Torey Krug was in the middle of plenty of trade rumors with the Bruins last summer, so it didn't sound like the puck-moving D-man was shocked last week when his future in Boston was once again the topic of discussion at the start of this offseason.
Krug is coming off a strong regular season and a stellar postseason where he would have been in the conversation for Conn Smythe had the Bruins pulled out Game 7 against the St. Louis Blues. He tied with Alex Pietrangelo for the playoff lead with 16 assists through the entire postseason, and he did something that even Bobby Orr never did with a four-point game during the Stanley Cup Final. More importantly, Krug stayed healthy during the playoff run for the first time in the last three postseasons.
Krug was second on the B's in ice time playing 22:20 per game, and held his own against much bigger opponents on oversized rosters in Columbus and St. Louis during the four rounds of the postseason. To say he answered plenty of questions this postseason would be an understatement, and underneath it all Krug played with the kind of cojones that scream out leadership and accountability.
All it takes is one shoving match between 5-foot-8 Krug and 6-foot-6 Colton Parayko during the Cup Final to know that he's the kind of player who isn't going to back down. He got drilled by Jake Muzzin with a missile body check in the first round that clearly stunned him for a few games afterward, but he never missed any time and ended up putting together a hell of a postseason.
So there's little doubting that Krug's value is at an all-time high right now coming off his 18 playoff points and plus-4 in 24 playoff games, and that is part of the problem when it comes to considering his future. Krug is entering the final season of a contract that will pay him $5.25 million and currently has him as the highest paid D-man on the B's roster. That will likely be short-lived until Charlie McAvoy signs his next contract with the Black and Gold, but it's still worth noting that the 28-year-old Krug carries the biggest salary cap hit.
It's expected that Krug is going to get a substantial pay bump on his next deal entering unrestricted free agency next summer at 29 years old, and that's where the trade scenarios begin coming into play. It's difficult to envision the Bruins being able to afford Krug after paying out RFA money to both McAvoy and Brandon Carlo this offseason.
It's also reaching a point where McAvoy is ready to take that next step as a PP quarterback for the top power-play unit, and step into more of the offense that Krug has been providing for the B's over the last few seasons. If Krug were to be traded it would be largely because youngsters like McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk are ready to take on more responsibility and perhaps fill the void left by such a player who's topped 50 points in each of the last three regular seasons.
So the next logical step would be to move Krug in a deal for a substantial player coming back in return with the offensive D-man coming off a big season, and still sporting a reasonable cap hit for at least the coming season. If the Bruins could land the top-6 power forward-type with some goal-scoring ability that they sorely lack up front by moving Krug elsewhere, that is something that Bruins general manager Don Sweeney would need to consider.
That's probably why the Bruins GM didn't outright reject the notion of dealing Krug while addressing the media on Monday morning, and instead indicated he'd need to be blown away to even consider it. Cut through all the words and that means Sweeney is considering it this summer given the roster and cap needs for his hockey club moving forward.
"Torey is an important part of our hockey club. I was proud of his efforts. He took to heart being in a top-4 role this year, particularly in the playoffs where he was going to face some tough matchups on the road. He handled it really well," said Sweeney. "The power play and the points really speak for themselves, and have for his entire time here. He's a big part of our club.
"We have an opportunity on July 1 to open up talks, and some of it will be dictated by the RFA market and some internal things will dictate the timing of those conversations. If somebody blew us away [with a trade offer] then every player has to be looked at in that way. From an organizational standpoint, it would be a disservice if you don't. It would take a pretty unique opportunity for us to part with Torey. We believe that he's in the fabric of our group and he's kind of that next wave of leadership behind the guys that have carried the mantle for a long time. He's an important part of our club."
What does Krug want?
The undrafted defenseman obviously wants to remain with the only NHL home that he's known in Boston, and wants to be a part of the leadership group still pushing for that elusive next Stanley Cup.
"It's been my goal since Day One to be a part of this locker room and a part of this core group," said Krug, of remaining with the Bruins. "I've been lucky enough to stay for a while and I want to be here forever. It's a great group of guys and I feel privileged to be a part of this group. You want to bring something to the table yourself and hopefully I've done that."
He's certainly earned that consideration as one of the most prolific defensemen in the NHL over the last five years with guys like Erik Karlsson, John Klingberg and Brent Burns as his peers from an offensive production standpoint.
But the NHL is also a business - and even the B's general manager didn't rule out the possibility of trading Krug if the right deal comes along for his team. It feels more likely that Krug will return to a Bruins team that could use him as they try to get back to the Stanley Cup Final again next season, but the trade rumors will be as real as they've ever been for the 28-year-old during his six full seasons in Boston.
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