BOSTON Was the three-year extension handed to David Krejci a good deal or a bad deal?
Its tough to say before it plays out, as the legions of people who decried the Tim Thomas contract extension discovered. But a three-year contract extension for the 25-year-old center that will take him through 2013-14 is certainly a complex deal with an entire army of pros and cons that would make Jimmy Fallon proud.
Krejci admitted to the world on Thursday that the negotiations on his next contract had weighed on his mind a little, and became an even heavier burden when he struggled out of the gate offensively.
I knew that my agent and Peter talked during the summer. I didnt know what was going on and it was obviously on my mind a bit. It was especially on his mind when things werent going my way at the beginning of the season. It got me thinking a lot.
But we got a deal done. Im happy to be here four more years and now I can just focus on hockey.
Krejci and the Bruins came to an agreement on a deal that will pay him 5.25 million annually, and make him the highest paid center on the Bs roster. Just behind that is Patrice Bergerons 5 million cap hit. Fittingly, the center put pen to paper in Toronto on Wednesday afternoon and then went on to have a three-point performance against the Leafs for his best game in nearly a month.
David is a special player and a special person. In todays hockey economy he might have been able to go somewhere else and get more money, but he didnt, said Peter Chiarelli. I think weve seen this with a bunch of players recently, so I think it speaks to his willingness and his wanting to be a part of a winning team and to help the team win.
I wont stop looking for ways to improve the team and I wont stop trying to sign our important players. Its part of the day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year perspective and Ill continue to use that approach.
But thats some of the knock on Krejci after racking up 19 power play points in his breakout first full season in the NHL, the playmaker hasnt been making enough plays on the man advantage. Hes also never approached the 22 goals and 73 points or the plus-37 mark to lead the NHL in the last two seasons. Hes being paid like a No. 1 center and will have the responsibilities that go along with that role, but hes never put up the numbers one expects of a franchise pivot.
Then again, Krejci has also turned into a quietly efficient two-way center that can handle other teams top lines. Hes also a big part of the center group thats leading the NHL in faceoff winning percentage, and has become a clutch performer when the stage gets big. He made a name for himself by shining during the Winter Olympics two years ago for his native Czech Republic, and led the Bruins with 12 goals scored during their run to the postseason.
In fact, Krejcis 44 points and 19 goals in 52 playoff games, along with a plus-18 rating in the postseason, might be one of the biggest selling points for the Bruins when it comes to a deal like this. It wasnt too long ago that the Bs could point to Krejcis injury and absence as the single-biggest reason they collapsed in the playoffs against the Flyers prior to the Cup.
For a franchise thats expected to be knee-deep in playoff runs for the foreseeable future, the Bruins need to retain as many proven playoff performers as they possibly can.
In looking at what David has done for the Bruins, hes been a very important contributor and has really developed his two-way game, said Chiarelli. Hes obviously a very good offensive player and we saw him shine during the playoffs last year. We saw what his loss meant to us the year before in the playoffs.
Hes done everything that weve asked and more, and hes a terrific offensive player. Were happy to have him on board for another three years.
The biggest bugaboos for Krejci and his three-year deal: consistency and salary cap issues. Krejcis most recent slump is the perfect example of the instances where the top line center will recede from the forefront of the action and seemingly become invisible on the puck. Hes not quite as strong or dominant as Pavel Datsyuk and his skating and shot are adequate for an offensive performer, but nothing stands out aside from his brilliantly creative mind.
When Krejci isnt playing with maximum effort and reasonable motivation, he tends to become a little more ordinary out on the ice than one would prefer for an offensive catalyst. That still happens far too often for a big money player, and its always a wise investment to give the big money and subsequently the big cap hit to players that exert the same kind of effort 82 games a season.
That doesnt even count the salary cap ramifications. The Bruins now have what Peter Chiarelli termed a surplus of top-six centers signed to long term contracts in Krejci, Bergeron and Tyler Seguin. Seguin is playing the wing for the time being, but he eventually projects to be a No. 1 center in the NHL for a decade plus and will be moving up from his rookie contract after next season.
I feel a team gets built from the back end and down the middle. To have a strong middle is obviously an asset in my mind, said Chiarelli. David is part of that and hes shown that he can play different types of games. Bergie has shown that he can play different types of games. Weve seen Chris Kelly now. Tyler can play center or wing. Weve got a lot of options there and weve got some good centers coming down the pipeline.
I think a logjam is probably not the proper word. I think its an excess of supply and Im happy to have it. The fact that these guys are compatible and can play together without having to play the 22 or 23 minutes that some top centers do play is a testament to all of them as a group.
If he continues to score at a point-per-game pace, that suggests he is going to make a boatload of money in his second contract following his three-year rookie deal. That could be a sticking point for the Bruins given the 10 million plus theyve already got invested in their top two centers.
But Chiarelli said thats a good problem for a team like the Bruins to find solutions for, and the three centers ability to co-exist and thrive together allowed him to pull the trigger on Krejcis deal. Theres also the absence of no trade clause protection in the first year of Krejcis contract, and very limited trade provisions over the remaining two contractual years.
Just another facet to a David Krejci deal that people are going to strongly disagree about until he either A) proves hes worth the dough like Tim Thomas did or B) flame out like Marco Sturm did after his extension.
The Bruins are banking on more of the former than the latter.