Tavares pursuit may not be last time tensions rise between Bruins, Krejci

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Sports often inspire a callous “what have you done for me lately?” attitude toward players, something that must cut deeper for players who’ve been with one team for a long time.

With that in mind, it’s not shocking that David Krejci admitted that it hurt when the Boston Bruins made a failed bid to sign John Tavares. Krejci recently opened up to NBC Boston’s Joe Haggerty about his experiences. From what he said, it sounds like being in the dark and being badgered by certain Bruins fans bothered him the most.

“I had no idea what was going on. My agent didn’t tell my [anything] because he said he didn’t know anything. I didn’t get any phone calls from anyone from the Bruins,” Krejci said. “So I was just getting those Instargram messages [telling me to request a trade] in my inbox. I know that I have a no-trade so they would have to call me [if they did end up signing Tavares].

“Yeah, that wasn’t kind of something I enjoyed. But it was over pretty quick. It was a quick couple of weeks. It is what it is.”

Krejci is correct about that being a quick process, as most will probably forget that the Bruins were even – tangentially – in the mix for Tavares.

It’s tough to shake the feeling that this won’t be the last tense moment between the Bruins and Krejci as the team tries to balance attempts at improving with salary cap management. With that in mind, this Tavares situation could reverberate. After all, if you’re Krejci, are you that excited to waive your no-trade clause for a management group that didn’t seem to make even a token gesture toward communicating during the Tavares sweepstakes? And, as much as Krejci appreciates the majority of fans, should he bow to a trade request after getting nasty messages, even if they came from just a few bad apples?

“I have a lot of fans, which is great,” Krejci said. “I think it’s a common thing where people say ‘Awesome, awesome…great job’ and you appreciate it. But if there’s a bad comment it sticks in your head. So that wasn’t nice.”

Impressive accomplishments

It’s not nice for a player who’s meant a lot to the Bruins, even if Krejci’s work hasn’t always been as heralded as it maybe should have been.

Most memorably, Krejci topped all playoff scorers in 2012-13 (26 points, seven more than anyone else) and 2010-11 (23), helping the Bruins win that 2011 Stanley Cup. Since that championship season, Krejci’s scored 418 points, the third-best mark for Boston after Brad Marchand (458) and Patrice Bergeron (454).

Of course, it’s understandable for someone to cringe while scanning the Bruins’ Cap Friendly page, considering that Krejci carries the team’s highest cap hit at $7.25M, and cringe that the 32-year-old’s contract lasts three more seasons. His contract isn’t the worst on the books, yet it’s a lot easier to imagine the Bruins landing a good trade return for Krejci instead of a banged-up, rapidly declining David Backes. And so, that opens the door for social media cruelty.

Gas left in the tank

Beyond being mean, it’s far too easy to dismiss that Krejci still brings value as a player, even if it’s debatable if he’s worth $7.25M.

(He’s not worth more than David Pastrnak, Marchand, or Bergeron, but all three of those guys are being paid less than they’d make on the open market anyway, and probably by a massive margin.)

Bruins fans might grumble at Krejci finishing the 2017-18 regular season with 17 goals and 44 points, yet he did so while struggling through injuries (just 64 games played). You could argue that Krejci sputtered against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the bottom line is that he generated 10 points in 12 games during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Krejci deserves ample credit for helping Jake DeBrusk take his game up a notch, even if things didn’t go as swimmingly with Rick Nash.

Krejci also generated solid possession stats, although you can dock him a bit for also enjoying cushy offensive zone starts. There are even some ways where Krejci meets or exceeds Tavares, as you can see from this comparison via Bill Comeau’s SKATR tool.

Those are far from “run this guy out of town” numbers, right?

Will he have a long memory?

Still, one can understand why the Bruins might want to trade Krejci. With Krejci likely to decline further considering he’s 32, the Bruins would probably choose Torey Krug instead, and looming raises for young players (most prominently Charlie McAvoy, who’s about to enter a contract year) might force such a decision.

According to Cap Friendly, Krejci has a no-movement clause for 2018-19 and a modified version in 2019-20 and 2020-21. During those latter years, he’d be asked to provide a list of teams he’d accept a trade to, which would amount to half of the NHL (which would be 15, as the clause states that you’d round down). One could see a scenario where he’d feel pressure to OK a trade that entail going to a cellar-dweller, or a place he wouldn’t want to play.

In that moment, Bruins fans and management could be breathing down Krejci’s neck. Don’t blame Krejci if he does what’s best for him then, especially after what happened during that brief (but telling?) push for Tavares.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.