Atlantic Division

David Krejci being overlooked as top trade asset for Bruins

David Krejci being overlooked as top trade asset for Bruins
Jon DePalma
Krejci Hejda Avs

David Krejci skates around Jan Hejda during a game against the Avalanche. (Photo by Sharon Bradley)

According to CapGeek.com, the Boston Bruins are currently $809,000 over the salary cap for the 2014-15 season. That number flips from an $800k overage to $3.2 million worth of wiggle room once Marc Savard’s placed on LTIR, but it does not include pending offers to Torey Krug, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser, nor any moves the Bruins may make prior to rosters becoming official on the cusp of the new season.

It also consists of $4,779,500 in bonus payments that were pushed into 2014-15, mostly from Jarome Iginla’s cap-friendly contract from last season. Looking at the projections for 2015-16 on CapGeek.com, the Bruins will have just over $22 million in cap space.

This may sound like a lot of money, but the list of UFAs and RFAs they will have to consider signing at that juncture is expansive. That list is below, and you will see some names that should make you take pause:

Unrestricted Free Agents

  • Matt Bartkowski
  • Johnny Boychuk
  • Gregory Campbell
  • David Krejci
  • Adam McQuaid
  • Daniel Paille
  • Carl Soderberg

Restricted Free Agents

  • Jordan Caron
  • Justin Florek
  • Dougie Hamilton
  • Niklas Svedberg

There will also be 13 players on two-way deals with the Providence Bruins who will hit restricted free agency. To pile on, the Bruins will see the following players hit unrestricted free agency the following year for the 2016-17 season:

2016-17 UFAs

  • Loui Eriksson
  • Chris Kelly
  • Milan Lucic
  • Kevan Miller

It is clear that Peter Chiarelli will have his work cut out for him over the next few seasons, not only to keep the Bruins competitive, but also cap-compliant. A question the Bruins will be asking themselves is who will be a part of the core of the team moving forward and does that make them worth investing a large portion of their cap space into a contract? If not, then does it make sense to move that person in a trade to get value rather than lose them without compensation in free agency?

It is my opinion that David Krejci is the skater the Bruins need to scrutinize the most with these questions.

Since the conclusion of his entry-level deal, Krejci has been signed to two three-year contracts, most recently at $5.25 million — a pay raise of $1.5 million from his previous non-entry-level NHL contract. Krejci earned his current contract after leading the league in goals and points during the playoffs when the Bruins won their 2011 Stanley Cup. When the Bruins won the East again in 2013, Krejci once again led the league in playoff points, and this time led in assists as well.

Krejci has never cracked the top 10 in points for a centerman during the regular season, but he has proven to be an elite offensive center during the playoffs. The Bruins owe their playoff success over the past few seasons to the play of Krejci and what he has brought out of his linemates. With the disappointing performance the Bruins gave in last year’s playoffs, Krejci’s name comes up as shouldering some of the blame.

With such dominant performances in 2011 and 2013, Krejci was surprisingly invisible in 2014, notching only four points — all of them assists. Krejci contributed to only four of the 30 goals the Bruins scored over their 12 games played. Part of this is surely game planning; any team which didn’t focus their defense against Krejci’s line with Iginla and Lucic was playing a fool’s game. The Bruins were hindered greatly when the trio was stifled and frustrated.

Though Krejci can’t completely control the opportunities he gets to score, you expect your second highest-paid center to contribute more than eight percent of the team’s 52 total assists. This is especially true after he came off a 69-point season — his best total since 2008-09 — on a team that won the Presidents’ Trophy, all while finishing a goal shy of becoming the sixth Bruin to hit the 20-goal mark that season — a group that included both of his linemates.

Noting that third-line center Carl Soderberg outperformed Krejci in the playoffs — while making $4 million less — is unfair due to the quality of competition each faces, but it does illustrate the depth the Bruins have at center.

Looking into the Providence Bruins, Ryan Spooner and Alex Khokhlachev played at 0.94 and 0.88 points per game respectively last season and could be poised to see additional NHL time. Spooner saw 23 games of NHL action during the 2013-14 season and notched 11 points, though he didn’t score any goals.

Having players bordering on being NHL-ready puts pressure on the Bruins to create roster space or deal them in order to have their value working for them. Both Spooner and Khokhlachev had been named in several trade rumors over the past few seasons, and that may be the path Chiarelli decides to take, but their cheap salaries may become more attractive to the Bruins as they look to deal with their cap situation.

So what does this all mean for Krejci’s future with the Bruins?

He has been a key component of Boston’s roster in some form since he was signed in 2006 and has only become a stronger part of the team over the past eight seasons. The Bruins’ biggest need may not be retaining and paying for a top-line center, but building right wing depth.

Could the Bruins trade Krejci to get an NHL-ready right winger and bring up cheaper centermen who are ready for NHL action with lower cap hits? This could give Chiarelli the ability to not only retain someone else from the free agents the Bruins will have, but he could also go elsewhere in the market or have space to make additional trades — something the Bruins have been unable to do this offseason.

As someone who enjoys the subtle-but-effective game Krejci plays it pains me to say the Bruins may be better off long-term by trading him.

The Bruins would continue to build around Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask as their long-term core, while trying to maximize the remaining window they can get from Zdeno Chara and developing Dougie Hamilton as the future leader of the defense. Letting Bergeron and Soderberg shoulder more of the centering responsibilities, while strengthening and giving them additional speed on the right side, could change how the team is able to compete in an Atlantic Division that appears to be getting faster.

The Bruins certainly would have an elite player, should they re-sign Krejci, but they may force themselves out of being able to add the pieces necessary to make a complete team.

One can’t ignore the fact that it’d be a gamble to put some of the responsibility on unproven players that could be coming up from the AHL. However, having the space and ability to make moves to strengthen your team — think Marian Gaborik for the Los Angeles Kings — can be extremely valuable in a league that is constantly becoming more competitive — and one that’s annually conquered by teams with nary any weaknesses.

Trading Krejci and freeing up the precious cap space to be able to address their identified weaknesses could make the bold move worth the risk.

  • I gotta say before I read the article I was ready to condemn you Jon. But you make some very valid points about just how bad their cap situation is (even after this year) while pointing out their young depth at center. The only point of contention I can make is that if we’re going to go down this painful road of starting to shed our core, then shouldn’t we look at trading Big Z before anyone else? While his contract in actual dollars owed continues to become more favorable, his cap hit does not. Also, while Julien deserves blame for overusing Chara during the season to chase a meaningless Presidents Trophy, and Chara being great in front of the net on the PP (which led to over half of his excellent 19 goal production last year), isn’t it obvious he is no longer the same player? I would go as far to say that to my amateur scout’s eye, Boychuk has already passed him as our best defensive DMan, Seids is coming back, and the young D are growing by leaps and bounds. Krejci is the more effective player at this stage (while an oranges to apples comparison), still in his prime for his next contract, and is the straw that stirs the drink offensively. He also may be the most clutch playoff performer in hockey today when looking at the total body of his work. If you shed Z the whole cap situation becomes manageable as I assume this big tv deal with NBC Sports drives the cap significantly upward in years to come. I do think the big, 1 eyed Swede is ready for a top 6 role, and I’m extremely high on Ryan Spooner (he has a Krejci-like ability to slow the game down), I still think it’s more palatable to trade Z with Hamilton, Boychuk, Seids, Krug, et all already in place. Z is getting close to the end of the road. Many have speculated about Looch not being worth the money and rightfully so, but with Thorny gone, the B’s need his grit now more than ever. Z will be great for a few more years but only with vastly reduced minutes. So why not get that toughness from a still young Looch while turning over the D to the young guys? Just something to contemplate. Maybe that can be your next article.

    Jim Aborn, Huge B’s fan

    • Jon DePalma

      Hey Jim, thank you for reading! I appreciate you getting to the end of the article before you decided if you’d throw me off the Zakim. I agree that Z could be the player most likely to decline near term, but that very same fact could make it hard to get the value needed in a trade to shed your Captain. Suggesting Krejci is already bold enough, not to mention he wears an ‘A’. I think when I look around the league the blueprint for a championship team is a cornerstone defenseman (Chara), top two-way center (Bergeron), and playoff proven goaltender (Rask). The most recent comparison is the LA Kings (Doughty/Kopitar/Quick) or Chicago (Keith/Toews/Crawford). You put a strong supporting cast around that core and you have yourself a competitive team. I don’t think Z is fully falling off the table yet, which is why I think it is more important to fill out the supporting cast while you still can. Moving a player like Krejci gets you the value, cap space, and flexibility to make impactful changes to the team. That being said, the Bruins are in a cap situation where there could be a variety of offers that make sense.

  • Fair enough. Personally, I hope they can find a way to keep them both without losing talented young players down the road. But if you held my feet to the fire and I had to trade one, I’d trade Z. I’m worried their gonna let Johnny Rockets walk in the offseason which I think would be a huge mistake.

  • J W

    Good article. I believe that the idea trading Krejci has already been thrown around. I think he and Marchand are under the biggest pressure to perform this next season. Krejci will be UFA and angling for a contract next year; Marchand is, well, we all know about his dismal performance last Playoffs and talk about his trade was the fast-spreading rumour after our early out.

    Other than our deadweights, like Kelly, McQuaid, Bartkowski and Caron, which we would definitely unload, we have a good core to keep. Yes, this includes Chara who, even at his age, puts up solid numbers every game. Even given the fact that he might be slowing down a little, his worst is still better than any rookie d-man. He is the reason why Dougie is getting so good! Hence, Chara is NEVER one we should trade and, I agree with Jim anove, NOT JB55 either (though many people say JB will likely explore the UFA market who will fork out A LOT more than Bruins can afford to).

    Let’s see how this season works out with Loui in L1. I expect Pastrnak will be filiing out our roster which I’m fine with … or one or two other Baby Bs. Just please, please, please not Gagne. I repeat, not Gagne!

Atlantic Division
Jon DePalma
@JackTheWire

Jon DePalma was born in Denver and after just five years transplanted to Boston. Over the 25 years since moving, Boston has corrupted and transformed him into the cynical person he is today. When not consumed by hockey, Jon enjoys emotional eating, relinquishing control of the remote to his girlfriend during the summer and trying to become better at skating backwards. He joined the staff in April 2014.

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