We continue our look at next offseason’s potential free agent class by trying to project the next contract for some of the top players that could be available. Today we look at the Boston Bruins and David Krejci. Read more contract predictions here.
For the past 14 years David Krejci has been a key piece for one of the NHL’s best teams.
He may not be on the same level as say, Patrice Bergeron or Zdeno Chara, when it comes to franchise cornerstones, but he’s not far off. A strong two-way player who has scored at a top-line rate and been absolute money in the playoffs, he has helped the Bruins win a Stanley Cup, play in two other Cup Finals, and win the Presidents’ Trophy two different times. He’s been outstanding.
But when the 2020-21 season begins Krejci will be entering the final year of his current contract, which will leave his future with the team in some doubt.
Krejci has already made it clear he has no intention of retiring after this season. That means he and the Bruins will have some big decisions to make over the next year when it comes to his next contract.
Will it be in Boston?
The Bruins window is still open
Even though their 2020 postseason ended far earlier than they wanted, this is still one of the league’s best teams and there is no reason to think that is going to change in the next couple of years.
They may have some big questions, but with Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, Craig Smith, and Charlie Coyle all signed long-term there is a strong core still in place to build around. This is a team that just ran away with the Presidents’ Trophy this past season, and while it is possible it could take a step back this season it should not be a significant one. It is still a contender, especially with Krejci.
In that sense, there should be some incentive to want to keep him.
But it’s not always that simple.
There are some concerns
Let’s start with one of the biggest and most obvious concerns: Age.
Krejci will be 35 years old when his next contract begins and turn 36 later in that season. Unless you are talking about a one-year deal there is always going to be at least somewhat of a risk in giving a long-term contract to a player that age. For as good as Krejci still is now, there is going to come a point where that production and level of play drops. The deeper a player gets into their late 30s, the more that is going to happen.
When combined with the Bruins’ salary cap situation, that can be a concern.
Speaking of which, the Bruins do have a lot of other contractual issues to worry about in the near future aside from Krejci.
As of this moment the Bruins have more than $45 million in salary cap space committed to 12 players for the 2021-22 season.
They still have to sign restricted free agent Jake DeBrusk, while Brandon Carlo, Ondrej Kase, and Nick Richie will be RFAs next offseason. Along with those pending contracts, both goalies (Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak) are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents after this upcoming season, while Bergeron and McAvoy will be in line for new contracts following the 2021-22 season.
That salary cap space is going to disappear very quickly, especially if the salary cap remains flat at $81.5 million. Somebody is going to have to go.
What should the Bruins do?
Adding to the equation here is the fact the Bruins top-two prospects right now — Jason Studnicka and John Beecher –are both centers, and both will be NHL ready within the next year or two. They may not be ready to be thrown into a top-six role right now, but even without Krejci the Bruins would still have Coyle signed long-term to play behind Bergeron.
In other words: They have options.
Krejci has been the Bruins’ highest paid player (by salary cap hit) for a few years now, but it is hard to imagine that at age 35 he is going to pull in $7.25 million again for a number of reasons (flat salary cap, the financial climate in the league due to the pandemic, and his expected production at age 35 and beyond) whether in Boston or elsewhere. As it relates to the Bruins, they are almost certainly going to have to set a far lower ceiling on a potential contract because they simply have too many other areas to address (defense with re-signing McAvoy and Carlo, as well as replacing Torey Krug; signing goalies).
A two-or three-year deal at $5-5.5 million per season seems reasonable for the Bruins given all of the factors at play. Anything more than that and it is difficult to see it making sense for the Bruins.
If Krejci thinks he can get more than that, it might have to be elsewhere.