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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.

PHT Morning Skate: Sens being patient with Karlsson; Berard suing NHL

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Antoine Bibeau will be sporting this sweet Jaws mask, which was painted by artist Sylvie Poitras of Airbrush Zap. [In Goal Mag]

• Where did all those Erik Karlsson rumors go? The Ottawa Senators and Pierre Dorion are waiting for the right deal to come along. [Ottawa Sun]

Patrik Laine isn’t feeling the pressure to sign an extension anytime soon. “I really don’t care. There’s no rush, really. I can do it next summer or this summer. I don’t mind.” [NHL.com]

• An interesting look at how the NHL’s best forwards score. Brad Marchand loves the backhand. [TSN]

• With Andrej Sekera out indefinitely should the Edmonton Oilers have Torey Krug on their radar? [NBC Boston]

• Former NHLer Bryan Berard is suing the league. “The time has come for the NHL to not only care for those former players on whose backs and brains the League reaped billions of dollars, but also finally to put long-term player safety over profit.” [TMZ]

• Eric Lindros on concussion awareness in all sports: “We can do so much better than this. In terms of coming up with solutions, I don’t think we’ve come all that far from the mid-90s. We’re so far behind.”  [National Post]

• Hockey legend Hayley Wickenheiser on why she’s donating her brain for research: “So when people ask me why I have donated my brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation, that story is part of the answer. I don’t want athletes to suffer if we can help it. Female athletes have a higher risk of concussion and slower recovery time than male athletes. There are few professional female athletes in contact sports to study, and even fewer who have donated their brains to the cause. I hope this inspires more to do the same. After all, when you are gone, ya kinda don’t need it anymore!” [CBC]

• How will Randy Carlyle juggle his lineup this season? [Anaheim Calling]

• What will Travis Konecny‘s next contract with the Philadelphia Flyers look like? [Flyers Nation]

• It’s time for a full-on youth movement in Detroit. [The Hockey News]

• The Calgary Flames will likely be looking for a new starting goalie next summer. Here are three options. [Matchsticks and Gasoline]

• An in-depth chat with Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn, featuring: “Q. If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be? Benn: I don’t really want to be a tree.” [Stars]

• How the Carolina Hurricanes plan to sell their major changes to the fan base. [News and Observer]

• Former NHLer Joe Vitale moves into the role of analyst on St. Louis Blues radio broadcasts. [Post-Dispatch]

• What milestones can Alex Ovechkin achieve this coming season? [Capitals Outsider]

• How will this season turn out for New Jersey Devils forward Marcus Johansson? [All About the Jersey]

• A look at the bench bosses around the league and who might be on the hot seat heading into 2018-19. [Featurd]

• Finally, Eric Staal reveals the secret to a 42-goal season:

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Tavares and beyond: five years of possible free agents

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While NHL fans get to brag about the unpredictability of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, NBA fans score a decided advantage when it comes to off-the-court/ice sizzle.

More often than not, hockey fans can only imagine seismic shifts like LeBron James’ latest “decision.”

(One bold exception is the profoundly dysfunctional Ottawa Senators, who provided us with hockey’s answer to the strange Bryan Colangelo burner account scandal by way of that drama between the significant others of Erik Karlsson and Mike Hoffman.)

So, like the Toronto Raptors watching Lebron mercilessly crush their playoff dreams, hockey fans grow accustomed to seeing fun spending sprees fizzle away. Could it happen again with John Tavares?

TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that Tavares and his representatives are “focused” on negotiating with the New York Islanders right now. Pierre LeBrun was also involved in that segment, and rained on our speculative parades even more:

Allow a simple response to the Tavares sweepstakes possibly ending before it truly begins: boo. Boo to that.

Now, sure, there’s the chance that business picks up in July. Maybe sooner. Still, reports like those above remain discouraging for those of us who want to grab the popcorn.

[Which teams would benefit the most from potential buyouts?]

It actually inspires a fun activity: let’s go over the next few years and ponder some of the big names who could auction off their services.

Naturally, because hockey, this list factors in the sad, cruel likelihood that the biggest names will bow out, so there are consolation prizes. Also, this list focuses mainly on would-be UFAs, as RFAs hold very little leverage (thanks, CBA).

This summer (2018)

Biggest fish who might not make it: Tavares

Would begging help?

/kneels

The fascinating Ilya Kovalchuk talk is a helpful reminder of how rare it is for an impact NHL player to explore free agency. At 27, Tavares figures to be exactly that. Despite all the turbulence surrounding the Islanders, Tavares generated 84 points in 82 games during 2017-18, the second-best output of his career.

He’s also put to rest any real worries about some of the freak injuries he suffered. Tavares played 82 games twice in the last four seasons, only missing nine games since 2014-15.

Tavares hitting the market wouldn’t just change the fate of a team. If he landed in the right direction, it could create a new contender. You simply don’t see a franchise center become available often; this would be as close as the NHL gets to a Lebron-type seismic shift.

Which means he’ll probably kill all the drama with an extension soon. *Grumble*

Big name with a better chance to actually hit the market: John Carlson

Before more grumbling commences, there’s this:

There’s evidence that Carlson struggles at time in his own end, particularly stretching back to before this past season. After a dazzling 68 points and a Stanley Cup victory, someone’s paying up, and it should be fun to witness that situation develop. You just do not see defensemen of his ilk hit it big very often, either.

Now that you mention it, hopefully a risky Carlson deal doesn’t scare off teams from next year’s incredible crop.

Some other notables: Joe Thornton, James Neal, James van Riemsdyk, David Perron, and Paul Stastny.

[Six players who should stay put this summer, six who should move]

Next summer (2019)

Biggest possible names: Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty

For some, Karlsson is the top draw (myself included). Old-school types might claim that Karlsson “can’t play defense,” even after he managed to drag a mediocre Senators team to within a goal of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final (yes, that was only a year ago). For those types – who also probably believe that Alex Ovechkin “just figured things out this year” – then Doughty is the jewel.

The truth is that both are really, really good.

They also both carry some mileage into their next deals after being remarkable bargains, as they’re both 28 and log big minutes. There’s a strong chance that Doughty might just re-sign with Los Angeles, possibly as soon as this summer, and the same could be true regarding Oliver Ekman-Larsson and the Coyotes. (Preemptive boo.)

Now, Ryan Ellis and the Predators? That could be fascinating.

These guys won’t become UFAs … right?: Sergei Bobrovsky, Artemi Panarin, Tyler Seguin.

Buckle up, Blue Jackets fans.

Other interesting possibilities

  • Marc-Andre Fleury: He could finish his career with Vegas, but this past season could really drive up his asking price, and his age (already 33) could scare the Golden Knights off.
  • Pekka Rinne: By this time, you’d think Juuse Saros would be ready to carry the torch in Nashville.
  • Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski: Two Sharks centers with intriguing futures. Pavelski, in particular, could age out (turns 34 on July 11).
  • Matt Duchene: With the mess Ottawa’s in, who knows? Duchene leaving would really make a bumpy trade look even worse. Yikes.
  • Blake Wheeler: Winnipeg’s going to need to pay Patrik Laine, Connor Hellebuyck, and Kyle Connor. Could an under-the-radar star get squeezed out in the process?

Summer of 2020

Biggest fish to land: Avoiding a lockout or limiting the damage.

*sigh*

Interesting possibilities

  • Roman Josi: David Poile is responsible for some salary cap wizardry, yet at some point, the Predators are going to need to make some choices.
  • Nicklas Backstrom: Already at 30, and with Braden Holtby also slated for possible free agency during the summer of 2020 (let’s assume Holtby re-signs), it remains to be seen if Washington can/will retain the Swedish center. He deserves an upgrade from that $6.7 million cap hit, one way or another.
  • Corey Crawford: Currently at 33 and the Blackhawks remain in a perpetual cap crunch. Hmm.
  • Holtby: Just in case the Capitals try to save money in net.
  • Tyson Barrie and Torey Krug: Two explosive scoring defensemen who are a bit underrated. Krug, in particular, might be tough for the Bruins to retain. Justin Faulk deserves a mention, too, although his situation could be very different in mere weeks for all we know.
  • Alex Galchenyuk: Will his inevitable split from Montreal happen before free agency 2020?

Even more aimless speculation in later years …

Summer 2021

Aging stars: Alex Ovechkin, Ryan Getzlaf, Tuukka Rask, Henrik Lundqvist, Dustin Byfuglien.

Intriguing prime-age names: Dougie Hamilton, Jaden Schwartz, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog, Devan Dubnyk.

Summer 2022

Last chances at big deals? Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, P.K. Subban, Claude Giroux, Kris Letang, Patrice Bergeron.

Intriguing prime-age names: Johnny Gaudreau, Filip Forsberg, Aleksander Barkov, Seth Jones.

***

Interesting stuff, right?

Of course, many of those players are likely to sign extensions, in most cases with their current teams. The same could be said for players who get traded to new teams. Some of the older guys might just retire. Restricted free agents may also add some spice to summers.

There’s even a chance that a new CBA could open the door for more movement in the future.

Looking at the lists above, it’s easy to envision fun scenarios, even if recent hockey history suggests blander solutions. Then again, re-signing players like these could force other important players to get traded, so team-building nerds should have something to chew on even if free agency isn’t as fun in reality as it can be in our heads.

Cap Friendly was an excellent resource for this post. Their tools can help you go on your own dorky hockey adventures, possibly unearthing more interesting names. (You’d need to wait until the summer of 2023 to get excited about Nathan MacKinnon, though.)

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.

Bruins address Marchand licking, future plans

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The Boston Bruins’ brass addressed the media on a wide range of issues Wednesday. If you want to keep your humor Brad Marchand-topical, you might call it an appetizer for the offseason.

After at least one lick/personal bubble-bursting moment in each round of their 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs run (Leo Komarov and Ryan Callahan ranking among his … run-ins), Marchand eventually got a talking-to. Management addressed as much today, and they generally kept it from getting too salty.

“Brad should be contrite,” Cam Neely said (see around the minute mark). “ … He’s gotten to the point now where his game on the ice – without the antics – should speak for itself.”

You know it’s a serious headache – not just a punchline and strange routine – when Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs needs to weigh in. His comments give the impression that Marchand doesn’t have much of a margin of error.

More teaching, less licking

As refreshing as it is to discuss “Zen and the Art of Licking,” some might view it as empty calorie content.

Luckily, the Bruins also shed some light on how they view the 2017-18 season (mostly positive, especially when it comes to integrating young talent, while the ending was bittersweet) and how they might approach free agency and the summer. If you’re the type who shuddered at the idea of targeting a Rick Nash upgrade in free agency – and the comments indicate that quite a few people did – then you’d probably be glad to hear some of the reactions.

Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs spoke highly of players who could make a future impact on the B’s (“from Providence and Europe”), so Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy might be tasked with much of the “teaching” Cam Neely spoke of today.

Backup plan

Curiously, as NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty points out, the Bruins might make the backup goalie position an area they’re aiming for improvement with.

There are a few factors to consider in that regard.

For one thing, Anton Khudobin‘s $1.2 million contract expires. The 32-year-old played well enough at times – finishing with a nice-for-backup .913 save percentage – to drum up some minor goalie controversies (depending upon who you asked during 2017-18) when Tuukka Rask struggled. The Bruins are committed to Rask at $7M through 2020-21, yet they might want to at least attempt to get a No. 2 who could moonlight as a No. 1.

Beyond perusing trade opportunities, free agency, or even bringing back Khudobin, you wonder how long of a look the Bruins might give Zane McIntyre as Rask’s backup in 2018-19. After all, McIntyre’s already 25, and could be feeling a little restless (after a dominant AHL season in 2016-17, his numbers were solid but a bit more modest last season).

Other considerations, and a warning

There were discussions of other possible tweaks, such as possibly adding more size at the left D position behind Zdeno Chara. Even then, you wonder how deeply they’ll probe in that area; after all, Torey Krug had a strong season and Matt Grzelcyk came along nicely.

Broadly speaking, it sounds like the Bruins will lean more toward “improving from within” instead of pursuing more established players. Considering the way GM Don Sweeney’s been drafting and the team’s been developing lately, that doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.

Then again, perhaps some bolder opportunities might surface? As promising as some of the future pieces in Boston seem to be, the B’s must also realize that the window could start to close on their core. Zdeno Chara’s in the clearest battle with Father Time at 41, but sometimes the aging curve can dilute the dominance of guys like Patrice Bergeron (32) and Brad Marchand (30) with troubling speed. Considering how frightening Bergeron and Marchand were on most nights alongside young stud David Pastrnak, a slip – even from “elite” to merely “quite good” – could alter Boston’s trajectory, or force them to lean on younger talent even more.

***

So, there are some factors to juggle, but can you really blame management for feeling so optimistic compared to the mixed feelings that were likely on display during last year’s pressers regarding the team’s outlook?

Jacobs himself spoke of the Bruins being spry in keeping up with league trends, and justifiably so. If the NHL’s smartest teams continue this rapid evolution, then Boston must remain just as nimble this summer. At least if they want to maintain their status as a revitalized heavy-hitter in the NHL.

MORE:
• 
Conference Finals schedule, TV info
• 
NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

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.

‘I’ve got to cut that [stuff] out’: Marchand admits he went too far

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Leading up to Bruins media day on Wednesday, we hadn’t heard anything suggesting Brad Marchand regretted the licks heard around the hockey world. His tune has suddenly changed.

During the team’s final media availability of the season, the 29-year-old admitted that what he did was unacceptable.

“After having a couple days, kind of looking back on the year and seeing what’s happened the last few days with all the media and everything, I think the biggest thing for me now is to really take a pretty hard looking in the mirror and realize the actions, some of the things that I’m doing have much bigger consequences,” Marchand said. “I’ve always been a pretty easy-going guy and there’s not a whole lot that phases me at all. I think it’s kind of gotten to the point where the last thing I ever want to do is bring the embarrassment to my teammates and the organization that it did.

“I have to be a lot better. I know I’ve said that in the past but that’s got to be the thing that I really work on the most. I think I’ve gotten my game to a pretty decent spot but I’ve got some character things and things that I’ve done that clearly need some fixing. That’s going to be the biggest thing that I take away from what’s happened the last few days.

“At the time, I didn’t think it there was a big deal at all. I couldn’t believe where it was going that it was even worth talking about it.”

“I’ve got to cut that [expletive] out,” Marchand added, per the Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa.

Either Marchand figured that out in a hurry, or someone in the Bruins organization got to him before he addressed the media. Without knowing for sure, it seems like someone spoke to him about kissing/licking opponents because his previous quotes and tweets suggested he had no regrets.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Either way, this is probably the best possible look for him heading into the offseason.

On another note, the Bruins forward announced that he played through a groin injury in the second round.

He wasn’t the only one on his team that had to battle through injury. Noel Acciari‘s groin injury will require offseason surgery, Riley Nash is hoping his injured hip doesn’t need to be operated on, Jake DeBrusk was dealing with a shoulder injury, Zdeno Chara played through an upper-body injury and Torey Krug suffered a fractured ankle in Game 4 against Tampa. He won’t require surgery, but he’ll have to be in a boot for two months.

Patrice Bergeron missed Game 4 against Toronto because of concussion-like symptoms. He had also been dealing with a groin injury that likely won’t require an operation.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.