We’ve known this has been coming for a while, but it’s finally here: Torey Krug is a free agent.
With the Boston Bruins’ season ending at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the star defenseman is set to hit the open market, where he and the St. Louis Blues’ Alex Pietrangelo will be the two most sought-after blueliners.
Krug always tried to be mum about his contract situation during the season so as not to be a distraction. But on Thursday he held his end of the season media availability over Zoom and was deluged with an onslaught of questions about what’s next.
The 29-year-old indicated that in-season contract talks with the Bruins were minimal, which isn’t totally surprising.
“The contact (talks) was very, very few and far between, for whatever reason,” Krug said. “It is what it is. As far as what it looks like, I don’t really know what the future holds in terms of the coming weeks. … So, we’ll see. I guess there’s a lot of time between now and then, I’m not really sure what the future holds and I’m willing to sit back and see what happens here.”
For a while now, the Detroit Red Wings have been a team speculated to be a good fit for Krug. They are young, have a ton of cap space and he immediately would be one of their top players and leaders — all while playing in Krug’s home state.
But the Red Wings have been remarkably bad the last few seasons and are in the thick of a rebuild. If Krug were to go there, he would be spending his prime years on a team that’s a ways off from being a playoff team, never mind a Cup contender.
That said, he hasn’t been thinking about what his options are beyond Boston.
“I’ve got to be honest, I haven’t thought about any other team or any other situation,” Krug said. “It’s been — I was very truthful and honest with you guys when I told you I wasn’t thinking about it during the season. I invested all my time into what’s going on with the Bruins and was very hopeful that it would result in ending back up with the Bruins. So I haven’t thought about any other team or any other situation up to date. Likely as we approach free agency I’ll probably have to do that, but I haven’t thought about anything. Very proud of what we’ve done here in Boston over the years and being part of that core group. Guys have come and gone and I’ve managed to stay here for, what has it been now, eight years? Very happy that I was part of it. Hopefully that continues and hopefully I still am, that’s just the situation that’s here.”
With that in mind, Krug clearly values fit — which could be a big plus for the Bruins in contract negotiations.
“I think (fit) weighs heavily on any decision an athlete can make. If you don’t consider that I think you’re foolish. But for me it’s very important,” Krug said. “I think you can make all the money in the world and have all the security in the world, but if you’re not comfortable in the situation, you’re not happy, then every day is going to be tough to get up and excited to show up to work and give it all. … It’s a big part of the decision. Obviously I’ve made it well-known that I feel very comfortable in Boston. I like my role here, I’m comfortable with the coach and I love my teammates.”
The NHL, like every other league, is in an interesting spot because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Financial losses have resulted in the salary cap staying at the same figure ($81.5 million) for at least next season.
Teams might be wary of throwing big money around, which has led to speculation that maybe players like Krug would take a one-year deal in hopes of there being a clearer and more optimistic financial outlook next year.
Don’t count on it.
“I’m very opposed to that,” Krug said. “I’ve bet on myself and I’ve taken shorter-term deals and less amount of money my whole career now, so this is my time in terms of my value at its peak. I have the ability and I’m in a position now where I need to make the most of it. So yeah, I’m very opposed to something like that. I’ve done it long enough now and that’s the situation I’m facing.”
Free agency won’t open until mid-October, so Krug has plenty of time to ponder what feels like the best opportunity for him. On Thursday, he did candidly address where his head is at right now.
“I’ve spent my whole adult life, my whole professional career here in this organization and city,” Krug said. ‘I’ve done seemingly everything they’ve asked of me, so I’m proud of that. I’ve put all my energy into trying to help this team win games and win championships. We’ve come close twice now and unfortunately, it wasn’t in the cards for us. But I’m a big believer that there’s a journey for all of us, and whether it’s here or somewhere else I’m not too worried about it or anxious about it.
“But yeah, there’s an emotional attachment. That’s a mistake that a lot of athletes get caught up in when they start their professional careers, there’s nothing personal about it, it’s business on both ends. Teams have to put the best team forward, spending certain amounts of money and athletes have one shot at making all their money in their career, whether you play one, two, three years up in the league up to 10 to15 years. You have one shot to do it all, and I realize that. It is what it is, but there definitely is an emotional attachment, there’s no secret. I’ve been very outspoken about it. My teammates know it, everyone knows it so yeah it’s part of the business. It stinks, but we’ll see what happens moving forward.”
Krug will turn 30 next April. He finished the 2019-20 regular season with nine goals and 40 assists over 61 games before contributing six assists in 13 playoff games.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images