BOLTON, Mass. — “Uncertainty” hasn’t been a buzzword entering the last few Boston Bruins training camps.
Sure, there’s been plenty of turnover since the team won its last Stanley Cup in 2011. The B’s have dealt with the departures of Mark Recchi, Andrew Ference, Nathan Horton, Tyler Seguin — all key contributors not automatically replaced.
But, when each September rolls around, Peter Chiarelli & Co. have at least a relatively clear idea of which players they’ll be sending out on opening night.
That’s not the case this year.
With training camp set to open in just two days, restricted free agents Reilly Smith and Torey Krug — key contributors in the forward and defenseman corps, respectively — remain unsigned.
Neither was present Tuesday at the Boston Bruins Foundation Golf Tournament, an annual event signifying the impending start of camp. Several Bruins who addressed the media before the tournament recognized the business side of Smith’s and Krug’s contract negotiations but admitted it still was strange not having their teammates around.
“It is weird,” defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. “You’d like to have the guys here and the whole team together, but at the end of the day, everyone has to look out for themselves, and I’m not the one to say what to do or what’s right or what’s wrong. But hopefully, they’re both here soon.”
“Yeah, it’s a little bit weird,” alternate captain David Krejci added, echoing Seidenberg. “Especially those two guys, they’re really great players. We need those guys. But on the other hand, this is something they’ve got to deal with on their own. Hopefully, they’ll get a done deal before training camp, but there’s nothing much I can say about that.”
To head coach Claude Julien, the focus is less on the weirdness of not having Krug and Smith around and more on who will take their spots in the lineup if their negotiations escalate into holdouts. These are players who tallied a combined 91 points last season, but Julien is confident in the bodies he’ll have in camp regardless of how the contract situations shake out.
“I think it goes to the same thing we’ve talked about in the past that there’s some things a coach can’t control,” Julien said. “I can’t control that. To me, they’re going to be like injured players if they don’t show. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We’ll find out (when camp opens) Thursday morning. But if they don’t, then I’ve got to find some replacements. We feel like we’ve got them at our camp, and we’ll just move forward.”
Ultimately, Julien understands. He gets that hockey is a business, and that if a player puts up numbers like Krug (14 goals, 26 assists) and Smith (20 goals, 31 assists) did for a perennially contending team last season, he’s eventually going to get paid. And, if and when that happens, the team must be prepared to move on.
“When you have a certain amount of success, it’s because your players are doing well,” the coach explained. “When your players are doing well, eventually they get raises. So, it’s just a matter of time before we got into those situations, and I feel right now, we’re in a good position where we can handle it. It’ll just take a little bit of time.”