Top Shelf: Cap-strapped B's open checkbook for Krejci
By Dan Di Sciullo, NHL Editor
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - It's no secret this has been a frustrating offseason for the Boston Bruins.
Boston's lack of salary cap space is a major issue heading into the 2014-15 campaign and it's the biggest reason Jarome Iginla will be donning a Colorado Avalanche sweater this season and not the "spoked B" of the Bruins. The cap crunch also kept Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli from signing a marquee free agent to replace the departed Iginla.
However, the B's finally were able to unveil a bit of positive news on Thursday, announcing a multi-year contract extension with centerman David Krejci.
After a summer spent mulling ways to fix his team's salary cap conundrum, Chiarelli was wise to lock up Krejci now even if the six-year, $43.5 million contract isn't exactly a bargain. Krejci has one year left on a three-year, $15.75 million deal before the new contract kicks in and when it does it will cost Boston an annual cap hit of $7.25 million to retain the Czech centerman's services.
For the time being, the raise places Krejci in the top-10 on the NHL's list of highest-paid centerman for the 2015-16 season. Krejci sits ninth on the list, falling behind Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk and Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos, who are each scheduled to draw $7.5 million against the cap in 2015-16.
It's hard to argue Krejci deserves to be paid only $250,000 less a season than Datsyuk and Stamkos -- two of the league's most recognizable stars -- but it doesn't mean Boston vastly overpaid to keep the 28-year-old. If Krejci was allowed to hit the open market in the summer of 2015, when the salary cap ceiling is expected to rise from its current total of $69 million, there's a chance he would've commanded a higher salary than Datsyuk or Stamkos.
Krejci also will become the highest paid Bruin next season, beating out goaltender Tuukka Rask ($7 million), star defenseman Zdeno Chara ($6.9 million) and Boston's top centerman Patrice Bergeron ($6.5 million).
In light of Krejci's pay raise, the Bergeron extension is beginning to look like a real bargain. The reigning Selke Trophy winner as the league's top defensive forward, Bergeron is arguably Boston's most important player now that the 37-year-old Chara seems to be entering the downside of his career.
Krejci led Boston with 69 points in 2013-14, posting 19 goals and 50 assists, while Bergeron paced the club with 30 goals and was second on the team with 62 points (one more point than the aforementioned Iginla). The good news is both players are locked up long term with Bergeron inked through the 2021-22 season and Krejci signed through 2020-21.
Still, just because Boston has its No. 1 and No. 2 pivots signed for the foreseeable future there are many people in Beantown who can't forget Tyler Seguin -- the star centerman who got away.
Seguin was selected by Boston with the second overall pick of the 2010 draft before being traded to Dallas in the summer of 2013 amid talk of immature behavior. Of course, all Seguin did for the Stars in 2013-14 was come into his own as one of the league's best young centerman, posting 37 goals and 84 points during an eye-opening breakout season.
Who knows? Seguin could've had his breakout year with Boston instead and maybe that would've led Chiarelli to let Krejci to walk after this season. Giving up on Seguin too soon surely stings for the B's, but getting to keep Krejci instead isn't a bad consolation prize.
Keeping Krejci in the fold is a positive sign for Boston's future, but Boston has plenty of work to do when it comes to cutting costs. The Bruins are currently $809,143 over the cap ceiling but they will get $4 million-plus of relief once the season starts and Marc Savard can be placed on long term injured reserve. That could be enough space for Chiarelli to sign Reilly Smith and Torey Krug, a pair of young restricted free agents, before the season gets underway. If more cap space is needed, the Bruins may be forced to trade a veteran or two, with winger Brad Marchand and defenseman Johnny Boychuk labeled as the most obvious candidates.
Boston's cap problems are a symptom of the franchise's recent success, as Chiarelli tries to keep as much of his core group together as possible and it could be argued that nobody has been more essential to the B's run than Krejci. He was the leading postseason scorer for the Bruins when they won it all in 2011 and two years later when Boston lost in the Stanley Cup Finals to Chicago, he again led the club in playoff points.
Even Krejci's dismal 2014 postseason when he failed to score a goal and had only four points in 12 games isn't nearly enough to erase those memorable playoff performances.
Cap troubles or no, it's clear the Bruins believe Krejci will continue to be a key component of their winning formula.
09/05 13:01:39 ET