But when the Bruins got back to work for practice on Friday after a day off, it was Milan Lucic who was all smiles about the new deal keeping his center in town for the foreseeable future.
"Obviously it's great," Lucic said. "I've developed some great chemistry with Kreech over the last two years, and it's great to see they're committed to keeping him around. He's been a big part of this team for the last five seasons and us getting to where we are now. As his linemate, I couldn't be happier."
Lucic, who signed his own three-year, $12.25-million extension with the Bruins back in October, 2009, has played with some pretty good centers over the years, including a memorable run during the 2008-09 season alongside Marc Savard. But Lucic's greatest success has come skating with Krejci.
Lucic, Krejci and Nathan Horton were united to form Boston's top line last season, and Lucic responded by shattering his career highs and leading the team in goals with 30 and sharing the team lead with Krejci in points with 62. They followed that up by winning the franchise's first Cup in 39 years this spring, with Krejci leading the league in playoff scoring. This year, Lucic is on pace to better his production again with 10-8-18 totals through 23 games while remaining alongside Krejci and Horton.
"He always seems to be there, that's what makes the chemistry we have so great," Lucic said of Krejci. "We're always there for each other, and also Horty on the right wing. That's what makes us a complete line."
Krejci has a special knack for finding his teammates on the ice, and his vision and hockey sense are a big reason why the Bruins have committed $15.75 million to him over the next three years. But his connection with Lucic is helped by a more practical reason, as the right-handed shooting Krejci has a natural tendency to look for the big winger barreling down the ice to his left.
"When we first started playing together, it was actually the first time I had played with a right-handed centerman, and just naturally he looks to his left first, to his forehand," Lucic said. "And obviously it's worked out well between the two of us. It didn't take too long for us to find our groove together. He always seems to put himself in the right spot, and I think that's why he has the success that he's had."
Even with that natural advantage and the obvious skill Krejci possesses, he has struggled for much of the early going this season with just 4-9-13 totals in 20 games. Krejci admitted on Thursday that his contract situation had been weighing on his mind, and getting that resolved could set him up for even bigger and better things. It certainly looked that way on Wednesday, when Krejci snapped out of his slump with a goal and two assists in a 6-3 win in Toronto just hours after agreeing to the deal that the Bruins would make official the following day.
"Some players it doesn't bother them at all, other players it may weigh in a bit more on it," Bruins coach Claude Julien said when asked about how Krejci had handled playing in a contract year. "Whether it's the reason or not, the most important thing is to see him play as well as he can. I thought the other night and even the games before their line was getting chances they weren't finishing and in Toronto they did and that was the difference."
Lucic has no doubts that Krejci will continue to be a difference maker for the Bruins.
"He definitely can step up at any moment of the game and make an impact," Lucic said. "That's what makes him such a dynamic player. [It's] his ability not just 5 on 5, but on the power play and penalty kill too. He's a versatile player. I'm just happy to see he's sticking around."
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