TSN reports that the Bruins today signed David Krejci to a 3 year, $11.25 million dollar deal, which answers at least one glaring question for B’s fans from this off-season. Of the nine free agents for the Bruins this season, Krejci has to be towards, or at the top, of the list of players to re-sign.
Krejci, the Bruins 2nd-leading scorer this year with 73 points, is only 23 years old and already plays with the poise of someone ten years his senior. The patience and vision he showed this year while gathering 51 assists was uncanny for a player his age. This is a man who Bruins fans are going to enjoy watching for (thankfully) at least another three seasons, and hopefully much longer after that.
So now, the question remains for these Bruins…what next? This move will put the Bruins’ cap hit at around $51.3 million next year. With reports saying that the cap is either going to remain the same or drop lower, there is some finagling to be done by the Bruins’ front office. While we won’t know exactly what can be done until the NHL releases its cap figure for next year, what’s the fun in waiting to speculate?
Phil Kessel is 21 years old and had 60 points on 36 goals in 70 games this year. I expect he will get either a 2-year or 4-year deal, in order to stagger his contract from Krejci’s, with near to the same figure as Krejci got today. Kessel is a must-sign, in my opinion; he’s young, he can put the puck in the net, and he has shown this year that he can work well on this squad. The Bruins high-octane offense this year was fueled in part by Kessel, and that’s a trend that I’d like to see continue.
Matt Hunwick is another must-sign. At 24 years old, Hunwick had 27 points in 53 games this year for the Bs. However, his biggest contribution to this team cannot be measured on the scoresheet. Hunwick’s speed and puck handling skills were sorely missed in the playoffs, especially the Carolina series, after he was sidelined against Montreal. The Bruins need a solid puck-moving defenseman to get their breakout started, and Hunwick is that kind of player. He should be relatively cheap, hitting the cap for only $750k this year. I don’t expect to see his salary rise too much higher than that, with a highest-reaching figure of probably about $1 million.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we can definitely expect to see Manny Fernandez depart. Thanks for playing, I’m sure that no one is losing any sleep over this one. Tuukka Rask is a more-than-capable backup to Tim Thomas, and is ready for his shot in the NHL. Bye bye, Manny.
As sad as it is to say, I think P.J. Axlesson’s days here in Boston are numbered. Axlesson is an 11-year Bruins veteran who has never been an offensive powerhouse, but who always does the little things right to help get the job done. However, he’s making too much money currently to be re-signed by the Bruins, and may even head back to Sweden in hopes of making more money. P.J. seems like the kind of team player that would take a salary hit to stay in Boston and perhaps win a Cup, which the Bruins seem poised to make a run for next year, but only time will tell.
So that leaves us with Byron Bitz, Mark Recchi, Stephane Yelle, Steve Montador, and Shane Hnidy. Recchi has expressed interest in staying in Boston, but he would absolutely need to take a pay cut in order to do so. With the cap space remaining - assuming deals to Kessel and Hunwick - they will not be able to afford his $1.5 million dollar cap hit. Yelle is a favorite of mine for his tenacity and shot-blocking abilities, but I expect he will be gone in favor of someone from the P-Bruins. Montador may be going as well, as he didn’t show much in the playoffs. The same goes for Hnidy, depending on cap space and how things are shaping up.
The other option is to trade a higher-valued contract. Specifically, Marco Sturm or Patrice Bergeron. Now, I know this won’t be a popular opinion here in Boston, but if that’s going to be the deal, I think that the smarter move is trading Bergeron. Sturm is coming off an injury, so you will probably have a better return on Bergeron. Bergeron is currently our 3rd line center, and we’re paying him $4.75 million a year, which is an exorbitant number for that stature. I love him, but I think that Bergeron may be the first to go in a trade scenario just based on the situation at hand. If the Bruins could deal Bergeron’s contract for someone in the $2 mil range, they could probably fill his void on the stat sheet and free up some cap space for other guys on the team.
Now, if the cap drops, that’s a whole other story. But, until the NHL releases the number, I can be hopeful that it won’t. Either way, whatever happens, at least I know I’ve got another three years of asking myself, “how did he see that guy?”