As we all know Torey Krug is going to be an unrestricted free agent this summer. For most of the year we were under the impression that Krug would come back on a team-friendly deal. That was until information was leaked saying Krug wanted a six-year $49 Million deal worth just under $8.2 Million per year.
I don't think this is Krug's line in the sand saying it's this or I walk. I also don't think it's going to be as much of a slam dunk as we all thought that Krug is coming back. I think he is worth $8 Million a year and if he walks could even get $9 Million from some desperate team. However, the Bruins have set a precedent of their star players taking less than market value to keep the core together to go for the Cup. Let's take a look at some options of who could be brought in to replace Krug if his demands are just too much for the Bruins.
The first option on my list is already on the roster in Matt Grzelcyk. Grzelcyk is also in need of a new contract but is a restricted free agent. That means the Bruins have the ability to match any offer he would get if he isn’t re-signed before free agency. Grzelcyk has played well this season as he continues to grow as a player. So far in 67 games Grzelcyk has 17 assists and 20 points, with six of those points coming on the power play. Grzelcyk has also proven to be dependable in his own zone with a +15 plus minus rating. Grzelcyk, making only $1.4 Million this season, is due for a raise, along with several other key Bruins players. While Grzelcyk’s numbers might not jump off the page with 53 career points in 196 games, his +45 is a very encouraging number. I don’t think Grzelcyk will become a 50 point per year player, but with him and McAvoy both seeing an increased role they could more than make up for the departure of Krug.
My first potential free-agent replacement is Kevin Shattenkirk. So far in 69 games Shattenkirk has 8 goals and 26 assists for 34 points as well as a +22 plus-minus. With five 40 point seasons already, Kevin has been one of the best offensive defensemen for the last decade. Unfortunately a disastrous stint with the Rangers which ended in a buyout has severely hurt his standing in the league. The good news for the Bruins is he's only earning a modest $1.75 Million on a prove-it deal, so his next raise will be significant but not break the bank. Tampa has just under $8 Million in projected cap space going into the summer, which won't be enough to keep Shattenkirk with the other players they need to retain. A contract similar to what Krug has now, around $5.2 million, should be enough to bring Kevin on board. With 45% of his career points coming on the power play he would be a great fit for Krug's current role.
From one cap-strapped rival to another Tyson Barrie may be a victim of the Leafs current cap crunch. With just over $7 Million in projected cap space the Leafs will be hard-pressed to keep or bring in talent. Barrie would wipe out most if that space, so he will very likely be joining the free-agent class. A down year has seen him put up 34 assists and 39 points with 12 coming on the power play. With three 50 point seasons in his career, Barrie is one of the best scoring defensemen in the league. With that said he has had some trouble in his own zone. For his career Barrie is a minus 65. While that was on some not so great Colorado teams and a poor defensive leafs team, this year with how much he scores that's pretty low. Currently making $5.5 Million, Barrie will be due a raise even with his declining numbers this year. I still would not pay Barrie in the $8 Million range, but if he would come to Boston for $7 Million per year I would take him. Slotting him next to Carlo would cover the defensive issues, while his scoring ability would be a perfect fit for the Krug’s role.
Vatanen was a deadline acquisition by the Hurricanes to be a rental stop-gap as their defense has been hit hard by injuries. With those injured players returning next season, and just over $10 Million in projected cap space Vatanen will be a free agent. In 47 games Vatanen has 18 assists and 23 points with 10 points on the power play. The down side to Vatanen is he has never played over 71 games in a season. Even with all of the injury troubles Vatanen has had three 30 point seasons. Sami is also a career minus 8, but when you take into account he was minus 30 with a horrible Devils team he actually isn’t that bad in the defensive zone. Currently making $4.9 Million he shouldn’t command much of a raise, especially with his injury history. For his career Vatanen has scored 44% of his points on the power play so he would fit the mold of a Krug type of defenseman when healthy.
The final defenseman on this list is also the only restricted free agent, Vince Dunn. Dunn being an RFA that means the Blues could match any offer, but with just over $10 Million in projected cap space. An offer in the $4 Million range should price them out. Yes this would cost the Bruins a second-round pick, but at just 23 years old Dunn is well worth that price. In 69 games this season Dunn has 9 goals 14 assists for 23 points with 10 points on the power play. Dunn is also a plus 32 for his career which is pretty impressive considering his age. Of his 82 career points, 27 have been on the power play so about 33 percent. When you consider most of that was on the Blues second power-play unit that's again pretty impressive. Dunn on the Bruins first power-play unit could explode for a breakout season maybe even hitting 45-50 points.
Replacing a player like Krug is never easy for any team. Since entering the league Krug is seventh in scoring among defensemen. That puts him ahead of Barrie, Giordano, Pietrangelo, Doughty, and Ekman-Larsson. Krug is currently just one point away from his fourth straight 50 point season. I hope we are able to keep Krug, but if he wants to get paid it won't be happening here. I would go after Dunn first to put some pressure on the Blues, forcing them to make a hard choice about who they want to keep. If Dunn is locked up then I think Shattenkirk would be a very good signing that could see him return to the 50 point player he used to be. If there was ever a year to let Krug go this year isn't a bad year for it. With plenty of free-agent options out there to fill what would be a massive void in this team. As always don't forget to check out all of our team pages and keep checking back for all the latest Boston sports news.
Featured image courtesy of Jim Davis/Globe Staff.