Torey Krug

Krug hopes Bruins tenure isn’t coming to an end

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There were 12 games left in the Bruins’ regular season when the NHL hit “pause” last month. The 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs were scheduled to begin Wednesday and Boston was prepared for another deep run.

One player the Bruins would be relying on is Torey Krug, who can become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Speaking to reporters Tuesday, the soon-to-be 29-year-old defenseman said there have been no contract talks with the Bruins since the season was postponed.

Krug was on pace to hit 50 points for a fourth straight season and will command a decent sum north of the $5.25 million cap hit he pulled in when he signed his current deal in 2016.

No one knows what will happen with the rest of the 2019-20 NHL season and Krug is hoping that he’ll be able to wear the black and gold again.

[Bettman on status of ’19-20 NHL season: ‘’We’re viewing all of our options’]

“I think for anyone that’s been through this, and obviously we’re all in a relatively similar situation, there’s so many unknowns, and you only can control so much of that,” Krug said. “And for me personally I really hope I did not play my last game as a Boston Bruin. It’s been a special place for me and my family to grow, and my love for the game and playing in front of these fans, it’s been very special for me.

“But [the NHL pause] hasn’t given any clarity, if anything I think it’s made me wonder about this process a little bit more because I was just in the moment and playing games to help my team win, and hopefully push us in the right direction to win a championship. And now with this season paused I’ve definitely wondered about what’s going to happen, but in terms of clarity there pretty much has been none. From a business perspective I would assume — well, I mean I can’t put any assumption on it — I can only guess that things are going to look a little bit different from the salary cap perspective next year and team structures as well are going to be affected by that, but I really have no clarity.”

That last part will be key for not only Krug but other free agents this summer. How much will next season’s salary cap, which had an early projection of capping off between $84 million and $88.2 million, be affected by a potential decrease in revenues if a full regular season and playoffs cannot be played? That’s among the numerous questions that will have to be answered when the NHL is given a green light to resume play.

According to Cap Friendly, the Bruins currently have a little over $61 million tied up for next season. Krug, Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork, Matt Grzcelcyk, Jaroslav Halak, and captain Zdeno Chara are among the names eligible to become UFA or restricted free agents this summer.

MORE BRUINS:
• Looking at the 2019-20 Bruins
What is the Bruins’ long-term outlook?

Bruins’ biggest surprises, disappointments

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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.

What is the long-term outlook for the Bruins?

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Boston Bruins.

Pending Free Agents

The Core

The Bruins have two big things going for them to maintain a pretty big window for Stanley Cup contention.

The most important is that they have a great core of talent to build around in David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, David Krejci, and Brandon Carlo.

Along with that is the fact they have a significant portion of their team signed long-term on deals that not only have term, but are also below market value. Nobody on the team carries a salary cap hit of greater than $7.25 million (Krejci) while only two players (Krejci and starting goalie Tuukka Rask) count for more than $7 million against the cap in a single season.

The quartet of Marchand, Bergeron, Pastrnak, and McAvoy, for example, takes up less than $25 million in salary cap space per season through the end of the 2021-22 season. That not only keeps a tremendous group of players together, it gives the team the type of salary cap flexibility it needs to build a powerhouse team around them. The Bruins have done exactly that.

Their big challenges this offseason are going to be re-signing UFA defenseman Torey Krug — one of their top blue-liners — and securing a new contract for restricted free agent forward Jake DeBrusk, currently one of their top complementary players. Because they are getting such bargains at the top of their lineup they should have the salary cap space to make it work.

Krug will definitely be the biggest challenge (especially if there is pressure to keep him around the $6.5 million mark that everyone else in their core currently makes) but there is room.

Long-term needs

It might seem like an outrageous thing to say right now given the way the team is built, but it is really tempting to put goaltending as a long-term question.

Right now the duo of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak is as good as it gets in the NHL. They are both outstanding and capable of being No. 1 starters in the league, while Rask has been one of the league’s elites for most of his career. But there is some uncertainty beyond this season. For one, Halak is one of the Bruins’ biggest unrestricted free agents after this season so there is no guarantee that he returns. But there is also the fact that Rask recently hinted at the possibility of potentially retiring after next season (via the Boston Globe). Still a lot of unknowns there and a situation to keep an eye on in the future.

Beyond that, depth might be the other big long-term issue.

If they are unable to re-sign Krug that would love a pretty massive hole on their blue line, and there is going to come a point where Zdeno Chara is no longer part of this team. That is half of your top-four and would be an awful lot to replace at one time if neither one is there beyond this season.

Long-term strengths

It kind of relates to everything mentioned in the core part, but they have some of the league’s best players at forward signed for multiple seasons at below market contracts.

The trio of Pastrnak-Bergeron-Marchand is one of the best lines in the entire league. Individually, they are all among the top-20 players in the league. Together, they are almost unstoppable.

On the blue line, McAvoy and Carlo are both already outstanding defensemen and are just now starting to hit their prime years in the NHL.

Basically, the Bruins have the most important pieces for sustained success already in place (superstar forwards and young top-pairing defensemen), have them all signed long-term, and they are mostly at points in their career where they should still have several elite seasons ahead of them. The Bruins have been one of the league’s top-four teams for three years in a row now and there is no sign that they are going to drop off from that level anytime soon.

 

MORE:
• Looking at the 2019-20 Boston Bruins
Bruins surprises and disappointments

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

NHL Power Rankings: The most underrated players

In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we shift our focus to individual players. Specifically, the most underrated players in the NHL right now.

We are trying to keep this to players that are legitimately underrated, overlooked, and do not get the proper amount of attention they probably deserve.

So we are just going to put this out here at the front front: You will not see Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom or Florida Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov on this list. They are staples on every underrated list or ranking that is compiled and both have reached a point where everyone knows exactly how great they are (pretty great).

Who does make this list?

To the rankings!

1. Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers. While everyone falls all over themselves to talk about how underrated Barkov is, the Panthers’ other star forward is actually still fairly overlooked. Especially when you consider just how productive he has been, and for how long he has played at that level. Huberdeau has been a monster offensively for four seasons now and one of the league’s top scorers. Since the start of the 2016-17 season he’s in the top-15 among in points per game among all players with at least 100 games played, and has climbed into the top-10 over the past two seasons.

2. William Nylander, Toronto Maple Leafs. There’s probably a lot of people that would put him at the top of a most overrated list, and it’s truly one of the more baffling narratives in the league right now. Nylander is a constant lightning-rod for criticism and is always the first player that gets mentioned as being dangled as trade bait. What makes it so baffling is that he is an outstanding hockey player. Outside of the 2018-19 season (disrupted by his RFA saga) he has been a possession-driving, 60-point winger every year of his career, is still only 23 years old, and is on pace for close to 40 goals this season. Here’s a hot take for you: His $6.9 million salary cap hit will look like a steal before the contract expires. 

3. Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets. The Jets have a pretty good core of players that get their share of recognition — Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler specifically. Even Conor Hellebuyck is getting the proper level of respect this season and is going to be a Vezina Trophy front-runner. But Connor just quietly slides under the radar casually hits the 30-goal mark every season. His pace this season would have put him close to the 45-goal mark.

4. Ryan Ellis, Nashville Predators. Ellis is underrated in the sense that he seems to be generally regarded as a really good defenseman and another in a long line of outstanding defenders to come through the Nashville pipeline. He is much more than that. He is actually one of the best all-around defensemen in the entire league.

5. J.T. Miller, Vancouver Canucks. Over the summer I thought the Canucks were insane to trade a future first-round draft pick for Miller given where they were in their rebuild. It is not looking all that crazy right now. If anything, it is looking pretty outstanding. He was always a good player with upside in New York and Tampa Bay, but Miller has blossomed in Vancouver and become a bonafide top-line player.

6. Anthony Cirelli, Tampa Bay Lightning. As if the Lightning were not already dominant enough, they had another young talent come through their system to make an impact. Cirelli is only 22 years old and is already one of the league’s best defensive forwards while also showing 25-30 goal, 60-point potential.

7. John Klingberg, Dallas Stars. Klingberg is an interesting case because he’s received some serious Norris consideration on occasion (sixth-place finish two different times), but he still probably doesn’t get enough recognition for how good he has consistently been in Dallas. He is one of the top offensive-defensemen in the league and is much better defensively than he tends to get credit for. Heck, he’s better in every area than he tends to get credit for.

8. Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes. Slavin might be starting to get into that Backstrom-Barkov area of underrated where he’s referred to as “underrated” so often that he is no longer underrated. But he is not quite there yet. He’s not going to light up the scoreboard or put up huge offensive numbers, but he is one of the best pure shutdown defensemen in the league.

9. Brendan Gallagher, Montreal Canadiens. Gallagher is generally viewed as a pest, but he is also on track for his third straight 30-goal season, is strong defensively, and is always one of the best possession players in the league. You may not like him when he plays against your team, but you would love him if he played for it.

10. Nico Hischier, New Jersey Devils. He is a recent No. 1 overall pick and just signed a huge contract extension so there is a certain level of expectation that comes with all of that. Maybe you think he has not matched it. But that is probably setting an unfair bar. Not every top pick is going to immediately enter the NHL and become a superstar at a Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid kind of level. Sometimes it takes a few years. In the short-term, Hischier has already proven to have 20-goal, 50-point ability while playing a strong defensive game. There’s a lot more upside here, too. Don’t let the draft status and contract term trick you into thinking he hasn’t been good. He has been. He is also only going to get better.

Honorable mentions: Jeff Petry (Montreal Canadiens), Brian Dumoulin (Pittsburgh Penguins), Evgenii Dadonov (Florida Panthers), Tomas Tatar (Montreal Canadiens), Roope Hintz (Dallas Stars), Conor Garland (Arizona Coyotes), Jakub Vrana (Washington Capitals), Torey Krug (Boston Bruins), Ben Bishop (Dallas Stars), Jared Spurgeon (Minnesota Wild)

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Looking at the 2019-20 Boston Bruins

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take a look at where each NHL team stands at this moment with a series of posts examining their season. Have they met expectations? Exceeded expectations? Who has been the surprise? All of that and more. Today we look at the Boston Bruins.

Boston Bruins

Record: 44-14-12 (70 games), first in the Atlantic Division, first in the Eastern Conference
Leading scorer: David Pastrnak — 95 points (48 goals and 47 assists)

In-Season Roster Moves:

• Acquired Ondrej Kase from the Anaheim Ducks for David Backes, Axel Andersson, 2020 first-round pick
• Traded Danton Heinen to the Anaheim Ducks for Nick Ritchie

Season Overview: 

There isn’t much to complain about this season if you’re a fan of the Bruins. Not only did they have the best record in the Atlantic Division, they were also the top team in the Eastern Conference and they were the only squad to hit the 100-point mark at the COVID-19 pause.

After losing in the Stanley Cup Final last year, it appeared as though they’d be back there in 2020. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen, but this edition of the Bruins was impressive.

It’s easy to see why Boston was so good this year. Sure, most fans feel like they’re still missing a second-line forward to complete their team, but you know you’re in good shape when that’s all you’re really missing on your roster.

In goal, they arguably have the best one-two punch in the league with Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. Is that a luxury they’ll be able to afford next year? Probably not. But they were both rock-solid throughout the season. Rask went into the pause with a 26-8-6 record, a 2.12 goals-against-average and a .929 save percentage. As for Halak, he had an 18-6-6 record, a 2.39 goals-against-average and a .919 save percentage. Impressive.

The defence is balanced. They have Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzelcyk. Each one of those five has played at least 61 of the team’s 70 games this season. The group might not be together next year, as Krug is scheduled to become a free agent, but they were impressive heading into the pause.

And, of course, up front they had some of the elite offensive talent in the NHL. Pastrnak finds himself in third in league scoring with 95 points. He’s also tied for first in goals, with 48. He’s emerged as one of the premiere forwards in the NHL and he’s signed to a very reasonable contract of $6.6666 million per year for three more years.

Pastrnak was a big part of the Bruins’ success, but he had help. Brad Marchand has 87 points in 70 games at the pause and Patrice Bergeron is up to 31 goals and 56 points in 61 contests.

How far can the Bruins go? Maybe we’ll find out, maybe we won’t. But there’s no denying this was an elite team in 2019-20.

Highlight of the Season So Far:

There were many highlights for the Bruins this season, but putting up eight goals on your biggest rivals’ rink has to be right up there.

On Nov. 26, Boston beat Montreal, 8-1, at the Bell Center. Pastrnak had a hat trick, Marchand had three points and Bergeron didn’t even play.

MORE:
Bruins’ biggest surprises, disappointments
What is the Bruins’ long-term outlook?

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.

The Buzzer: Zibanejad stars on Broadway; Blackhawks remain in playoff race

Mika Zibanejad #93 of the New York Rangers scores his fifth goal of the game in overtime
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Three Stars

1) Mika Zibanejad, New York Rangers

The 26-year-old scored five times as the Rangers defeated the Washington Capitals in overtime, 6-5. Zibanejad is the first NHL player to score five goals and the game-winning goal in overtime since Sergei Fedorov on Dec. 26, 1996. The alternate captain joined Don Murdoch and Mark Pavelich as the only players in franchise history to score five times in a single game. Zibanejad established himself as a top-line NHL center last season with a breakout campaign but reached new heights this year with 38 goals and 33 assists. The Blueshirts trail the New York Islanders by two points for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race but have played one additional game.

2) Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks

Only four points separate six teams within striking distance of the wild card spots in the Western Conference. DeBrincat scored twice as the Blackhawks defeated the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 at the United Center Thursday and extended their winning streak to four games. DeBrincat lit the lamp twice in the second period as Chicago pulled away from Edmonton. Leon Draisaitl recorded two assists in his Hart Trophy campaign.

3) Alain Vigneault, Philadelphia Flyers

It takes time for an NHL coach to implement his system in his first year with a new club, but AV has quietly led the Flyers to a tie for first place in the Metropolitan Division with 15 games remaining in the season. Philadelphia has recently climbed the standings and are in position to earn home-ice advantage in the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Vigneault helped the Flyers move past an emotional win against the Capitals Wednesday and extend their winning streak to eight games with a 4-1 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Highlights of the Night

Artemi Panarin delivered a sensational stretch pass as Zibanejad closed out the Capitals with the overtime winner.

Patric Hornqvist converted a spinning backhanded shot to record his first of two goals in the Penguins’ 4-2 win against the Sabres.

Patrick Kane netted his 30th of the season with this sharp-angled shot in the Blackhawks’ 4-3 win against the Oilers.

Brady Tkachuk looked off a defender before firing this short-side snipe as the Senators defeated the Islanders, 4-3.

Ivan Provorov scored for the second straight game as the Flyers tied the Capitals for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division.

Torey Krug launched a slap shot in overtime to propel the Bruins to their fourth straight win.

Push for the Playoffs

Stat of the Night

Scores

Pittsburgh Penguins 4, Buffalo Sabres 2

Tampa Bay Lightning 4, Montreal Canadiens 0

Boston Bruins 2, Florida Panthers 1 (OT)

New York Rangers 6. Washington Capitals 5 (OT)

Philadelphia Flyers 4, Carolina Hurricanes 1

Ottawa Senators 4, New York Islanders 3

Nashville Predators 2, Dallas Stars 0

Chicago Blackhawks 4, Edmonton Oilers 3

Los Angeles Kings 1, Toronto Maple Leafs (SO)

Minnesota Wild 3, San Jose Sharks 2


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.