One of the problems with the NHL season being currently suspended, with nobody sure if or when the campaign will resume, is the league’s salary cap. It is not clear what the league’s cap will be once free-agency begins, especially if the NHL playoffs are canceled. The lack of ticket sales and overall revenue could drastically lower the cap for the 2021 season.
The Bruins will have four players become restricted free agents; Matt Grzelcyk, Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork, and Karson Kuhlman. Five players will enter free agency with no restrictions; Zdeno Chara, Jaroslav Halak, Kevan Miller, Joakim Nordstrom and Torey Krug.
Speculating the salaries these players will all be offered, and more importantly accept, is rather futile at this point. The RFAs will not have much leverage, especially since Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy did not break the bank last year under the same circumstances. Chara will definitely return if he wants to, and all signs point to a 15th season in Boston. Halak is the other interesting case along with Krug, as he might take less to stay in Boston. Being the backup goaltender on a Stanley Cup contender is a pretty good setup. However, there is always the chance a team offers him starter money.
Krug is in his final season of a four year extension. He is expecting a raise from his current yearly salary of $5.25 Million. It is hard to say exactly what he will be offered if he reaches free agency, but it could be as high as $8 Million per season. The Bruins are unlikely to bring back Krug at that price.
However, Boston should do everything possible to resign/extend 47. Every Bruins fan knows how dynamic he can be with the puck. Krug is incredibly lethal spearheading Boston’s power play, which is one of the best units in the league. Not to mention, he has consistently produced for the Bruins during his playoff career.
Boston’s roster would be greatly altered if Krug left. McAvoy and Grzelcyk would have to drastically increase their power play time, as Krug routinely skates over one minute during a 5-4. That would probably mean either less time for those two in key defensive situations, or a lot more minutes on their plates. They might not be as productive with such an increase in both offensive and defensive responsibilities.
Krug's departure would also put more of an emphasis on Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak to carry the power play. A huge reason why that unit is so efficient is Krug’s creativity and versatilIty on the man advantage. He can switch places with Marchand and play on the right circle whenever needed. He is very slick feeding Pastrnak for one timers, as well as blasting an indirect pass off boards to allow 88 to streak ahead of the defense. Without Krug that unit becomes a lot easier to defend.
The top line carries enough of the Bruins’ scoring 5-5 and on the man advantage. It would not be ideal for Boston to rely on them for even more offensive production.
Lastly, if Krug leaves Boston’s solid defensive unit would be a lot weaker. Grzelcyk, who is a very good third pairing defenseman, would probably slide up with Brandon Carlo. Grzelcyk skating with Carlo is not the issue, as he would be serviceable in that position. The problem would then be Boston’s bottom pair defense.
The last year plus the Bruins have struggled to find their 6th defenseman. Connor Clifton, Kevan Miller, Jeremy Lauzon and John Moore have all had issues with consistent play, staying healthy, or both. If Krug leaves Boston would have to solidify ⅓ of their defense.
While Krug is not the most important player to the Bruins, he is a vital part of Boston’s success. There is nobody in the Bruins organization that can replace Krug’s high level of offensive skill from the back-end. It will be a bitter pill for Boston to swallow if they cannot bring back Krug due to the salary cap being impacted by this stoppage.
Follow Chad on Twitter @shutupchadjones