This afternoon, the Bruins resigned their top line center (only by technicality) to a 6 year deal that will grant him a cap hit of $7.25 million per year. For just about any contender, signing your first line center to that kind of money with the salary cap set to go up significantly is almost automatically awesome. But not for the Bruins. Maybe it’s not bad, but we gotta think about this one a little more.
The next time you hear someone make the case that the Bruins made a great deal because any team would be happy resigning their top center to this kind of money, remind them to follow hockey a tad more. David Krejci and his linemates by no means make up the team’s first line in terms of skill level and production. That’s Bergeron’s line, but Claude Julien still puts Bergeron, Marchand, and Reilly as the 2nd line for whatever reason. Maybe that’ll change this year, but whatever. The point is that the B’s actually paid their 2nd best center a lot of money when they have Carl Soderberg, Ryan Spooner, Chris Kelly, Alexander Khokhlachev, and Gregory Campbell all capable of playing NHL minutes at center within the next year.
It sounds like I hate the deal, but I don’t. It just makes me very, very nervous. This year, the massive TV deal that Rogers signed with the NHL in Canada will take effect, and the league will receive roughly $400 million per year in American dollars. That’s kind of a lot considering that the league has 7 teams in that country.
And, if the NHL does decide to be stupid enough to expand with 4 new teams in the next 1-3 years, that’ll mean a lot of new money for the current 30 teams in the league. Of course, that would also mean that every team would lose some players, but the B’s would likely be able to protect enough guys to keep their core together while having the cap rise enough to actually keep the core.
But, even if the cap doesn’t go up, aren’t we forgetting the fact that the Bruins can’t always have the same core that they have since 2010? Krejci, Lucic, Bergeron, Marchand, Tuukka, Chara, Seidenberg, Boychuk, and now Reilly Smith and Loui Eriksson won’t be there forever. Peak years for forwards are roughly about 25 or 26, mayyybe 27 if the guy isn’t known as much for scoring. Only Reilly Smith is under 25, and he’s 23. To scare the piss out of you, remember that Z is 4.5 months older than Tom Brady, and we all know how old Brady is now.
David Krejci just turned 28 before the dreaded Montreal series last year, and he’ll now get paid until just after his 35th birthday at a $7.25 million clip. That’s kind of high.
I’m not saying I even disagree with the move, but I am saying that the B’s didn’t have a great set of circumstances. There were 3 options, from what I can tell.
- Don’t give Krejci the extension, run the risk of him walking in the summer. If he had walked, try to resign another center, maybe Carl Soderberg, whose contract will also expire after this year, to be the B’s 2nd best centerman. This was by far the worst option, because you’re taking a huge risk. Very few stars actually hit free agency anymore, let alone a guy who led the league twice in playoff scoring, would be 29 at the time, and would probably be coming off of a great contract year. Krejci would get paid even more than this amount, so there was really no reason to stand pat.
- Trade Krejci, get 2 different kinds of assets in return. The first player would have to be a replacement for Krejci in the short term, and the 2nd would have to be a young piece that would help the Bruins replenish their core in the next few years. Such a trade would remind us of the Tyler Seguin trade, and the B’s might also need to get a little more in the deal to make it worthwhile (maybe a draft pick?). At this point in the summer, this option is just dumb, because so many teams are already near the cap as training camp is coming up soon. But earlier in the summer, this would have been intriguing. What if the B’s had traded Krejci and forced a team to take Adam McQuaid or Chris Kelly (that would have been great, but also highly unlikely with Kelly’s full NTC) for some awesome young pieces, one of whom could produce now while still being on a rookie deal. Why not go back to Dallas (pre Spezza deal) and try to get Valeri Nichushkin and other really cheap assets for Krejci, and then resign Jarome Iginla? Or why not try to get Wayne Simmonds, a prototypical Bruins-type player, and then be at least a little closer to bringing Iggy back. Because Peter Chiarelli is a good GM, I’ll trust him that he already reviewed these options… but then again, it’s hard to be sure that he really did. Chiarelli’s only real weakness has been trying to keep his core together too long, as evidenced by the Kelly, Peverley, and Seidenberg extensions, 2 of which are already putting big dents into the Bruins cap sheet. Chiarelli would’ve had to get bowled over for a trade, but if trading Krejci and his $5.5 mil for this season for a cheap asset meant resigning Iginla, wouldn’t that have been appetizing. Yet, Chiarelli did admit that he looked at other options as ways to keep Iggy, and that they weren’t worth it, so I’ll stand by him on this.
- Sign this extension. Most people are viewing this as the safe pick, but count me out on that one. I think the safest option is actually the 2nd, assuming that kind of trade would’ve been there. (Again, I’ll admit that it’s a big assumption.) At least that option could’ve given the Bruins a way to keep Iginla and maybe more form the 2014 team, and then it could’ve guaranteed that they’d have more for the future. This new deal means that we’re relying on so many things going right, they way we were with the Dennis Seidenberg extension. Krejci will have to keep playing at this same level and stay healthy in order to justify the contract, and Seidenberg failed on both of those accounts in the 2013-2014 season.
So, if you’re keeping track, this is a great deal if everything goes right. But if anything goes wrong, it’s bad. Pretty basic. The biggest worry might be that how good Krejci’s deal is depends on how much the salary cap rises for the 2015-2016 season and beyond, so it’s out of the B’s control. I guess that those of us who don’t have David Krejci jerseys yet should go out and buy them to increase the NHL’s revenue and make the cap rise.