid like a top-four defenseman. As a restricted free agent at the end of the year, the B’s will have the chance to match any offer that another team will present to him. Look for him to get in between $4.2 million and $4.5 million per year for his next deal. The salary cap is certainly a real thing in the sport of hockey, so some maneuvering will have to be done if the B’s want to keep both Krug and Brad Marchand.
Krug is going to strike gold, and he will be worth every dollar.