BOSTON (CBS) – The press release and the news reports tell you the Bruins signed Torey Krug to a four-year contract that pays him $5.25 million annually beginning with the 2016-17 season.
But that’s only part of the story.
The Bruins are actually signing the Torey Krug of the present and investing in the Torey Krug of the future. And if past returns are a predictor of future success, then this will be the rare Bruins contract extension people won’t be groaning about halfway through the term.
The 5-foot-9 Krug has been underestimated his whole career. Often overlooked by USA Hockey, undrafted by the NHL, Krug worked his way into a sweet deal as a college free agent with the Bruins. However, he didn’t take anything for granted. When called upon as a first-year pro the next spring, he stepped in and helped the Bruins make the 2013 Stanley Cup finals. His improvement continued from there, despite contract uncertainty, including last season.
The notion that because Krug scored four goals last season his season was a failure is an easily debunked myth. He still had a career-best 44 points, he averaged two minutes more of ice time than his previous career high and was used in more difficult situations. His Corsi For took a minimal hit. You can say that the Bruins could’ve missed the playoffs without him, but without him they wouldn’t have been as close as they were and they’re going to need him to keep expanding his game.
“We realize the more he’s on the ice, the more we control the puck and move the puck,” general manager Don Sweeney said. “You understand where the game is going and he’s a big part of our transition game. He responded well [to an expanded role]. It’s a great challenge and it’s one that he’s readily wanted, advocated for and he stepped up and filled, in a lot of ways.”
Even during his 55-game goal drought last season, Krug never got down, never brought the team down and never became a bad apple. When he wasn’t scoring, he was assisting. When he wasn’t getting points, he was defending. When he had a bad night at both ends of the rink, he served as a vocal leader. Few players on the Bruins took the heat after a bad loss as much as Krug, a future letter wearer, does.
Krug relishes being a leader and as the Bruins transition from an older core to a younger one, his influence is going to be as valuable as his shot.
“I think it was something that was instilled in me at a young age, coming from my father. It’s always been authentic,” Krug said. “If anyone tried to force it, then people see right through that and it just doesn’t happen. But for me and this team and this locker room, I think I’m able to bridge that gap from the young guys to the older guys and I relate to every single person in that locker room.”
If Krug stopped improving his game and just kept doing what he did the past several seasons and continued to be a vocal leader, his new extension would be worth it. After all, the first two years don’t have any no-trade protection because those are still his restricted free agent years. Even the last two years come with just limited no-trade protection. If the Bruins want, they can always move Krug out. He could be packaged for something better.
But that’s where Future Krug comes in. Despite adversity and his size disadvantage, he’s always lived up to his vow to improve. He’s added something to his game every year. There’s no reason to believe his progression will end before this contract is through. He’ll never be a shutdown, top-pair defenseman. The Bruins will have to continue to protect him from some tougher matchups.
Nonetheless, he’ll continue to blossom as a tough matchup for many opponents. His shot can get better, he can get savvier with the puck and working with new assistant coach Bruce Cassidy may open up some more roads to improvement. It’s a bet worth making for the Bruins.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.